Can you be Perfect?

Everyone knew the Foothill High School girls volleyball team would be good this season. Now, 36-0 good? Yeah right. That’s straight up ridiculous.

Let it roll off your tongue: Ther-tee-six and ohhhhhh.

With setter Christy Payne and middle blockers Felicia Willoughby and Betsy Sedlak leading the way, Foothill seems destined for a CIF state championship appearance.

You can’t stop the middle. Willoughby and Sedlak aren’t a one-two punch combination, there’s no jab and a left hook here. They are two knockout punches. You can dodge one but the other is coming and you can’t get out of the way fast enough.

Payne makes sure one of them hurts you and if they don’t, she’ll do it herself with a quick dump or even a nice swing, throwing off defenses.
The team played in the ultra-competitive East Bay Athletic League and dominated. Only one team took them to five-games this season and that was San Ramon Valley, who the Falcons beat in three the first time they met.

Right now, Foothill is on a collision course with No. 2 Nevada Union-Grass Valley. The Miners put a beat down on the Falcons last season in the second round of the state playoffs with a 25-11, 25-21, 25-14 win.

Do you think the Falcons remember that? Do you think they haven’t hoped for a rematch since the brackets were released? Yeszir!

Of course, first thing’s first. Foothill needs to get by Homestead-Cupertino on Saturday, but we’re not counting on a letdown. Again, this team seems destined.


End of the line for tennis season

Well, with today’s CIF Northern Regional semifinals, we reached the end of the girls tennis season. Monte Vista lost 7-0 to Monta Vista-Cupertino and Foothill lost 6-1 to Menlo-Atherton. No word yet on who won the final, it’s still being played as we speak. So, I thought I’d offer up some final thoughts.

1. Both teams played well today but they were just overmatched. For what they’ve done this year though, I’d say it was a tremendously successful campaign for both teams.
2. I’ve seen a lot of tennis in the past few weeks, and the level of play was incredibly good. If I had to leave you with a match of the year, it would be Foothill’s Kerri Kummer against Redwood-Larkspur’s Natalie Varnay in the semifinals of the NCS singles tournament. Kummer pulled it out in three sets and both players left everything they had on the court. An honorable mention goes to Kummer vs. Mia Giovanetti at the EBAL tournament.
3. Tennis season might be over, but don’t go to sleep on this blog. I’ll be moving over to the wrestling scene, and I’ll be keeping my thoughts and ruminations on this blog. Keep an eye on our Football Forecast as we rumble down the homestretch in the football season as well.

Tennis fans, keep an eye out for our special Athletes of the Fall section in the paper. There will be a tennis section that I promise you will enjoy.


DLS-CP redux

Those that have followed De La Salle High School football over the years knows the team usually opens the NCS playoffs with a resounding win. Last night wasn’t much different as the Spartans scored three touchdowns in the second quarter to help earn a 41-7 victory over College Park.

It took a little while for the Spartans offense to get going, as they fumbled on their first two possessions. But Tim Maupin eventually ran for 239 yards and quarterback Mike MacGillivray threw two touchdown passes. That included a 52-yarder to John Hendershott in which the senior leaped over the College Park defender on the long pass, caught the ball and strolled into the end zone.

The defense was ready right from the start, as they held the Falcons to without a first down on their first three drives. Albert Rosette and Brady Amack continued to show why they’re considered the best inside linebacking duo in the East Bay, as they flew all over the field and made play after play. The whole first team defense did, really.

De La Salle’s going to need a similar effort next week, whether it plays San Ramon Valley or Monte Vista. SRV was leading the Mustangs 27-0 at halftime, as Monte Vista killed itself with five turnovers and numerous penalties in the first 24 minutes. It looked like the Wolves were going to win, although we don’t have an updated score right now (3:30 p.m.)

SRV could pose an interesting challenge to the Spartans. The Wolves are quicker than the Mustangs and can throw as well as run the ball. College Park was more one-dimensional. SRV also plays pretty stout defense, led by tackle Zack Madonick and cornerback Ryan Vandersloot. The Wolves could very well be unbeaten at this point had it not been for a late turnover that turned into the game winning touchdown for Foothill.


CIF NorCal Tennis

Apparently my peers have dubbed me "Tennis Boy" which actually is ok with me. Nothing wrong with some high quality tennis. Now, today was the start of the California Interscholastic Federation Northern Regional Tournament (call it NorCal like the rest of us do) and Foothill and Monte Vista both advanced. Some thoughts:

1. What won’t make it into the paper tomorrow is the marathon match that Monte Vista’s Mia Giovanetti played against St. Francis-Sacramento’s Emani Decquir. Decquir got the win in three sets but Giovanetti played her heart out. Nothing to be ashamed of there.
2. Another marathon match today was Foothill’s Melissa Arthur against Lowell’s Svetlana Tsodikova. With every other match done, we all got to watch this one come down to the very end and Arthur came out on top. I thought it was indicative of the level of tennis being played and I also think that Arthur, just a freshman, is going to be uber-good for the next three years.
3. Will the two local teams win tomorrow? Who knows. I know that both can play with anyone if they bring their "A" game. Today had to be encouraging for Foothill supporters because the general sense I got was that the rest of the team behind No. 1 Kerri Kummer really picked up the intensity. They played very, very well.

So, we conclude our season together tomorrow. Monte Vista vs. Monta Vista-Cupertino and Foothill vs. Menlo-Atherton. I know we’ll get a good turnout tomorrow at the Fremont Tennis Center, and I hope to see you there.


FORECAST: Be gone, Tennis boy!

It’s finally the postseason. And now is when the Forecast, just like the games on the field, gets grueling.
To quote more than a handful of our local coaches, "The slate is clean, it’s a brand new season."
Well the Forecast slate isn’t clean. Not exactly. Even though Curtis and I concede the regular season title to Ben "Tennis boy" Enos, we’ll carry our regular season stats into the postseason. If you’re wondering what Ben earned for the regular season title, it was a fine sense of pride. As for the overall champion? We need to confer and figure out a proper reward.
The regular season standings finished as follows:

Ben 106
Chace 103
Curtis 101

Time to elevate your game, Ben. No more gimmes.
Alright, on to the picks.
(6) Alhambra over Alameda: The Bulldogs are built for a strong playoff run, and it has a lot to do with their defense. That’s right. Sure, Brandon Rutley will likely run wild against the Hornets, but the defense will be the biggest key. SCORE: 27-10
(5) Campolindo over Acalanes: The Cougars finished the year playing their best football, winning three of their last four. Campolindo handled Acalanes RB Connor Ring the first time, and should do so again. SCORE: 23-14
(4) Irvington over Clayton Valley: Only Liberty gave up more rushing yards this season than Clayton Valley. This doesn’t bode well for the Eagles, because Irvington has one of the East Bay’s best running backs in Robert Turbin. Also, don’t underestimate a team whose coach is in his final season with the school. SCORE:31-21.
(3) Ygnacio Valley over Bishop O’Dowd: I just have a hunch that the Warriors are due for a big game. Coming out of the BVAL, they are certainly battle tested. SCORE: 27-17.
(2) San Ramon Valley over Monte Vista: I don’t trust the health of Mustangs QB Drew McAllister. And without McAllister, Monte Vista just isn’t the same. I’m giving the Wolves the nod in another close one. SCORE: 28-24.
(1) Pittsburg over Deer Valley: Pittsburg had won four straight BVAL titles before DV went unbeaten this season. Old champions die hard. I like the Pirates in an upset. SCORE: 24-21.


Playoff ‘casting

Well, so much for that momentum I talked about last week. I went 3-3 with my predictions in week 10 of the regular season, so I’ve got a little work to do if I want to catch Ben and Chace before the end of the year. Fortunately, the games we’ve picked this week look pretty unpredictable. So I’ll either gain ground, or fall flat on my face.

(6) Alhambra over Alameda: The Hornets have won four straight and have been pretty good on the road this season (3-1). But the Bulldogs may be the most complete team they have faced this year. Alhambra can run the ball, throw it if need be and play good defense. Dave Silveira and crew are movin’ on.

(5) Campolindo over Acalanes: The Cougars beat the Dons 10-0 back on Oct. 6. Another close game this time around? Maybe. But Campolindo has improved every week and is peaking at the right time. Acalanes, on the other hand, has lost three of its last four.

(4) Deer Valley over Pittsburg: I know the Pirates have been hungry for a rematch since they lost to the Wolverines on Oct. 14. But the loss the Antioch had to shake their confidence a little. And, believe it or not, Deer Valley is a better team now than it was a month ago.

(3) Clayton Valley over Irvington: The Eagles are a better team than their 41-0 loss to Deer Valley might indicate. They can move the ball through the air and their running game isn’t bad either. Maybe it’s just a case of not having much faith in the 510 teams, but I think Clayton Valley is more battle-tested over the past five weeks than Irvington.

(2) Ygnacio Valley over Bishop O’Dowd: The Warriors’ season hit rock bottom last week with a 55-7 loss to De La Salle. There’s nowhere to go but up, right?

(1) San Ramon Valley over Monte Vista: Okay, I’m finally a believer. Beating the same team twice in a row is tough, but the Wolves have shown that they are capable of just about anything.


Postseason Forecasting

So, the postseason is upon us and there’s nothing but good football left to be played. So, the chances that I punt some more picks are higher. Here goes nothing.

(6) Irvington over Clayton Valley – When I saw the Eagles last, they proved one thing to me: They won’t lay down for anyone. Sadly, neither will Irvington and Clayton Valley’s season comes to an end in this one.

(5) Alhambra over Alameda – This is the classic struggle of the pass versus the run. Jeff Murphy and the Hornets will go to the air, Brandon Rutley and Alhambra will hit the ground running and in the end Rutley will make all the difference.

(4) Ygnacio Valley over Bishop O’Dowd – In past years, nobody would throw a pass in this game. Not this year, as the Dragons have run more shotgun and passed more this year in attempt to jump-start their offense. I’m taking the Warriors, but remember the names Brian Mouton and Marcus Harrison. They’ll keep the Dragons in it.

(3) Campolindo over Acalanes – DFAL schools collide in the first round and I picked against Campo last week against Miramonte and it proved me wrong. The fact is that Campo is playing better each week and this week is no different.

(2) Monte Vista over SRV – The Mustangs fell victim to some heroics by Corbin Louks when these two schools last met. Let’s say Louks doesn’t make the big play though. Monte Vista would have won. This time, the Mustangs finish what they started. And not for nothing, but the Mustangs will be competing for the mantle of most successful team at school (the girls tennis team is also in action Friday).

(1) Pittsburg over Deer Valley – Doesn’t it just seem wrong that I’m calling this an upset special? Pitt is battle tested in the postseason and the Wolverines are looking to carry the momentum of a 10-0 regular season into the playoffs. I’m picking Pitt because I think Vic Galli will make the right call at the right moment.


A few cross country thoughts

After watching four league meets this season (BSAL, BVAL, EBAL, DFAL), here are some observations. Bear in mind that I understand that many teams/individuals were not tapered at these meets.

The best team I saw, male or female, was the Carondelet squad. The Cougars have two league champions (Nicole Hood and Sara Aliotti, who won the BVAL title last year) and Ashley Chavez (who has finished in the top eight at the BVAL championships the last three years) in their top five. They not only placed five runners in the top eight at the BVAL championships, but they had seven in the top 11 in that race. They are talented and certainly deserve their No. 1 Division II state ranking on DyeStatCal.com.

Three local runners have already shown that they are could be contenders for individual state titles: Hood, St. Mary’s Matt Duffy (Division IV boys) and Valley Christian’s Robbie Knorr (Division V boys). Knorr won the CCS Division V championship last Saturday with the ninth-fastest time for all divisions.

This is becoming the Year of the Freshmen in local girls cross country. Besides Hood, the outstanding freshmen include DFAL individual champion Alycia Cridebring of College Park and California’s Colleen Lillig, who finished second in the EBAL championship race

There’s good news for local teams who didn’t want to possibly travel to Southern California for future state championships: the CIF has announced that Woodward Park in Fresno will remain the home of the CIF state championships through 2009.


Coming soon

If you have seen the movie "Hoosiers", you know how serious the Midwest takes basketball. And with plenty of reason. The area is the birthplace of the game, produced Larry Bird and has a rich basketball history.

That is the world Richmond High School’s Eli Holman officially became a part of on Nov. 8 when he signed his national letter of intent to play for Indiana. This is the same program that was home to coach Bobby Knight, who sent 29 players to the NBA, including former Detroit Pistons great Isiah Thomas.

At 6-foot-10 and with a wingspan of 7-foot-7, Holman should be good fit for the Hoosiers, who had Scout.com’s eighth-best recruiting class in the nation.

The Hoosiers opened the 2006-2007 season and Kelvin Sampson era with a 91-66 win over Lafayette on Nov. 13. With just three seniors on the roster, the Hoosiers have a young athletic group that Holman should fit right in with.

"His ability to transition from offense to defense and his presence around the rim is what he does well," said Sampson, via phone interview on Nov. 8. "He runs the floor well and has the ability to block shots."

Add Eric Gordon, a shooting guard from North Central High-Indianapolis, Ind., who was Scout.com’s’ second-ranked recruit in the nation and also signed to play at Indiana and the Hoosiers should be to get up and down court next season.

And Holman will be right in the middle of it all.


Falcons fly high

Well, the 2006 NCS Singles/Doubles tournament is in the books and the champions are Hayward’s Aeriel Ellis (singles) and Foothill’s Amanda and Melissa Arthur (doubles). Here are my impressions from the tournament:
1. The second day of the tournament was chock full of CC Times area girls. Northgate’s Lauren Curry, the Arthur sisters, Monte Vista’s team of Mia Giovanetti and Elena Cadet and Foothill’s Kerri Kummer were all in action. It made for an interesting day for me, to be sure.
2. The best match of the tournament – without a doubt – was on Court 7 this morning when Kummer played the No. 2 seed, Redwood’s Natalie Varnay. And it’s because there’s a history here. Varnay beat Kummer last year in the semis and this year’s match had the feeling of one player trying to get over that hurdle. Kummer wasn’t herself in the first set, and Varnay got the best of her 6-2. But after that, Kummer remembered who she was and the second set was the best tennis I’ve seen her play in the last two weeks.
3. Overall, I think it was a very successful tournament and I think the best players won, which doesn’t always happen at year-end tournaments. When I asked a few players who they thought the favorite was last week, everyone said Ellis. So, I guess they had it pegged.
4. Thanks to Kyle Bonagura of the Argus, Tony Gonzales of the Hayward Daily Review and Oakland Tribune and myself, the MediaNews family of newspapers was the only local media outlet at this week’s tennis festivities. You keep playing, we’ll be there.

For those who think that tennis is over – think again! NorCal team tennis kicks off Friday with Monte Vista and Foothill still in the race. I think they both have a good shot, but we’ll find out soon enough.  See you all Friday!