Something different

At the Times prep sports department, we always are looking at new ways of bringing news to readers. And we want to open new avenues for our readers and athletes to express their voices.
Carondelet basketball star Jayne Appel has had a unique opportunity this week to play in two national all-star games, and we thought it would be a great idea to have her post her daily thoughts and comments on her experiences in San Diego and in Boston on our blog. Please read on.


Jayne Appel blogs: Overall thoughts

From Jayne Appel:

Overall this has been oneof the most amazing opportunities of my life. I have bonded closer to my friends and taken so many things from every experience. I will never be able to explain how honored I was to be a part of all of this. I had so much fun and will never be able to repeat this again.
It’s off to Boston for the WBCA game!


Jayne Appel blogs: Wednesday, March 29

From Jayne Appel:

GAME DAY! Finally we got to play! We started off today getting our uniforms and heading off to shoot around after practice. We shot and then while the boys were shooting we got to take individual pictures with John Wooden. We headed back to the hotel for family time and lunch. My Coach Lexy was there, along with a lot of my family. I got ready for the game and headed to Cox arena. We won the game by five! Diamond played really well. I won the MVP award. Nancy Lieberman said hello during warm-ups. After the game we had media and answered a million questions! We then headed out to watch the boys play. At halftime of their game we went to take pictures with Nick Cannon. However, a few of us found the media hospitality room and ate Chipotle on the way. After the game we returned back to the hotel and hung out in the players lounge until 12:30. We all hung out on our floor until about 3 am. This was such a fun day.


Jayne Appel blogs: Tuesday, March 28

From Jayne Appel:

We started off again today with practice at 9. Today’s practice was so much better than yesterday. We had a lot more energy. We then had lunch across the street at Cox Arena, where they brought McDonald’s to us.
Media grabbed certain players at this time and asked questions. I talked with Mike Eubanks from the Stanford hoop board. We then scrimmaged the East team, and won! We played really tough. After we got back to the hotel we were starting to get ready for the banquet. That is until the power blew out in mine and Jacki’s room, as well as the room next to us. It created madness; we were all searching for plugs to do our hair. Also, the boys overloaded the elevator and got stuck in it for 30 minutes. We eventually all got ready and headed to the banquet. We practiced walking and then hid in the back until it was time for us to walk out. The banquet was so nice. We had dinner, guest speakers, and took lots of pictures. John Wooden spoke, and I liked his speech the best. We received our All American rings and watched a video on what we have done thus far. When we got back to the hotel we hung out in the players’ room.


Jayne Appel blogs: Monday, March 27

From Jayne Appel:

9 a.m. practice … how fun is that!? Actually it wasn’t that bad, just a little sore, and still breaking in the new shoes. Practice didn’t go to well for our team today. We didn’t have a lot of energy and our coach made us well aware of this at the end of practice. We were very sluggish. After practice we showered at the facility. 10 showers-24 girls – 15 minutes … you do the math. Not going to work! So the boys went ahead of us and we met them at a McDonald’s restaurant for lunch. Kaili and Jacki had a McNugget race. Kaili whooped on Jac, she had eaten 20 when Jac was at 10.
We went into the McDonald’s and served regular customers and learned what it is all about. Ronald McDonald the clown was there today and Kaili and Jordan ran so fast when they saw him. They are so scared of clowns. We then loaded the buses and headed off to sea world. We played with dolphins and sea lions. We also got to ride the new water ride 3 times with everyone. As we got back to the hotel I visited with my family for a little bit then went and got my uniform and got ready for the jam fest. SO MANY PEOPLE in that gym! It was so packed. A definite home cheering section for the boy from San Diego. Me and Spencer didn’t advance to the finals in team ball. For once I had to look up at someone to talk to them. I feel so short here! The dunk contest was awesome! San Diego boy should have won in my eyes, but the boy going to Duke took it. No girls were in the dunk contest, although 3 girls wanted to be. They told them it was too late to sign up. It’s such a disappointment that they weren’t able to enter the contest. For some reason it seemed like they didn’t want the girls to be in the competition. Anyway, the Duke kid won with a windmill dunk.


Jayne Appel blogs: Sunday, March 26

From Jayne Appel:

Today was a once in a lifetime experience. We visited the Ronald McDonald House and met all the kids who are sick and their families. This is the true reason we are here; to help them. It was so hard to see them so happy to see us when they are so sick. They are so full of life and hope, it is amazing. We colored with the kids, handed out mini basketballs, and gave away pro trading cards. It was so rewarding to see how happy we could make them just by showing up. We were told today that our game was going to raise half a million dollars for the new 47-room house. This would replace the current 12-room house. We then walked to McDonald’s in the hospital and enjoyed lunch and signed a mini hoop for the kids to play with in the hospital. We went to the San Diego State practice facility and had practice. The toughest part of the practice was the warm-ups! Some of the things they were asking us to do seemed impossible; but we pushed through them-made everyone so sore. We came back to the hotel, showered and went downstairs to dinner.
After dinner half of us were hanging out in the player hospitality room while the other half was signing different items such as photo mats, balls, hats, and trading cards. Yes, all 300+ trading cards. I’m almost positive I forgot how to spell my name toward the end of all the signing. The player hospitality room is really tight. It has 3 bball shooting games, 2 fridges full of drinks, constant supply of snacks, a big screen TV, and 3 other TVs hooked up to video games.
Everything here is first class and really makes everything fun. I hung out with all the girls that I became close with over summer at USA camp and Nike Camp. It’s cool seeing everyone else now that we all know what college we are going to.


Jayne Appel blogs: Saturday, March 25

From Jayne Appel:

I got to the airport today and was greeted by a hostess who waited with me to get my bags. She told me that the shuttle was outside and they were waiting for me. As we rode to the hotel with Spencer Hawes, we were given a tour of San Diego and all that it has to offer. Upon arriving to the hotel we were taken to the games headquarters room. There we were given a different hostess, a few sheets of information and our player pass. My hostess took me to my room and we put my stuff away and headed off to the fitting rooms. My uniforms are HUGE! but probably the nicest uniforms that I have ever worn! We took pictures in the uniforms and were given the rest of our gear. We got everything from sweat suits, shoes, sandals, socks, etc. Next, a little drama occurred with all the girls when we went to pick up our dresses for the banquet.
When we got to the room, we found out that all of us who ordered A got B and vice versa. It was chaos. I’m surprised girls didn’t start fighting over the dresses, it was that intense. The dresses aren’t the cutest things, to put it nicely, but we will make do for our banquet hopefully. We ended today with dinner where they presented us with all the rules, and then split off into our teams. I really like my team and feel as if we’ll have a good shot at winning as long as we can stop their bigs. The other team is HUGE! Our coaches are all local people and live in San Diego.
They have a ton of experience with them all combined.
Should be a good game. And on other news-STANFORD WON! — we face LSU on Monday.


ACCAL softball predictions

Yes, we picked Pinole Valley to end Alameda’s six-year run as the Alameda Contra Costa Athletic League champion. Alameda always has talent and it should not be counted out. However, longtime coach Linda Brown is no longer there. Neither are most of the players who helped the Hornets win the North Coast Section 2A East Bay title last year.

Pinole Valley brings back almost everyone who led the Spartans to last year’s 2A title game against Alameda. With so much experience there, it’s hard to pick against the Spartans. Janna Dias is the ace of the league now and Danielle Mason is a suitable backup. Mason will play shortstop when Dias pitches, and vice versa. That should help fill the hole left by the graduation of Jontelle Smith. Tiffiny Valdehueza is in her second year as the Spartans coach.

Every coach in the league said that Pinole Valley, Berkeley and Alameda are the top three in the league this year, with Pinole Valley and Berkeley coming out as the landslide favorites to finish in the top two.

Berkeley is also strong with lots of experience under new coach Ron Hunt. Though it’s a senior-laden team, it is anchored by sophomore pitcher Sarah Neuhaus. It should also get defense and hitting from the Kurashige-Elliot twins — shortstop Amelia and first base/second base Darcey.

League coaches agree there is a second tier after the Spartans, Yellow Jackets and Hornets. After that, fourth and fifth place should be decided between Encinal and Hercules. Encinal’s first-year coach Rick Holgerson inherits a pretty experienced team that took fourth last year. The Jets’ only key loss was catcher Ashley Davidson. Hercules was fifth last year and has several players back. Coach Jim Kinnison, in his third season, is the senior member of the league’s coaching fraternity. However, the Titans are plagued with injuries for the second year in a row and have only 10 players on the roster, so there’s not much depth. There is enough talent for Hercules to overtake Encinal for fourth if it can get healthy.

De Anza, El Cerrito and Richmond have struggling softball programs. De Anza has already beaten El Cerrito in a non-league game and Richmond has won just two league games in five years. Because of that, it’s hard not to pick the Oilers last. 


ACCAL Baseball preview

Two-time defending champion Berkeley feels as if it hasn’t always recieved the respect it deserves the last two seasons. But the Yellow Jackets went out and did something about it, winning the league outright both years.

So, until someone knocks them off, the Yellow Jackets are favored to win it all.

Not to say, El Cerrito, Encinal and Alameda won’t be breathing down their necks.

Pitcher Mario Hollands is the name that pops in every coach’s head when talking about the Gauchos. But Hollands, the ACCAL Most Valuable Pitcher last season, can’t do it all by himself. With pitcher and first-team selection Doug Murray by his side, Hollands won’t have to.

Both the Hornets and Jets return experienced squads, but the team to keep an eye on is Pinole Valley.

First-year coach Ben Juarez, who has developed a plethora of talent at the youth level, tries his hand with the Spartans. Juarez wants to build not just a team but a program by bringing consistency and professionalism. His reasoning: If 12-year-olds can do it, why not high schoolers?

Richmond coach Andre Williams, also in his first season, wants to do the same. He too is involved heavily at the youth level in Richmond and hopes to instill more confidence in the Oilers, a team that has finished in last place or near the bottom the last five seasons.

Hercules has improved and so has De Anza. These teams could play spoiler late in the season.


EBAL softball

As part of our league previews, the high school sports editor has asked each of the writers to list 5 games to watch. You know, five games that fans need to check out simply because they should be of some importance.

When it came to the East Bay Athletic League, that proved to be really tough to do.

On just about every Tuesday and Thursday for the next two months (save a week off for Spring Break), there will be a good game to watch in the EBAL. Three teams have a realistic shot at the league championship, but it’s really possible for any team in the league to knock off another on any given day.

Foothill and Monte Vista have to be considered the class of the league, simply because both teams return so may starters from last year. The playoff meeting between the Falcons and Mustangs in the NCS 3A semifinals was nothing short of epic, with Foothill winning 2-1 in the 10th inning. Don’t miss these games!

But this year you have to say that California is also part of the title chase. The Grizzlies also return most players from last year, when they lost seven league games by two runs or less. A few breaks here and there, and Cal would have almost assuredly challenged for the championship.

Livermore is rebuilding, but that’s doesn’t mean it’ll be a pushover. In fact, losing so many starters and having people doubt you may actually serve as motivation for the Cowboys.

San Ramon Valley has an experienced battery but it seems like those are the only two players who are in the same position as they were last season. The Wolves will still be a dangerous team to play, but it’ll likely be another year before they challenge for the league title again.

Granada also has most players back from last year and it could end up surprising some people. The Matadors biggest problem may be confidence. Because if there’s a couple of bad results early, it may take a awhile for the young players to recover.

Amador Valley would likely finish in the middle of the pack in any other league in the East Bay, but since it’s in the EBAL, it’s tough for the Dons to get any traction. As it is, AV could still end up spoiling someone’s day.

Players to watch

Amador Valley — SS Emily Cipolla, P Breanna Furphy

California — P Sarah Lawrence, SS Jenn Clarke

Foothill — P Val Arioto, INF Nicole Romero

Granada — C Jamie Miller, SS Becca Sabatini

Livermore — 3B Lauren Bauer, P Kellyn Trummer

Monte Vista — P Stephanie Bregante, C Sarah Axelson

San Ramon Valley — P Dominique Ortega, C Bekah Weisser