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Best of 2013 sports scene

Town Crier file photo
Los Altos High soccer players, from left, Annie Gaffney, Allie Crum and Rebecca Andrews celebrate Crum’s goal against St. Francis in the CCS final.

There were scores of successes by local high school teams and individuals in 2013. Many made school history, several earned section titles and a few even reached the state finals.

Here’s a countdown of the Town Crier’s top 10 sports stories of 2013.

10 Tremendous turnaround. The Los Altos High football team missed the Central Coast Section playoffs, but the Eagles accomplished plenty last fall under first-year coach Trevor Pruitt. He transformed a hapless team (0-10 in 2012) into a confident one that believed it could win. Los Altos went 8-2 and finished third in the SCVAL El Camino Division. The offense proved potent with quarterback Lambie Lanman throwing to receivers Victor Ruiz and Patrick McColl, and handing off to running back Sean Lanoza. The defense – anchored by linebackers Josh Williams, Ofsia Pati and Carlos Rivera-Salis – wasn’t too shabby, either, posting two shutouts.

9 On par with the best. Last fall’s St. Francis High girls golf team was the strongest yet. The Lancers won West Catholic Athletic League and Northern California titles – finishing second at CCS in between – and qualified for the state tournament for the first time. Led by senior Nancy Xu, freshman Bibilani Liu and sophomore Valerie Wang, the Lancers were tough to beat until state, where they finished fifth. “I’m pleased and excited for the girls – not only for this season, but for some seasons to come,” coach Phil Marrone said.

8 Eagles make baskets and history. The Los Altos High boys basketball team advanced to the CCS semifinals for the first time, thanks to a 75-66 upset of top seed Westmoor in the second round of the Division II playoffs last February. The eighth-seeded Eagles seized the lead at the end of the first quarter and never surrendered it. Point guard Nate Vieira played his best game of the season (22 points), supported by solid outings from forwards Daniel Rosenbaum (14) and Joey Malgesini (13). Los Altos, perfect in the SCVAL El Camino Division under new head coach Bob McFarlane, nearly made more history but lost 59-57 to Willow Glen in the semis, despite 19 points from Malgesini.

7 Panthers don’t shoot straight yet make state. The Pinewood School girls basketball team is known for its sharpshooting – taking and making more 3-pointers than almost anyone in CCS – but the Panthers reached their seventh state final after struggling from long range in back-to-back games. Pinewood beat Valley Christian-Dublin in the NorCal Division V semifinals and top seed Eastside Prep in the final, despite connecting on only nine of 50 attempts from beyond the arc. The Panthers won with defense, holding both opponents under 40 points. Despite lacking size, Pinewood pressured the ball with gritty guards like 5-foot-1 Marissa Hing. The Panthers couldn’t do it a third time, however, falling 47-33 to Sierra Canyon in the state title game.

6 Hurdling the competition. Mountain View High’s Kolisa Nhlapo set school records in the 100- and 300-meter hurdles at the De Anza Division trials and finals, then broke the meet record in the latter at the Santa Clara Valley Athletic League Qualifier the next week. The junior set the school record in the 100 hurdles at the April 30 trials – finishing in 15.46 seconds – and broke her own league-meet record in the 300 hurdles at the finals later that week with a time of 44.62 seconds. Nhlapo eclipsed her own record in the 300 at the league qualifier (44.61). She went on to qualify for the CCS finals in both events and advanced to state in the 300.

5 Fleet feet. In an area filled with dynamite distance runners – the likes of Los Altos High’s Lauren Jacob, St. Francis’ Julia Bounds, Mountain View’s Melissa Reed and Pinewood’s Nicole Colonna – no girl finished faster on the cross-country course than Gunn’s Sarah Robinson. The Los Altos Hills resident won the CCS Division I race in 16 minutes, 59 seconds – the sixth-fastest time ever recorded by a girl on the 2.95-mile course at Crystal Springs – then placed fourth in her division at state, running a 17:16 on the 3.1-mile course at Fresno’s Woodward Park. Only one girl from the CCS has run faster at state. The senior’s time was good enough to earn an invitation to the national meet in Portland, where she placed 11th to earn All-America honors last month.

4 Historic run for Lancers. In just his second season at St. Francis, veteran coach Brian Harrigan led the girls basketball team farther than it had ever gone before. The Lancers won the first NorCal title in program history by routing Lynbrook 44-19 in the Division II final behind players such as Lauren Johnson, Jennifer Lucian and Daisha Abdelkader. St. Francis lost to Lynwood in the state final, but Harrigan never lost sight of what his team accomplished. “Most people would say we overachieved, but we believed in ourselves and worked really hard,” he said. “I couldn’t be more proud of this team.”

3 Eagles exceed expectations. Not even the most optimistic member of the Los Altos High girls volleyball team could have expected such a sensational season – and neither did coach Peter Kim. The Eagles finished second in the difficult De Anza Division, took mighty Mitty to five games in the CCS Division II final and met the Monarchs again in the NorCal title match last month. Los Altos lost to Mitty – ranked No. 1 in the nation – in straight games, but it didn’t diminish what the Eagles achieved. Los Altos had never before made it so far in volleyball – or any team sport. “I think every single one of us, especially me as a senior, is going to look back at this and just be amazed at all we’ve accomplished this whole season and be proud of the team and the program we’re going to be building for the future,” co-captain Meghan McDermott said. Hanna Koehler, Michelle Albright and Katie Tritschler will be graduating as well, but Carmen Annevelink, Jenna Hoover, Joyce Christiansen-Salameh, Kirsten Liu and Sarah Tritschler figure to be part of that bright future.

2 No doubt about this one. The St. Francis High baseball team’s first CCS championship in 12 years came in decisive fashion last May. The Lancers skunked Serra 10-0 in the final, which ended early on the mercy rule. The Lancers posted a 30-4 record under seventh-year coach Mike Oakland, who had 13 seniors on his squad. That included Michael Strem, whose pitching and hitting played a big part in the Lancers’ postseason success. “We had such great chemistry, combined with talent, all year long,” said Strem, who teamed with John Gavin to provide St. Francis with a potent one-two pitching punch. “Even when we were down, we fought back. That was huge.”

1 What a kick. The Los Altos High girls soccer team didn’t take the easy route to the CCS crown – its first in six years – knocking off two WCAL powerhouses along the way last February. The fifth-seeded Eagles shocked top seed and nationally ranked Mitty in the semifinals and edged St. Francis in the final by another 1-0 score. Sophomore midfielder Allie Crum scored both goals, the latter on a free kick in the seventh minute. From there, Los Altos crowded the backfield and stymied No. 2 St. Francis with a suffocating defense featuring freshman phenom Carrie Wendelken in goal. “We were definitely the underdogs for Mitty,” said Crum, whose team started just one senior. “But once we beat them, we knew we could do it. I think we had a little more confidence (in the final), which helped us.”

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