WINTER PREVIEW: Strong CHS soccer teams, La keeps winning, John Carpenter wins big

Claremont High School girls soccer may be the team to beat this year, with a sweet combination of youth and experience.

The defending Palomares League champions have a mix of sophomores and juniors, most of whom have varsity experience. Add to that a deep bench, and it’s no wonder Coach Tim Tracey is looking forward to the start of the season.

The Pack had an unexpected early exit from the CIF tournament last year, which may serve to make the girls hungry for victory. That is the goal at any rate. And with only three freshmen on this year’s squad, nearly the entire team was on the field last February when the Pack lost, 3-2, to Camarillo.

Claremont did win a CIF title in 2012 and made it all the way to the championship game in 2017 where they lost to South Torrance. As the runner up, the team then advanced to the state tournament where they lost again to South Torrance.

The season opener will be Friday against former Palomares League stalwart South Hills, which Coach Tracey said is going to be a good test right out of the gate. League opens with an away match against Ayala on December 19.

“We feel very excited about the prospects this year. We have a solid side, its all about them wanting to compete again and have another good year,” Coach Tracey said. “Our depth is the best it’s been since maybe 2013.”

Seniors Avery Gonzalez and Lauren Kunda will be the team leaders in a sea of younger players. “We’re excited by the fact that not only do we have great athletes, but great girls,” Coach Tracey said.

If you would like to catch the team in action, come out for the annual Claremont Holiday Classic tournament December 14 and 21 at CHS.

Boys soccer is talented, but so are other league teams

There is something to be said for building a culture of winning, and that’s exactly what Fred Bruce-Oliver has created at Claremont.

He has been coaching the Pack for a long time— let’s just say the Gipper was in the White House when he started. During his tenure, the boys have had numerous championship teams, but Coach Bruce-Oliver doesn’t really like to talk about the past. However, the boys most recent CIF pennant came in 2011.

“He’s really knowledgeable and has a lot of experience,” assistant Coach Edward Flores said about Coach Bruce-Oliver. “I think it [success] comes with time and culture and he has built a great culture of excellence for the program.”

Last year Claremont had kind of a rough season that did not completely equal expectations. The Pack was young with a lot of sophomores who were getting their first taste of what it’s like to play at the varsity level. Now that those players are juniors, and the combination of a little more experience plus having something to prove should result in some exciting soccer.

“I think this year will be interesting because we have a good group of juniors and seniors who played together last year. They seem like they want to win, and of course, we want to win,” Coach Flores said.

Coach Bruce Oliver seemed to agree. “They are a little older which is important in sports, and they are a little more experienced,” he said.

Both coaches agreed that a combination of younger and older players is the perfect mix.

“Because they [younger players] are a little more eager and have a little more drive, the juniors and the sophomores push the seniors a bit and force the whole team to get better,” Coach Bruce-Oliver said.

The Pack’s first game will be at home against Riverside’s Notre Dame on December 13. Their first league game will be a home match against Ayala on the 19th.

Claremont lost twice to Ayala last season and the Bulldogs will be tough again this year. Defending Palomares League champion Alta Loma is the favorite to repeat, so that too will also be a great game to support the Wolfpack.


Girls basketball continues to be a work in progress

Claremont has had a rough start to the new season, losing their first two games. And to add insult to injury, it’s part of the annual Claremont-Bonita Invitational Tournament.

The good news is that both teams that beat the Pack—Los Altos, 66-32, on Monday and Roosevelt, 69-31, on Tuesday—are highly-ranked and are likely to do very well in their own leagues.

Plus, the tough early competition will get the girls ready for Palomares League, which will be strong again this year. Claremont opens league with an away game against Ayala. The Pack beat the Bulldogs twice last year but, of course, that is not guarantee of a win this year. Dual defending league champions Glendora and Bonita will be the teams to watch again this year.

“I thought defensively we did a lot of the things we needed to do. Offensively we weren’t as sharp as we needed to be, but this is our first game.” Coach Mike James said following the Los Altos game. “We played hard and competed hard but, honesty, our inexperience is something we just have to deal with.”

Claremont only has two seniors, the rest of the squad is made up of seven sophomores, two freshmen and two juniors. In addition, the girls have been plagued with injuries, leaving four potential starters sidelined.

Team leaders include Jessica Andrada who is a returning all CIF point guard. Last year she was one of the top juniors at shooting three point shots.

At center and forward sophomore Sidney Sparks is the tallest girl on the team and Coach James has been working on her shooting and developing her ability to hit the three pointers. He said she is a pretty good all-around player and is making good progress.

“I think once we get everybody healthy, we could actually be pretty good,” Coach James said.

The COURIER will publish a preview for boys basketball and coed wrestling in our next edition.

Boys cross country takes third place at state meet

Claremont High School’s 2019 cross country season has come to an end but not before the Pack got to stand on one more podium.

Last weekend at the CIF Division Two State Championship the boys team put in a big effort against some very talented and deep teams to take third place in the team competition. It was the third podium visit for Claremont in the past four years, including 2016 when they won the state title and the individual title.

The top finisher for Claremont was junior Jack Keough-Lansford, who placed seventh at 15:14. He clocked the 20th fastest time across all divisions, earning him a spot on the All California team.

The competition has been fierce, with first place Newbury Park setting records all season and second place Dana Hills running in D2 for the first time after being sent down from D1.

The girls team took seventh, which was a solid but not great performance, given the Pack was defending champion and has won the state title three straight years. Sophomore Maddie Coles, who has led the team all year, was ill in the days leading up to the meet, which hindered her performance. Nonetheless, she crossed the finish line in a tight pack with Angie Gushue and Azalea Segura-Mora.

“It was a good year and a really good group of kids,” Coach Bill Reeves said. “From an overall perspective, how many schools take two teams to state and place in the top seven places in one of the hardest divisions in a long time?”

Coach Reeves believes the boys team will be very strong next year, with Keough-Lansford returning as a senior. In addition, Newbury Park will be graduating its top two male runners. But for now, Claremont has set its sights on track season.


La move on to round of 16

Claremont junior Goldie La survived another test as she progress through the CIF Division Two Individual Tennis Championships.

On Tuesday, La had a remarkably easy time defeating San Joaquin League number-one seed Seychelle Balog, 6-2, 6-1, at the round of 32 in Seal Beach. She now advances to the round of 16, also in Seal Beach, which took place after press time on Thursday.


Pomona-Pitzer’s Jordan Carpenter earns national award

Pomona-Pitzer Men’s Cross Country head coach Jordan Carpenter has been named United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association’s National Coach of the Year, according to Sagehen Athletics.

Carpenter, in his third year as head coach, led the Sagehens to the program’s first-ever team title at the NCAA Division Three Cross Country Championships last month. Pomona-Pitzer also won the West Region Championships and was runner-up at the Southern California Intercollegiate Conference Championships.

This is the first time since the award’s inception in 1993 that it has gone to a coach from the West Coast.

—Steven Felschundneff


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