Neilsen-Robbins gets it done on field, in classroom


There’s pressure put on kids nowadays about taking the most AP classes, scoring the highest on the SATs and participating in the most extracurriculars.

For some, it can be counterproductive to dwell on that pressure. But for youngsters like Rebecca Neilsen-Robbins, it seems to be nothing but fuel for success.

The Santa Barbara High senior was honored as her school’s Scholar-Athlete of the Year at Monday’s Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table luncheon, and her list of accomplishments make her one of the most worthy recipients you’ll find.

The softball star carries a 4.8 GPA, taking four AP classes as well as college-level Astron
omy at SBCC. She is Editor in Chief of the SBHS student newspaper. She is a National Merit semifinalist and recipient of the Wellesley Book Award. She volunteers at Cottage Hospital and hopes to go to Stanford, where she’ll major in English and then apply to medical school.

She’s a pretty good pitcher too, earning MVP honors for the Dons the past two seasons. She batted .351 last year with an ERA of 2.43 and was an All-Channel League first-teamer. Her highlight was leading the Dons — a program which has struggled mightily for many years — to their first league win 10 years last season, a 6-1 victory over San Marcos.

These are all amazing achievements, but what’s more amazing is that there are kids like this all over our community.


DOS PUEBLOS: The Chargers were one of only two local football teams to win this past weekend (Cate was the other), and it was a sweet one.

When this year’s senior class of Chargers were playing freshman football, they lost to perennial-power Lompoc 70-0 at Huyck Stadium. This time around, DP picked up a 49-6 blowout win on Friday night.

Quarterback Zack Boytis, who was at Harry’s for the luncheon, threw for three touchdowns and over 200 yards even though the Chargers barely threw the ball in the second half. Also present was running back Anthony Houston, who caught a 30-yard touchdown pass from Boytis in the first quarter and added a 61-yard scoring run in the third.

“The great thing was that not one of those seniors came up to me and said ‘let’s run the score up’,” said coach Jeff Uyesaka.

The Chargers play at Righetti this week.

SANTA BARBARA: Speaking of Righetti, the Dons hosted the Warriors on Friday night and had a forgettable game, falling 45-0.

“We’re 0-3, but that doesn’t matter because we haven’t’ started league yet,” said coach Jaime Melgoza, who added that on film his team is continually getting better.

Melgoza also made a point that the media in the room certainly supported, pointing out that the lack of a press box at venerable Peabody Stadium makes it tough for coaches who need to call the game from up above. Currently, they sit at tables in the top row.

“It’s funny, because we have some of the wealthiest people in the world in this town and we’re sitting there without a press box,” he said.

SAN MARCOS: Coach Jeff Hesselmeyer and the Royals are in the midst of an incredibly tough two-week stretch. The Royals fell to undefeated Hueneme 21-10 in their home-opener last week and host another undefeated squad, Oxnard, in their homecoming game at Valley Stadium this week.

Due to injuries, the Royals have now started three different running backs in each of their games. Third-stringer Dillon Keefer got the nod against the Vikings and was impressive, running for 156 yards on 26 carries including a 76-yard touchdown run. He was awarded the Football Player of the Week honors by broadcaster Gary Eckland at the end of the luncheon.

Also joining Hesselmeyer at the luncheon was Louis Giroux, a standout lineman who also wrestles and is a diver for the SMHS aquatics program.

SBCC: As a former head coach at Santa Barbara High, SBCC coach Craig Moropoulos told Melgoza to keep fighting and improving, and that “the wins will come.”

The Vaqueros had a huge win over Canyons a couple of weeks ago, but have since gone quiet, losing on the road to Antelope Valley 32-7 on Saturday.

“It was about 100 degrees when the game started and we just wilted,” said Moropoulos. “We’ve got to get it going and we’ve got to get it going this weekend.”

The longtime local coach got a little perspective the next morning, however.

“I got three phone calls — two were wrong numbers and the other was my 11-year-old daughter telling me she still loved me,” he said.

CARPINTERIA: The Warriors remained winless on the year after losing a 7-0 halftime lead and falling 22-9 to Grace Brethren at Moorpark College. The game was full of bizarre plays and calls by the referees.

The Warriors will play at Fillmore on Friday in one of the oldest football rivalries in Southern California.

Joining coach Ben Hallock were lineman Cameron Gonzales and versatile senior  Robert Thornton, who came out for the team this year after not having played since his Youth Football League days.

“He’s got a great motor. He runs all the time and loves to hit,” said Hallock. “He had two caused fumbles and recovered another one.”

Carpinteria is a very small town, and Gonzales is an example, as his dad and uncles played for the Warriors in the 1980s.

“He’s related to about 75-to-85-percent of Carpinteria,” joked Hallock.

BISHOP DIEGO: The young Cardinals are also still looking for their first win after dropping a 28-21 decision to Santa Paula, the No. 2 team in the East Valley Division,  on Friday.

Only four seniors played for Bishop in the game, and two of them were there to be introduced by Athletic Director Dan Peeters. Captain Garrett Garcia is a tight end and linebacker who very rarely leaves the field. He had a key interception in Friday’s game.

Joe Salda, meanwhile, is a standout catcher on the baseball team who strapped on the football pads this year and has made a big impact, including a fumble recovery that he returned for a 32-yard touchdown on Friday.

Bishop has a bye week.

LAGUNA BLANCA: The Owls are yet another team looking for a first win. On Saturday, the Owls went up to Santa Maria and played Valley Christian. It was scoreless for both teams after the first quarter, but things fell apart as Laguna eventually fell 46-0.

“We’re gonna have to learn how to respond a little better in a game like that,” said coach Ray Robitaille.

A bright spot for the team was the return of Sebastian Koch, a German exchange student who provides a lot of athleticism. The Owls have a week off before hosting Rolling Hills prep on October 10th.


SANTA BARBARA: The Dons, ranked No. 2 in Division II, are working on their 29th consecutive Channel League title, but outside of league they’ve been playing the best of the best in CIF. In fact, coach Steve Geremia scheduled the top five teams in Division I this year.

“The girls have great competitive spirit and they look forward to playing the best,” he said.

The coach brought along his senior leaders — top singles player Rachel Decker-Sadowski, No. 2 Ariel Beckerman, and the stellar doubles team of Hanna Grokenberger and Kinzie McKeown.

SAN MARCOS: The Royals fought hard against a variety of different Santa Barbara lineups in a 10-8 loss to the Dons last week, led by the 16-3 doubles team of Amy Kinsella and Shelby Zylstra, who joined coach Megan Cotich on Monday.

San Marcos is 4-3 on the young season and will play Cate on the road Wednesday before a big league match against Dos Pueblos on Thursday.

“I think we’ve been mentally preparing for our match against DP for about eight years,” joked Cotich.

DOS PUEBLOS: First-year DP coach Suzy Dahl called her team “a great bunch of girls” before introducing her top doubles team — Nicole Eskenazi and Kim Preston.

The Chargers were beat handily by the Dons last week but still have the No. 2 spot in the Channel League to defend with a match against Buena on Tuesday and San Marcos on Thursday.

BISHOP DIEGO: Peeters pinch-hit for tennis coach Suzanne Petrie, whose team is 0-2 in league play to start the year but can even things up this week with matches against Santa Clara and Carpinteria.

Introduced were the “Heart and Soul” of the team — No. 1 singles player Devon Stein and No. 2 player Brittany Gignac.

UCSB: The fall season is a time for the Gauchos to focus on individual tournaments and building up rankings for the team season in the spring. The doubles team of Michelle Murphy and Sophia Novak have been the best news so far, as they have earned a No. 41 national ranking with a chance to make the top 25 with a good result at the upcoming All-American Tournament.

UCSB returns every player from last year’s 16-6 squad and also hopes to have a new No. 1 player as well as some returners who sat out with injury last season.

Coach Pete Kirkwood has a niece, Sarah Kirkwood, who plays on the Santa Barbara High golf team, and he thinks he might deserve credit for her contributions on the course.

“I gave her lessons when she was young and completely drove her out of tennis,” he joked.


SANTA BARBARA: Sarah Kirkwood wasn’t at Harry’s, but coach Ryan Throop was with one of his top players, Haley True. Throop was armed with one of those jokes that is funny just because it is so bad.

“As a math teacher, I prefer to call it the rectangular table,” he said.

The Dons are off to their best start in history at 9-3, and tallied their best score in history with a 210 at Glen Annie last week. The only problem was that DP fired a 195.

Kylie Wagner shot a 39 for the Dons.

“Now that we’ve had one girl break 40, I think we have four or five more that can do it,” he said.

SBCC: Sports Information Specialist Dave Loveton reported that the Vaquero women’s golf team has three returners from last year’s state-title team, including 2008 individual state champ Asaka Sim. The team is currently 6-2 in Western State Conference play.

Loveton also reported that the SBCC volleyball team is off to a sparkling 9-1 start and finished second in the San Diego Invitational over the weekend.


SERGEY SUSHCHIKH, DP CROSS COUNTRY: ran away with Male Athlete of the Week honors this week, literally. The junior cross-country star from Dos Pueblos won last Wednesday’s Channel League meet on the Chargers’ course, then won again on Saturday at the DP Lagoon Meet against stiff competition.

DP assistant coach Len Miller pointed out that after the Lagoon Meet, Sushchikh asked to run back to Dos Pueblos (about five miles) instead of taking the van. He even took some teammates along with him.

REBECCA SARACENO, UCSB VOLLEYBALL: The Gauchos are off to their best start in five years at 11-2 overall and 2-0 in the Big West. If not for Saraceno’s 29 kills on Saturday, they would have lost to UC Irvine at the Thunderdome. Instead, it became one of the biggest comebacks in program history, as UCSB lost the first two games and trailed in the third before storming back to win in the fifth.

Saraceno also had double-digit kills in the team’s two other wins on the week.

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