Recognize Greater LA

Updated: March 26, 2009, 3:51 PM ET
ESPN RISE Magazine

Softball - Simi Valley

The Pioneers entered the 2008 Division I finals riding high. Sporting a spotless 30-0 record, coach Russ Michael's squad had a chance at a mythical national championship with a win over Valencia in that contest. But the Vikings prevailed, 3-0, ruining Simi Valley's chance at perfection. Michael thinks his team's lack of big-game experience played a large role in the defeat. "It was a tremendous amount of pressure," the sixth-year head coach says. That shouldn't be a problem this year. The team gained valuable experience from last year's setback, and is using that loss as fuel for another title run. "It's not only motivation, it's determination," Michael says. "We have seven returners from that team and that's all they talk about. They all want the ring." Senior Brianna Stephan, who hit .398 last year, is the team's top hitter. Junior Amanda Oliveto is one of the state's best pitchers, while sophomore Sophia Perez is the program's next great hurler. Junior Kelli-Jo Killingsworth is the No. 3 pitcher and first baseman, while seniors Amber Olive (OF), Kasey Ullery (C) and Nicole Adair (utility) are all key leaders. Will the Pioneers be as good as last year? Only time will tell, but they're not shooting for perfection this time. They're focused on winning the last game of the year.

Baseball - Mater Dei

The Monarchs have had a typically fantastic sports year, with nationally ranked boys' and girls' basketball teams in the winter and one of the country's top football players in Matt Barkley. Now it's the baseball team's turn. Coach Burt Call's squad advanced to the Division I semifinals in 2008 and returns a lot of talent. Senior right-handers Aaron Northcraft and Oklahoma State-bound Ian McCarthy pace a deep rotation. Both pitchers are ESPN RISE All-Area picks. The Monarchs were the No. 34 team in the preseason ESPN RISE FAB 50.

Girls' Water Polo - Dos Pueblos

There was no way to defend the Chargers this year. In the Division I semifinals, Newport Harbor decided not to double-team sophomore sensation Kiley Neushul, so she scored five goals in a 9-8 win on Feb 25. In the championship game against Corona del Mar, the Sea Kings focused intently on stopping Neushul. She was held scoreless, but juniors Alex Hill, Amanda Redfern and sophomore Tiera Schroeder scored in a 3-2 win on Feb. 28 for Dos Pueblos' second consecutive DI title. Junior goalie Sami Hill made 17 stops in victory.

Boys' Golf - Sunny Hills

When the Lancers finished at last year's state meet, they were 19 over par and seemed out of the running for a title. But the weather got worse as the day went on and Sunny Hills emerged as champion. Jeff Kang, now a junior, won the individual crown with a 2-under 70. Sophomore Kristen Park, one of the nation's top girls' golfers, shot a 79. Alex Kim, Mike Im and Kevin Lim also shot in the 70s at state and have graduated. With those key losses, the drive to repeat won't be easy. But the Lancers aren't used to doing things the easy way.


GIRLS' TRACK  HIGHLAND Junior Jessica Davis is looking to double in the 100 and 200 this year. BOYS' TRACK  CATHEDRAL Senior Randall Carroll, the state's top sprinter, looks to help team improve on last year's fifth-place finish at state. SOFTBALL  HART Last year's Division I quarterfinalist returns superstar senior pitcher Destiny Rodino, who went 24-5 last year. BASEBALL  RIVERSIDE POLY ESPN RISE All-Area picks Jake Marisnick and Blair Moore, both seniors, lead the way for DI contender.