Sierra sets record with four Southern Section CIF Championships

The Sierra Canyon athletics program enjoyed a huge amount of success in 2022-2023.

The school won four Southern Section championships in the same school year for the first time in school history after capturing titles in football, girls volleyball, girls basketball and boys swimming.

Jon Ellinghouse’s juggernaut football program regrouped from a 1-3 start to not only win the Mission League outright in its first year in the powerhouse league but also won the Division 2 championship with an impressive  23-7 victory against previously unbeaten Inglewood and star quarterback Huson Longstreet.

Dane Dunn emerged as an impressive running back and he’s only a sophomore.

The team featured some great college bound seniors. Lavon Brown is headed to Colorado State, Cameron Brandt is headed to Michigan, JoJo Phillips is going to BYU and Eddie Byrd will play at Wagner.

The girls volleyball team shared the Mission League championship with Marymount, splitting two league contests. The Trailblazers went on to knock off Marymount in the Southern Section playoffs en route to beating Mira Costa in the Division 1 championship at Cerritos College.

Pitt-bound Olivia Babcock led the way this year, along with Cornell-bound Jada Sione, and Clemson-bound Ava Hewitt-Smith.

The team returns talented juniors Danica Rach (committed to Boston College), Maddie Way (committed to Hawaii) and Sade Ilawole. Lauren Lynch is the best sophomore.

The girls basketball team won the Open Division championship, avenging last year’s setback against Etiwanda.

This was the year of JuJu Watkins, the nation’s top-ranked player that will continue at USC before a pro career.

The team went 31-1 overall and won the Mission League championship without a loss.

Watkins received great help from juniors MacKenly Randolph and Izela Arenas. Crystal Wang was a power forward role player that will attend Northwestern.

Watkins averaged nearly 30 points per game and almost 20 rebounds. Her commitment to USC was broadcast live on ESPN in a special ceremony in the school gym.

The only blemish came when Etiwanda returned the favor with a 55-54 setback in the state playoffs in a game that determined which team would travel to Sacramento to play for the state championship.

The Spring time saw the boys swim program capture the Division 4 championship, holding off Liberty of Winchester and Hemet in the finals meet in Riverside.

The top swimmers were Jason Zhang, Anthony Kim, Luke Haas, Chris Cain and Cayden Cain

The boys basketball program qualified for the Open Division for the 10th consecutive year, the only program in the section with that distinction. Despite not winning a game for the first time ever, the team was put in the Division 1 state playoffs and won two games before losing to Notre Dame for a fourth time, one win shy of advancing to Sacramento for a state championship appearance.

The baseball and softball teams had outstanding years. The baseball team finished fourth in the Mission League and qualified for the Division 1 playoffs. The team made a valiant run to the quarterfinals with wins against Bishop Amat and Cypress before losing to defending champion JSerra.

Oregon-bound Kheden Hettiger was the team’s top hitter along with Omar Cisneros and Ethan Munoz. Freshman Mikhal Johnson showed great power.

Watch out for two young pitchers.Caden Sramek (sophomore) and freshman Brayden Charness are ready to be leaders next year.

The softball team had a stranglehold on the Mission League championship until the final week of the regular season before a run to the quarterfinals of the Division 3 playoffs. The Trailblazers knocked off No. 3 Santa Margarita, Sunny Hills and Diamond Ranch before losing to Santiago of Corona.

Duke-bound Hailey Shuler was awesome in the circle and Central Florida-bound Izzy Mertes was a top power hitter.

Maddie Debs, Nina Peyton-Johnson and Lianna Lara all had key contributions. Sophia Sarni, a freshman, is a player to watch.