By NATE SMITH
We close the books on the 2016-2017 school year with our final honor of the summer, the Prep2Prep Northern California Private School of the Year award. While many of the traditional names appear on our list of finalists, it is a lesser-known school which took the state by storm this past year, achieving unprecedented success for its small co-ed campus of less than 600 students.
The state-wide success began in the fall for St. Patrick-St. Vincent, when its football team not only defeated Fort Bragg for the NCS Division V title, but then went on to take down Brookside Christian in the CIF 6-A North regional final, before edging Strathmore in a 29-28 thriller to capture the state title.
The football team was not the only sport in the fall to capture a section title, however. The girls golf team, led by standout Nikki Short, edged McKinleyville by one stroke to win the NCS Division II championship, giving the Bruins two section titles in the first season of the school year.
Winter brought more state-wide success for the small Vallejo school, despite being the smallest school competing in its league. The Bruins fall into the smallest enrollment categories for each sport, yet in the competitive-equity based Tri-County Athletic League, compete in the league’s A Division, the Rock, for most sports. This leaves them competing against larger-enrollment schools on a regular basis. In the sport of basketball, it hardly mattered.
SPSV shared the TCAL-Rock regular season boys basketball title with Salesian, splitting a pair of games with the Pride, and the non-league schedule featured a win over James Logan, who would go on to reach the CIF Division I title game. The Bruins were upset in the NCS Division IV playoffs by Lick-Wilmerding, but got a second chance at the Tigers in the CIF Division IV bracket.
After the loss to Lick-Wilmerding in the section semifinals, St. Pat’s went on a dominant tear in the state playoffs. A 73-point win over Pierce was followed by a 35-point win over Ripon, which led to a rematch with Lick-Wilmerding. This time, there was no close finish or big comeback like the first game, and the Bruins posted a dominant 73-55 win to reach the regional final. There, they dispatched Palma by 25 points to reach the state final, which resulted in a 59-46 win over Helix-La Mesa. The end result was not just a CIF title for the squad, but a run through the state tournament in which every victory came by double-digits.
“It’s great to be a Bruin,” commented boys basketball coach Derek Walker after the state title game victory. “I’m from Vallejo, so I couldn’t be happier.”
The spring season featured another TCAL championship for the Bruins, this time in boys volleyball, and two squads went on to reach NCS championship games. After going 16-0 in league play, the boys volleyball squad fell in four sets to top-seeded Bentley in the NCS Division III championship game, sweeping Marin Catholic and El Molino in the previous rounds.
The baseball team, meanwhile, after narrowly missing out on a league title, went on a run in the post-season, reaching the NCS Division IV title game before falling 4-1 to St. Joseph Notre Dame in the title game, who won its second straight championship. The Bruins’ playoff run featured wins over Saint Mary’s, Middletown, and Fortuna.
While other sports on the campus may not have won titles or reached championship games, there were still other noteworthy achievements. The girls basketball team won 21 games, the most in five years for the program, and picked up wins in both the NCS and CIF tournaments. Meanwhile, the girls volleyball team won 24 games and reached the NCS quarterfinals.
“It was an absolutely great year for SPSV athletics,” commented athletic director and head football coach Lane Hawkins. “We have great coaches who put in a lot of work to ensure the success of their programs, and a contingent of student-athletes who were committed to success on and off the field. We also have tremendous support from our school community and the supporters of our athletic programs. None of it would be possible without them.”
The Monarchs have one of the best athletic programs, top to bottom, on an annual basis, and 2016-2017 was no exception. Mitty captured WCAL titles in girls volleyball, girls soccer, girls basketball, and boys golf, adding a league tournament title in softball. More impressive, though, were the CCS and CIF titles, capturing both titles in girls volleyball and boys golf, while adding section titles in girls basketball, softball, and boys basketball.
The Dragons captured WACC titles in football, boys basketball, girls basketball, and girls soccer, to go with NCS and CIF titles for the football program. The girls basketball program reached the NCS title game, while the girls soccer team reached the NCS semifinals.
The Spartans stormed to NCS titles in football, boys basketball, wrestling, and baseball. It was the 25th straight section in football for De La Salle, while the championships in boys basketball and baseball were both back-to-back titles with the previous year. Wrestling won its third straight title in both the dual format and traditional team championships. It was the 10th dual title in the last 11 years, and eighth traditional title in the last nine years.
The Lancers claimed WCAL titles in football, girls soccer, girls tennis, boys volleyball, girls cross country, girls golf, boys swimming, girls track, and softball, winning the regular season crown in the latter sport. Multiple sports were also selected for the Open Division at the CCS level.
The Rams dominated fall and winter in the TCAL, capturing league titles in football, boys basketball, and girls basketball. The football team nearly captured a CIF title, after beating Freedom in the North regional game, and that was following its SJS title game win over Folsom. Girls basketball, meanwhile, remained the dominant program in the SJS, with its 10th straight section title. In the spring, the baseball program reached the SJS Division I semifinals, falling to eventual champion Elk Grove.