Soccer looking for quick start

Soccer looking for quick start

The Sierra Canyon boys soccer team is ready for an exciting 2023 campaign.

Coach Chris Bonawandt is excited about the team’s development and guidance from several returning starters.

The goalkeeper is Arman Sahi and he is a two-year starter.

“We need to keep the other teams from scoring and Arman is our guy,” Bonawandt said. “Arman is a smart guy and knows our system.”

Visili Fovos, Constantine Theodoratos and Anthony Najafi form a three-person core up the middle for the Trailblazers. The three will be key in helping the younger, more inexperienced Sierra Canyon players navigate the rough waters of the Mission League.

Fovos is a central defender and will be just in line ahead Sahi.

Theodoratos is a mid-fielder until reinforcements from the football team make it out to the pitch.

“Constantine is an amazing athlete,” Bonawandt said. “He is tenacious. No one can stop him. He is a coach’s dream.”

Najafi will be counted on to score goals for the Trailblazers.

“Anthony is a big goal scorer for us,” Bonawandt said. “He knows how to find the back of the net. Anthony will give opposing defenses problems.”

Sierra Canyon is good up the middle but has some younger guys on the outskirts. The key will be blending the veterans and youth into a cohesive unit.

“We have a key player in every line,” Bonawandt said. “We start two freshmen almost every match. We need everybody to step up and work together.”

Loyola and Harvard-Westlake will be strong teams in the league with St. Francis.

“These are the big boys,” Bonawandt said. “Those programs don’t know much about us. It’s a clean slate for us. Our goal is always playoffs. We want to qualify and take it from there. Anything can happen in the postseason.”

Trailblazers get their 6th ring

Trailblazers get their 6th ring

The Sierra Canyon football team took care of business Saturday night and won the Southern Section Division 2 championship with an impressive 23-7 victory against Inglewood.

Not only did the Trailblazers win their eighth consecutive game and give Inglewood its first loss this year, they won their sixth championship and fifth in the last seven playoff years.

“A lot of hard work and great leadership,” SIerra Canyon coach Jon Ellinghouse said. “We stuck together and made it all the way through.”

Once again, Dane Dunn was front and center. Dunn rushed for 201 yards on 32 carries and all three touchdowns.

“He’s been our go-to-guy and he delivered for us,” Ellinghouse said. “He’s had an incredible playoff run.”

Dunn, only a sophomore, has totaled nearly 800 yards in the playoff with nine touchdowns in four games.

Dunn set the tone for the evening taking the first handoff 50 yards down to the two-yard line and then easily went into the end zone for a touchdown. It was a two play, 52-yard drive in 17 seconds.

Dunn scored again with 5:27 remaining in the second quarter and one more time in the fourth quarter.

“We had a lot of third and fourth down plays that got us a new set of downs,” Ellinghouse said. “Dane was a big part of that.”

The defense wasn’t bad, either.

Sierra Canyon (10-4) held Inglewood (13-1) to its lowest total in its last 43 games and Jae’on Young had two interceptions.

Inglewood shot itself in the foot multiple times.

Husan Longstreet thought he had two touchdown passes. However, a 36-yarder to New Jersey-import Jamari Johnson was wiped out on a penalty and a 67-yard toss was wiped out when Longstreet was pass the line of scrimmage.

Inglewood also muffed a punt that led to an Ashton Zamani field goal and failed to take advantage of a Sierra Canyon muffed punt in the second half.

Longstreet finished 16 of 29 for 134 yards. He connected with Terrell Bradshaw for a 16-yard touchdown in the second quarter to bring the Sentinels to within 14-7. That was their only look at the game.

Sierra Canyon started the year 1-3 and fell to 2-4 after its third consecutive home loss (Bishop Amat in double overtime). The Trailblazers then won the Mission League and eight games in a row.”

“A lot of other teams would have folded and cashed in the season,” Ellinghouse said. “Not this group and not these coaches. We found solutions to our problems.”

Sierra Canyon is expected to be chosen for the Div. 1-AA regional bowl game next week and would have to win to reach its fifth state final in school history.

Back in familiar spot, the finals

The Sierra Canyon football program is right back where it likes to be.

The Trailblazers went into La Puente and knocked off host Bishop Amat 29-23 on Friday night in a Division 2 semifinal game.

Dane Dunn rushed for 166 yards and scored two touchdowns to lead Sierra Canyon (9-4), which has reeled off seven consecutive victories.

The victory not only avenged a heart-breaking 31-28 double overtime setback to Bishop Amat back in week 6 but advanced the Trailblazers to their 7th championship game appearance in the last 12 seasons with playoffs.

“It’s really just great for the school, kids, parents, fans and the entire Sierra Canyon community,” Sierra Canyon head coach Jon Ellinghouse said. “We believed all year. Others didn’t. We got off to a rough start. The kids stayed locked in. The coaches stayed locked in. We got this thing right.”

Sierra Canyon fell behind 7-0 just as it did last week in a quarterfinal game against fellow Mission League-rival Serra of Gardena. But the Traiblazers never panicked and came up with another come from behind victory.

Sierra Canyon scored 19 consecutive points and led by 12 points at halftime. Trailing 7-6, Xavier White returned a Richie Munoz interception 28 yards for a touchdown. More importantly, it put Sierra Canyon on top for good. Alonzo Esparza then threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to Eddie Byrd.

The lead grew to 22-7  thanks to an 8-minute plus drive and 27-yard field goal from Ashton Zamani before two touchdowns from Bishop Amat.

Rodney Sermons returned a kickoff 98 yards for a score and Adrian Ramos rushed for a 6-yard touchdown. It was 22-20 with under nine minutes remaining and anybody’s ballgame.

However, Terrell Cooks returned the ensuing kickoff 50 yards to set up good field position. Dunn scampered 43 yards and scored from three yards out for a 29-20 lead.

Jae’on Young and Jaylen’dai Sumlin each had interceptions late to thwart any Lancers comeback bid.

Sierra Canyon held Bishop Amat to 23 points. The Lancers had scored 70 and 64 points in their previous two playoff games.

Sierra Canyon is 7-3 all-time in the semifinals and 5-1 overall in championship games with five victories in a row, going for six next week against Inglewood. Sierra Canyon will host either Friday or Saturday.

Inglewood knocked off Chaminade 41-38 in overtime in an instant classic at South Torrance HS.


Inglewood is 13-0 overall this year and most famous for running up the score 106-0 last year against Morningside before losing to Alemany in the Div. 2 semifinals.

Watkins stays home, will attend USC

Watkins stays home, will attend USC

She is a superstar. She is a can’t-miss-prospect. She is a state champion. She is a Team USA gold medalist.

And she is headed to USC.

JuJu Watkins announced Tuesday in a special ceremony at school on ESPN that she will stay home and attend USC next year to continue her academic and athletic career.

“It was a very meticulous process and it was a long process and we took all of our time,” Watkins said. “There is no place like home.”

Watkins is the number 1-ranked player in the country and expected to play at the highest levels across the world. She chose to stay close to home instead of attending South Carolina or Stanford.

“I could fit in at all three but could only choose one at the end of the day,” Watkins said.

Watkins averaged 24 points and 10.5 rebounds last year while helping the Trailblazers to their fifth state title and second in the Open Division. Watkins is a force at all three levels.

“She can really do it all,” Sierra Canyon coach Alicia Komaki said. “She can drive, post up and hit the three. She is a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses. And she does it all within our team concept. She gets other players involved and knows when to take over.”

Watkins helped Team USA to a gold medal in the 17-under championships over the summer. Watkins has secured NIL deals with several companies and should only see that expand by staying in Los Angeles.

College, the pros, money, fame and fortune are definitely in her future.

However, all she wants at the moment is to win basketball games and another state championship.

Basketball team has large target on back

The Sierra Canyon girls basketball team has a big, giant ‘X’ on its back this year.

After winning the Open Division state championship last year and the core of the team all returning, Sierra Canyon will get every team’s best shot to try and take it down.

“We know we are the ones being hunted this year,” Sierra Canyon coach Alicia Komaki said. “Last year there was a group of teams all trying to get to the top spot. We got there at the end. We know that means every team is coming after us. We love the challenge to not get caught.”

Komaki has great weapons at her disposal. Number one is all-american JuJu Watkins. Watkins is a generational-type talent that comes along once every 10-15 years. Watkins is labeled as a can’t miss prospect. Watkins is making her decision between USC, Stanford and South Carolina.

“Obviously, JuJu is an exceptional talent and great player. She can do it all on the court. I am glad she is on our side. It makes my job easier.”

Watkins had plenty of help.

MacKenly Randolph is a junior power forward with several Division 1 offers and Izela Arenas is a top junior guard. The role players are excellent, as well.

Christina Reynoso, Sophia Ruelas and Kayla Malek are experienced veterans that know the system well. And watch out for talented freshman forward Emilia Krstevski. She is a force on the block.

Sierra Canyon joins the Mission League this year and will battle with Harvard-Westlake, Alemany and Marlborough. Gone are the days of beating up on Crossroads, Campbell Hall and Paraclete.

The team will take several out-of-state trips this year. Louisiana, Utah, Nevada, Oregon and Massachusetts are all on the docket. Plenty of frequent flyer miles to go around.

One goal for the program is to win the Southern Section Open Division championship on its way to the state championship. The section title has eluded the Trailblazers in recent years. Sierra Canyon lost to Windward in 2019 and Etiwanda last years before coming back to win the highest crown, knocking off both teams it lost to on the way, respectively.

“We would love to win the Southern Section title first,” Komaki said. “That’s always the first championship we want.”

Where are they now? Isis Diaz making an impact at Johns Hopkins

Where are the now? Isis Diaz making an impact at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland

Former Sierra Canyon cross country standout Isis Diaz has picked up right where she left off for the Johns Hopkins University women’s cross-country team.

Diaz, who had stellar freshman and senior campaigns in Chatsworth finishing in the top 10 in the state in Division 5, has made her mark in the collegiate ranks.

“I love seeing Isis excel as a freshman in college,” Sierra Canyon cross country coach Troy Samuels said. “I always knew she would be successful. Her opportunity here at Sierra Canyon was a blessing and only prepared her for future success.”

Diaz recently ran a 6K race in 22:43.6 on October 29th in the Centennial Conference championships. That effort placed her 9th and helped her team finish high in the standings, taking home the conference championship.

Back in September, Diaz ran a 5K in 18:52.1 for an 8th-place finish in the Baltimore Metro meet. Diaz also ran a 19:41.7 on October 15th in the Panorama Farms Rowan Invitational in another 5K race.

“Just the fact that Isis is running and contributing as a freshman is unbelievable,” Samuels said. “She is a big part of the team and the plans moving forward for the program.

Diaz had a bright future set when she entered Sierra Canyon back in 2018. Diaz finished 9th in the state in Division 5 as a wide-eyed youngster.

After a couple subpar years, Diaz recaptured the old magic for her senior season.

Diaz won her heat in the Southern Section prelims, placed third in the section finals and took home an impressive 10th-place finish in the state meet.

Her re-emergence late in high school has propelled her in college, thus far.

Diaz was the second fastest freshman in the conference and was an all-conference second team selection.

Diaz is majoring in behavioral biology and has a bright future on and off the racecourse.

“Isis is everything we dream of when it comes to a Sierra Canyon student and product,” Samuels said. “She was given an opportunity; she took advantage of the opportunity and is now reaping the rewards of that opportunity. I couldn’t and I know the whole school community couldn’t be happier for her.”


Trailblazers advance to 10th semifinals in 12 years

Sierra Canyon football advances to 10th semifinal appearance in last 12 seasons, including 7th in last eight seasons.

The Sierra Canyon football team punched its ticket to another semifinal appearance with a 42-16 victory against Serra of Gardena in a Div. 2 playoff game Friday night.

It was the Dane Dunn and Terrell Cooks show, once again, to lead the Trailblazers (8-4).

Sierra Canyon will face Mission League-rival Bishop Amat on the road at 7 p.m. Friday for a spot in the championship game.

“Just a great accomplishment for our program and school,” Sierra Canyon head coach Jon Ellinghouse said. “We played really well.”

Dunn rushed for 275 yards on 20 carries, including four touchdowns to lead the Trailblazers. Cooks gained 92 yards on 14 carries and scored the game’s final touchdown on a short two-yard run with 7:34 remaining.

After falling behind 7-0 after a long kick-off return and 6-yard touchdown run by Cincere Rhaney two plays later, it was all Sierra Canyon from that point.

Dunn caught an 8-yard flip pass from Damon Wrighster for a touchdown and scored from two yards out to give Sierra Canyon a 14-7 halftime lead. The latter score capped a 13-play, 80-yard drive.

Meanwhile, the defense forced Serra to punt three times and thwart any offensive attack.

Serra had one look at the game when it tackled Dunn in the end zone for a safety to cut the deficit to 21-9. Serra had the ball in Sierra Canyon territory looking to cut into the 12-point deficit but Xavier White came up with an interception of Jimmy Butler and later recovered a Butler fumble.

Dunn scored his last touchdown from 11 yards out just before the end of the third quarter and that was it.

Rhaney rushed for 122 yards on 23 carries to lead top-seeded Serra. Butler was 5 of 11 for 30 yards.

Sierra Canyon amassed 398 yards on 40 carries.

Historic volleyball season comes to an end

The historic Sierra Canyon girls volleyball season came to a close Saturday night after a wild 26-28, 25-19, 25-18, 23-25, 15-13 setback against Mira Costa in an Open Division So. Cal regional semifinal.

However, the tears were not of despair. The tears were pure joy.

Although it was difficult to have the season end three victories of the ultimate goal, Sierra Canyon reflected on the best season in school history. The Trailblazers won the Southern Section Division 1 championship on Nov. 5th at Cerritos College with a three-set sweep against the very same Mira Costa team.

In the process, Sierra Canyon became the very first team ever from the San Fernando Valley to take home the sport’s highest honore at the highest level.

“We worked really hard to win that Division 1 championship,’ Sierra Canyon coach Stefanoe Wigfall said. “So much energy was put into that goal. We wanted to keep it rolling, obviously. Just came up short to a team that was motivated for revenge.”

Things started out on a good note, again. Sierra Canyon (34-5) won the first set 28-26, its fourth consecutive set taken against the Mustangs (38-4). However, Mira Costa rallied for wins in the next two sets to put the pressure back on the Trailblazers.

As it has done all season, Sierra Canyon responded with a set four win and the match was headed to five sets. The Trailblazers led early and seemed to have a cushion at 9-6. Mira Costa rallied and surged ahead 14-11 thanks to an 8-2 run.

“It just wasn’t meant to be for our team tonight,” Wigfall said. “We got caught in a couple rotations where Mira Costa took advantage and put together some good runs of points.”

Mira Costa was led by Charlie Fuerbringer, Drew Wright, Erin Inskeep, Tanon Rosenthal and Rachel Moglia.

Sierra Canyon was paced by Pitt-bound Olivia Babcock, Cornell-bound Jaida Sione, Clemson-bound Ava Hewitt-Smith, Boston College-commit Danica Rach, Hawaii-commit Maddie Way, sophomore Lauren Lynch, setter Sade Illawole, and Natalie Babcock.

The Trailblazers have nothing to hang their heads about after winning the SS Div. 1 title, sharing the Mission League championship, racking up 34 wins, and compiling a 21-3 record in five set matches. The only setbacks were against San Clemente, Marymount and Mira Costa. Sierra Canyon also went 3-1 against Marymount, including two five-set victories.

Volleyball takes down Marymount for 3rd time

Well, well, well.

The Sierra Canyon girls volleyball team did its best Brittney Spears imitation Wednesday night in a crazy 15-25, 25-23, 25-16, 23-25, 15-13 victory against Mission League rival Marymount in an Open Division state playoff first-round match.

Oops! They did it, again.

The Trailblazers (34-4) took down Cari Klein’s club for an astonishing third time this season. Sierra Canyon split two league matches and won a Southern Section Division 1 pool-play match back on October 29th.

“Just crazy to beat a program like that three separate times in one season,” Sierra Canyon coach Stefanie Wigfall said. “We just kept battling. It was hard. We really got what we wanted a few days ago. Winning that championship has been what we have been working hard for, for a few years now. We would love to win the state title, as well.”

Sierra Canyon looked like a team that was just mentally spent in the first set. Passing was subpar, setting was subpar, communication was subpar. It all added up to a quick 10-point setback.

However, things turned around for the Trailblazers behind a raucous student section in the north end of the gym.

Pitt-bound Olivia Babcock came alive. Kill after kill, dig after dig. Babcock was sensational, sending home points nearly every time Sierra Canyon needed one.

Babcock was named an AVCA first-team all-american earlier in the day and she showed exactly why.

“There is not much more to say about Olivia,” Wigfall said. “She is an absolute rock star. She is definitely one of the best players in the country. She has God-given ability and works hard. That’s a lethal combination.”

Sierra Canyon led two sets to one and was on its way until Marymount mounted a comeback of its own.

The Sailors would not go lightly behind Pitt-bound Torrey Stafford. Stafford was almost as good as Babcock. The two will be on the same college squad next year. Now, that’s really scary. Stafford threw down some vicious kills and helped Marymount extend it to five sets.

Marymount (30-9, 13-7 in five-set matches) took a 2-0 lead in the final set to 15. Sierra Canyon stormed back and ahead 11-9 before the Sailors tied it at 11-11.

Sierra Canyon just made a few more plays down the stretch to advance to Saturday’s regional semifinals at 6 p.m. at home against Mira Costa, the Southern Section Div. 1 runner-up to the Trailblazers.

“I guess we just have to beat everybody multiple times,” Wigfall said. “We are up for the challenge.”

Six-person class for athletics signing day at Sierra Canyon

Six-person class for athletics signing day at Sierra Canyon

The Sierra Canyon school and athletics department is proud to announce the following early-signing period class for the 2022-2023 school year.

Congratulations are in order for girls basketball player Crystal Wang, baseball players Kehden Hettiger and Grant Werdesheim, and girls volleyball players Olivia Babcock, Jaida Sione and Ava Hewitt-Smith.

Wang has chosen Northwestern to continue her academic and athletic career. Wang has been a valuable part of the Trailblazers success, helping the team to an Open Division state championship in 2022.

“I chose Northwestern because I want to be challenged athletically and academically,” Wang said. “It is one of the top universities in the world and in one of the top conferences, the Big Ten. Best of all, the coaching staff believes in my ability to contribute. I’m honored to attend starting next fall.

Sierra Canyon head coach Alicia Komaki couldn’t be more proud or happier.

“Crystal has impressed me with her independence and ability to handle the rigor of both Sierra Canyon elite academics and athletics commitment,” Komaki said. “It’s only fitting that she continues her career at one of the top universities in the country. I am so proud of her and am inspired by her resilience, overcoming challenges with English being her second language.”

Hettiger is headed to Oregon and is expected to compete for playing time as a catcher and third baseman.

“I told them I’ll play anywhere.” Hettige said. “Anything to get me on the field and help the team.”

Hettiger has been a Ducks fan since he was a little boy.

“I love the neon colors,” Hettiger said. “I had a neon hoodie when I was little and fell in love with Oregon. It was like a dream come true when they came calling. I am just really thankful for this opportunity to play in college. I have wanted this for a long time.”

Hettiger is a top hitter and projects to reach his peak as he enters his 20’s. Hettiger has a great approach at the plate and is a developing power hitter.

Grant Werdesheim is a centerfielder headed to Brown in the Ivy League.

“This has been a lifelong dream to play at the collegiate level,” Werdesheim said. “Brown values academics and athletics. I wanted to get the best possible education while also playing baseball. I really just got a great feeling on campus when I visited and developed a close relationship with the head coach.”

Babcock is headed to Pittsburgh, Sione to Cornell and Hewitt-Smith to Clemson.

Babcock is a powerful outside hitter that led the Trailblazers in kills this past season. Babcock also was instrumental in helping Sierra Canyon capture its first ever Division 1 championship with a sweep against Mira Costa Saturday at Cerritos College.

Sione formed a 1-2 punch with Babcock sending home plenty of kills of her own from the left side. Hewitt-Smith was a force in the middle blocking balls back and scoring points with a quick right arm.

“These three girls have worked extremely hard for the opportunity to play at the next level,” Sierra Canyon coach Stefanie Wigfall said. “It’s exciting to see them move on. They all played such a big part in the team’s success. I have no doubt they all will contribute in a positive way next year. All three have leadership skills and work ethic that will translate to the next level.”