The evenings are getting shorter and lifeguard whistles have been replaced with school bells. Summer might not be officially over until late September, but for the athletes at La Jolla's three high schools, autumn has already arrived. As varsity teams at La Jolla High School, La Jolla Country Day and The Bishop's School prepare for their seasons, we look at what to expect this fall.
La Jolla High School lost some key players from a team that went 6-4-1 last season, but Vikings Coach Dave Ponsford thinks he has a good nucleus around which to build.
Senior quarterback Robet Sagerian will direct the offense after transferring from Serra High School. He'll throw mostly to juniors Igor Cerbia and Blake Shelburne as well as senior Chris Jones. Russell Youngblood should get most of the carries at tailback, as he rushed for 1,100 yards last season.
He'll run behind an experienced offensive line that includes center Jeremy Watson, strong-side tackle Lucas Triley and guard Amar Albassam.
Defensively, the Vikings should be led by senior outside linebacker Mike Maracle, who already has scholarship offers coming from Division I colleges. Senior Moose Halpern is expected to start at middle linebacker, while seniors David Cravens and Matt Estes should be standouts in the defensive backfield.
Ponsford is also excited about the team's kicking game, as defending Western League Kicker of the Year Carlos Corona is being challenged by Brooks Beckman and Andres Liera.
Mission Bay, Serra and Point Loma could be the teams to beat.
"We're in a really competitive league, but hopefully we can compete for a league championship," Ponsford said. "We're usually pretty smart and tough. We can't get by on our talent alone."
La Jolla Country Day will take a big step this season with its move from eight-man football to the traditional 11-man game for the first time. The Torreys won their third straight CIF-San Diego Section title last year, so they appear ready for the move.
Still, there will almost certainly be an adjustment period. Country Day will rely on a group of returning players to make a smooth transition.
Sammy Morris is expected to move into the starting quarterback role and hand off to first-year starter Lance Rutledge. Morris' stable of receivers and ends will include Rali Schwartz, Logan Abbott, Alex Maire and Jaime Coleman. Colin Tuck should provide capable lead blocking after moving from guard to tailback.
He should receive good protection from an offensive line that boasts seniors Alex Moir, Chase Mosheni and Rupart Barshop as well as juniors Alex Yanez and Nikil Nagaraj.
Country Day expects to start most of its players both ways, though junior Kevin Ings should crack the lineup at safety.
"Eleven-man football will be a step up for us," said Torreys coach Jeff Hutzler, "but we have a good group returning and we'll be competitive."
The Bishop's School also will be playing 11-man football this year, after two seasons at the eight-man level due to limited interest in the sport at the school. The Knights will re-enter the Coastal League with a team that includes just five seniors.
"Our feeling is that this is a building year," said Bishop's Coach Derek McIntyre, "and we are hoping that if we make good strides throughout the season, hopefully we will be able to earn a playoff spot."
That goal will start with their returning players. Tight end Andrew Fowler is back after a seven-touchdown season and will also play linebacker, where he made 126 tackles last season.
Matt Russo moves from quarterback to wide receiver, and Will Geier will be counted on to shoulder most of the load at running back.
Defensively, cornerback Chase Jensen with 53 tackles and Taylor Griffin with 35 are expected to be leaders.
The Bishop's School graduated four seniors, all starters, from a team that went 22-9 last season and advanced to the semifinals in the postseason, but Coach Tod Mattox thinks the 2005 squad might be improved.
Senior setters Clea Bierman and Jenna Diggs are the team captains, and junior Natalia Wrobel should be in the mix as a setter as well. Mattox believes he has two of his best outside hitters ever in Rachel Cocalis and Torie Hadeler, both seniors.
In the middle, the Knights will feature 6-feet-2 Katherine Fiedler and 6-0 Nicole Ballon-Landa.
"Our biggest challenge will be handling the ball," Mattox said. "How our team shapes up will depend on how we handle the ball. First contact will be key."
La Jolla High School returns five starters to a deep team that is coming off a 29-8 campaign in 2004.
The Vikings' top three players are setter Lily Durwood, outside hitter Alex Kearney and outside hitter Avalon Preisendorfer, all seniors. Senior Abby Hye will start as a defensive specialist, and junior Cameron Smith will rotate from outside hitter to middle blocker.
Right-side hitter Dana Hoolko and middle blocker/outside hitter Jennifer Keane are also expected to contribute.
"We've been getting stronger every year, so we should do well," Vikings Coach Dave Jones said.
La Jolla Country Day made the playoffs as a young team last season and, because it graduated few players, should be improved this fall.
The Torreys return setters Tammy Batzofin and Haley Wilson as well as outside hitters Anna Goldenhersh and Jordan Kubernick. Kenna Foltz is a sophomore defensive specialist coming back, and other returning contributors include outside hitter/defensive specialist Jasmine Edwards, middle blocker Chelsea Burns and right-side hitter Janae Fulcher.
BOYS WATER POLO The Bishop's School will be seeking its fourth straight CIF-San Diego Section division title, even without departed seniors Tyler Jemmett, Will Cherashore and Ian Davidson, all playing at major colleges this year. This year's team will be led by senior Nico Sardo, the defending CIF-SDS player of the year, and junior Kevin May, an All-CIF-SDS player at center forward. Other players expected to be key contributors include goalie Nikhil Barman, Alex Pulido, defender Robert Quick, center forward Conor Matzinger and drivers John Bricston and Travis Hill and Conor Levoff. La Jolla High School is coming off a 23-7 season in which it advanced to the CIF-San Diego Section Division II semifinals before losing to Coronado. The Vikings also lost some key players in goalie Grant Cooper, 2-meter Grant LeBeau and defender Trapper Felt, but believe they can again be among the top four teams in the county. They'll bank on a group of key players that includes senior Daniel Orloff at 2-meter offense, senior Gunther Gettlefinger at 2-meter defense and senior David Wright as a driver/utility player. Newcomers who could be impact players are driver Noah Orloff, a sophomore, and fellow sophomore Peter Sefton at 2-meter offense. La Jolla Country Day brings back all its players from last season, so naturally it expects some improvement from an 8-10 season. Vivan Suri, who scored 79 goals last season, should be the team leader. Kai Altree returns at 2-meter defense, and Greg Wisenberg is back in goal. Chris Yoon and Ilya Altsheyn are also returning starters. Ronny Clausner and Henry Clausner are both speedy players who can contribute on both sides of the ball. "We feel like we have an outstanding opportunity to finish near the top of our league this season," said Torreys Coach Nate Heppner. CROSS COUNTRY La Jolla Country Day's girls team returns a strong core of runners from last year's league championship team. Lauren Pischel was the CIF-San Diego Section division runner-up, and Hana Justice placed fourth last year. Ariel Abbott and Jasmine Junnarkar also return, and senior Valerie Christy could strengthen the team while running cross country for the first time after having success in track. Country Day's boys team features Alex Poyhonen as its top runner and brings back only one senior - John Major - on an inexperienced team. The Torreys won a CIF-San Diego Section division title last season, and this year will look to Miles McMillan, Ben Fleischhacker, Stephen Midgal, Wade Galligan, Tyler Diefenbach and Ian Hopp to develop into a cohesive group. The Bishop's School should have an exciting boys team. The Knights have experience in seniors Hunt Hardisty, Nick Lake, Brendan Walsh, Brandon Ramirez, Eudoro Orozco and John Lazar. They also expect good things from Nick Hardisty, Andy Morgosh and Patrick Wemmer. The Knights' girls team lost a key runner to graduation in Robin Kuntz, but still have some experience. Elizabeth Mills, Hilary White and Sarah Bromley were part of a team that went to the state meet last season, and Coach Mary Fran Cullen sees potential in a large freshman class as well. La Jolla High School's boys team has a new coach in Matt Miller, but doesn't expect much change from the success it has had in the past. Senior Charlie Gamble returns as the Vikings' fastest runner. Other strong athletes coming back include Alex Todd, Chris Salerno, Christian Schwartz, Jonathan Westman and John Carter. The girls team struggled last season but is expecting better results this year. Juniors Margot Hedlin and Lily Howard will lead the pack. Other runners expected to compete for spots in the top seven are Harin Song, Maya Gamble, Michelle Ceisla, Amy Rutgard, Christine Chan, Emma Strong and Neva Fowler-Gearce. Two freshman could also fight for a spot. They are Nihao Kayali and Christine Richmond. GIRLS GOLF The Bishop's School won a league title last season, but expects to have a lot of competition this time around. The Knights lost three seniors, so they might be looking at a rebuilding year of sorts. Coach Jacqui McSorley expects good things from top player Morgan Bisbis, who averaged a score of 42 over nine holes last season. The Knights will again play their home matches at La Jolla Country Club. La Jolla Country Day hopes to be improved in its second season with a program. Ally Berenter and Hallie Huston are both seniors returning from last season. Tatiana Young, a junior, was the team's most improved golfer last season, shaving 10-12 stokes off her average score from the beginning of the season to the end. Samantha Berenter returns after being named to the All-Coastal Conference team. Other players expected to contribute are Kelli Davis and Elizabeth Ellison. The Torreys will play their home matches at Morgan Run.
GIRLS TENNIS The Bishop's School expects to have a young but talented team after losing five starting players from its Coastal League championship team of a year ago. The Knights' No. 1 player will be sophomore Kimmi Cox. Captains Ashley O'Donnell and Elizabeth DePonte, both seniors, are expected to lead the doubles lineup. Coach Jose Ruelas is also hoping for solid play at doubles from junior Jackie Schulze. "It might be a rebuilding year, but we'd still like to finish first or second in the Coastal League and challenge for a CIF title," Ruelas said. La Jolla Country Day has three seniors returning and will bank on their experience for another solid season. Seniors Daryn Belinsky, Erin Saven and Kate Wright will contribute in various spots across the singles and doubles lineups, said Coach Angela Horacek. Also expected to contribute are Gabi Scher, Izzy Richardson and freshman Amanda Mulligan. Richardson and Saven appear to have the inside track on the top singles position.