In-Between Edition 1: Fall Sports Update
“In-Between” is a Stevenson-sports-focused, behind-the-scenes column that shines light on what happens between games, practices, competitions, and tournaments. Analyzing the raw details and emotions of the players and coaches, “In-Between” captures what fans wouldn’t normally see in their everyday endeavors. Every issue, anticipate a high-emotion, shocking, and stellar masterpiece that encapsulates the 90% of things that happen off the field, court, pool, and course. “In-Between” is your monthly breakdown of sports at Stevenson (without the sport).
For some sports teams, it’s been over two years since they’ve competed in league play. Now, some teams have faced setbacks after COVID’s quarantine while others, including standout players, have excelled under demanding circumstances.
Boys’ water polo is booming
Take Wyley Dale for example, a junior phenom for the boys’ water polo team. He’s already secured All-American honors after playing for his club, NorCal, at the National Junior Olympics over the summer, and has carried his dominance in the pool over to Stevenson.
At the Aptos tournament in the preseason, he and Jayden Franz combined for nine goals in a high-scoring game against Los Gatos, just barely losing 17-14.
Jasper Dale, Wyley’s older brother, remarked, “Wyley Dale, Luka Zaninovich, and Jayden Franz have [all] played critical varsity minutes and will lead during crunch time.” Zaninovich has excelled as a goalie, notching a career-high 15 saves against Los Gatos.
His counterpart, Tate Escher has broken out this season as the JV goaltender. “Tate, the JV goalie,
is experienced and he'll be a big part of that team, and he'll probably get varsity minutes [play-time] as the season progresses.” The JV team has been undefeated in league play and finished third overall in a 12-team Watsonville tournament earlier in the season.
Girls’ tennis is a work in progress
In girls’ tennis, the team’s chemistry is a work in progress, and Lara Schiessel, a new transfer to Stevenson has felt every moment of it. “I think one of the weaknesses of our teams is that we are a team with a lot of relatively new players who may not be that experienced yet, but I don't really think this will be a big problem as it gives us the opportunity to work together as a team to grow and we can all start from a similar point.” Lara, who has an experienced background in tennis and was a nationally ranked player in Germany before coming to Stevenson, has led her teammates along with senior captains Jennifer Tan, Bella Leiva, and Olive Bersamina. The tennis team started out strong defeating Soquel 5-2 in an across-the-bay matchup. Varsity started out strong with a 6-2 record in league play with the JV team right behind them, undefeated.
Girls’ Volleyball looks ready for the next Olympics
Girls’ Volleyball has been nothing short of impressive. Winning in their season opener against NMC 3-1 followed by a 3-0 sweep over St. Francis, this balanced team has proven that they can win games in stunning fashion. Baylee Zorn, a long-time volleyball player and senior captain talks about what the team means to her: “Every single person brings unique attributes to the team.
Some of the girls have strong personalities while others are more grounded, and this balance is what allows us to thrive together.” She continues, saying, “I have never been on a team as mentally, emotionally, and physically connected as we are.” She points out standout freshmen in Ava Edwards and Gina DaSilva who are both starting their first year on the varsity team; “They are extremely talented and have created high standards for future volleyball seasons.” In addition, players like Mack Bellomo, Claren Wong, and Megan Lee have all caught her eye on the JV team. She loves their leadership and praises their talent, something that she thinks could potentially carry them over into solidifying a spot on the varsity squad. Similar to tennis, the varsity team is 7-2 in league play and JV is undefeated.
Field hockey, an unexpected juggernaut, but adjusting to the sport’s norms
Standing at 4-4 in the league and 5-5 overall, varsity field hockey has fought their way into the middle of the pack of their PCAL league.
Field Hockey, as put by Romi Fernandez-Riviello, a senior player on the varsity team and the school’s student body president, says that it’s like a filler sport for the fall season: “Since no one in our team considers field hockey their main sport, we all play as if we’re playing another sport.” She says that because of this, the players on the team aren’t used to some rules as they are different in other sports like lacrosse, for example. “There’s this one rule where the ball can’t touch your skin, so basically everything we do is stick-to-ball.” She continues, “Sometimes the ball just passes [past you] and if your stick were down, you would’ve gotten the ball. We just need to work on stick skills; connecting our knowledge and our endurance to stick skills.” Rhea Cosand, Fernandez-Rivello, and Sarah Barsamian all scored one goal apiece in a game against Notre Dame on September 21. All three play lacrosse in the spring and carry their knowledge over to field hockey.
Fernandez-Riviello highlights Graz Carman who plays center defense and has one of the biggest “influences” on the team. “Graz is really straightforward so she gives the best constructive criticism.” She led her team to the CCS championship where they won two years ago and plans on repeating the same this year. Since they won the division the last time they played, they moved up into a harder division. “One overall strength is that we’re all pretty close as a team, so we work really well together.” She thinks they can repeat this year with the help of new players, Grace Ishii and Hannah Wolff, along with the rest of the seniors.
Cross country members are dragging souls of fatigue, but powering through
“We are all going through the same amount of pain but we persevere, and the team recognizes that and encourages one another,” says Gabby Torres, a prominent girls’ varsity runner and captain. She talks about the work that leads up to meets and how much effort the team has put in to improve at their running. Notching a 6th place finish and a 21:38 min three-mile time is nothing short of superb for the experienced senior as she leads her team down the final month of the season.
Torres has recognized a few players that are having an unexpectedly stellar season including Allesandro De Leo who competed at a middle school level at Stevenson’s lower school and has climbed his way up onto the varsity roster. In the first meet of the year, De Leo finished 5th in the Mission race in the Freshmen/sophomore division and 1st for the team. His time was 21:31. Fast forward to the next meet, and he cut his time by over a minute to 20:19, convincing Cleve Thayer, the varsity coach, that he is varsity material.
In addition to De Leo, Amy Rong has left her mark in only the first two meets of the season. Torres shares her opinion on the young runner: “I think Amy will have a breakout season. She decided to move up from the developing runner's group and in the very first race placed 2nd on the team, which is pretty exciting.” She ran 23:19 minutes for five kilometers.
Torres alongside seniors, John Puka and Win Metcalf, have filled in as the leaders for the whole cross country program. With full seasons in their freshmen and sophomore years under their belt, they’ve used their experience to help guide the young and forthcoming runners. Puka’s been running exceptionally well and Torres could sense the work he put in over the summer to prepare for the season. “I have not personally talked to him about the amount of work he has done, but he came into the season ready to run fast and he definitely did that.”
Metcalf has filled in as the “team hype man” as Torres put it and has brought energy to the team, especially during the most painful moments. Puka and Metcalf ran a 17:20 and 19:40 respectively, earning them a 5th and 37th place finish in the first meet of the year at Christmas Hill Park.
Sailing rocks the waves
“Sailing team has been trending up,” says Ryan Marquess, a senior and long-time sailor who has seen a surge of improvement from the last season in 2019 to now.
“When I started Stevenson Sailing in my freshman year, we would only ever compete in the JV division known as [the] Silver fleet (and we didn't do well); however, over the past couple years with the help of a new coach, Bradley Schoch and due to lots of practice, we qualified for state championships for the first time in many years.”
In the first week of the season, the Stevenson Sailing Team took a dominant first place at the first NorCal event of the season. “This is looking to be one of the best years in Stevenson Sailing history, and [the] future is bright as well.” Some of the notable, young sailors who come to the team with experience in the past include Alden Sherill, Tibet Kiliç, Max McCormick, Christian Walter, and Harry Marquess.
Girls’ water polo: young talent and classy veterans
Emmerson Ferriera and Sienna Cimoli are two freshmen that have both established starting roles on the girls’ water polo varsity team. On the flip side, Kate Morgan and Sofia Bozzo have led their team down the stretch as experienced veterans on the team. All four scored in a recent game against Valley Christian during the Los Gatos tournament over the weekend of October 9-10. Morgan scored eight, Bozzo and Ferriera each tallied two apiece, and Cimoli added another.
They won the game 15-7, finishing 2-2 in the tournament and 3rd place overall.
“We are starting the year in a better place athletically and mentally with the sport than ever before. The conditioning has been a big part of our success so far,” Morgan comments about the team’s great start to the season. “Thanks to Burke’s grueling swim sets we have effective counterattacks that score points in every game.”
Morgan expands on her thought: “Another important thing about having a group of athletes who have mostly played the sport before is the team’s ‘water polo IQ.’
This team knows what we need to do in a game to succeed.” She’s confident in finishing the season on a positive note and has been incredibly impressed by the versatility of the team and the chemistry all the players share. Expect the team to make a push for the playoffs, standing at a 17-4 overall record.
The pride of Stevenson sports: Girls’ golf
The girls’ golf varsity team is prime soil for greatness. Sydney Craven, Nikki Iniakov, and Michelle Wang have all reached for the stars, highlighted by Craven, a senior, who is the epitome of a stellar golf player. She has not only led her team to an undefeated season thus far but has also attracted national attention after she placed 1st at the Junior PURE Insurance Open, a PGA (Professional Golfer’s Association) hosted event.
The game took place on her home ground at Spyglass golf course and she finished with a -26, securing the win by two strokes. Anjela Abanico, Craven’s teammate, says, “She serves as a terrific leader and veteran who pushes the team to its limits.” In Craven’s footsteps comes Wang and Iniakov, two freshmen, who have both proved their substantial role on the team. “Nikki is consistent with scores and very hardworking, and Michelle is so fun to play with and brings a competitive side [to the team].”
Entering the halfway mark in October, the team remains unbeaten in their PCAL league and is taking a walk to the park to this year’s CCS.