BY BLAKE DORFMAN, PRESIDIOSPORTS.COM
It’s fair to say that Rusty Fairly is a magnetic member of Santa Barbara’s athletic community.
His presence at Monday’s Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table luncheon attracted a veritable all-star lineup of legendary coaches, all there to see Fairly honored as the Sportsperson of the Month.
Among those present to see the former SBCC baseball coach, UCSB and SBCC assistant football coach, city council member and SBART board member were coaches like Carmen DiPoalo, Bob Dinaberg, Cliff Purcell, Ken Preston, Bob Brontsema, Gary Woods, John Mueller and John Kirkgard among others — all are worthy of the award themselves.
They all sat in the back of the Ranchero Room, and initiated a standing ovation when Fairly came up to receive his plaque from award sponsors Wade and Roxanne Nomura.
“What we have here today is a very, very fortunate circumstance,” said Westmont men’s basketball coach John Moore. “Rusty Fairly is a guy who is a legend in this town, and the legacy he has left is the reason we have kind of a murderers’ row over here of coaches.”
The aging Fairly was once a star quarterback, receiver, defensive back and kicker for the University of Denver. Nicknamed “The Mad Magician,” he holds numerous records at the school and was named MVP of the 1954 Sun Bowl. He also played baseball for the Pioneers, and is a member of the school’s Hall of Fame.
He came to Santa Barbara to work with the Gaucho football team, and went on to work in the same capacity for the Vaqueros while also coaching the baseball team for many years. He was elected to the Santa Barbara City Council in 1982.
“The best part of the whole thing is coming here to see people I haven’t seen in years,” said Fairly.
SANTA BARBARA HIGH: Andrew Butcher hasn’t been around as long as Fairly, but in 28 years as head coach of the Dons he’s only beaten the mighty Buena Bulldogs seven times. Last week, the Dons fell behind 19-2 and looked to be on their way to a blowout loss.
Then, as Butcher put it, “lightning struck and we turned into a fire-breathing dragon.”
Santa Barbara somehow held Buena to just 10 points in the second half and won the game, 46-41. Tessa Emerson was the unanimous choice for Female Athlete of the Week, scoring a game-high 18 points and holding Buena’s star player to just 12 points.
The Bulldogs were undefeated in the Channel League and were fresh off of an upset of Ventura, a top-5 team in southern California.
“I don’t know what to say except that I hope to see the dragon again this year,” said Butcher.
Along with Emerson were up-and-coming junior post player Zoe Echternacht, senior guard Letty Hernandez and freshman Ivette Gil, who is the team’s starting point guard in her first year of high school hoops.
BISHOP DIEGO: The Cardinals picked up two Frontier League wins last week, defeating Grace Brethren and Malibu. They’ll host arch-rival Carpinteria on Tuesday night before the Frontier’s own fire-breathing dragon, No. 2 Santa Clara, pays a visit on Thursday.
Luncheon attendee Courtney Houston had quite a week, accumulating 34 points, 16 rebounds, 11 steals and eight assists in last week’s wins. Coach Jeff Burich also introduced freshman point guard Greer Shull.
CATE: The Rams start three freshmen, but senior Grace Williams has been a leader throughout the season. She had 14 points and eight rebounds in last week’s non-conference victory at Vasquez. Athletic Director Wade Ransom also said that point guard Katrina Von Burg, one of the freshman starters, has provided a big boost in her first season.
BISHOP DIEGO: Like Fairly, Male Athlete of the Week Noah Tack is a magnetic person — as evidenced by the whoop he let out when he won a bag of cookies in the luncheon’s weekly raffle.
“He’s got an infectious smile. He’s charismatic, single and good-looking. He works hard and he loves the game,” quipped coach Ray “Slash” Vazquez.
Tack provides a pivotal presence in the post for the Cardinals, who are strong contenders for the Frontier League title, currently in second place at 3-2. They’ll play at first-place Nordhoff on Wednesday before playing at second-place Santa Paula on Friday.
Tack had 16 points and 10 rebounds in a narrow 52-48 win over Villanova last week, then chipped in 14 points and eight rebounds in a victory over Grace Brethren.
Vazquez also introduced senior Trent Speier, whom he said is “not a stocking-stuffer” satistically but makes a big impact when on the court. He is the founder and president of the team’s “Charges Club,” having taken more charges than anyone else. He also has a 4.1 GPA and will be attending UCLA next year.
CATE: The fire-breathing dragon of the Condor League is undoubtedly defending CIF champion Besant Hill. It’s a school which has no gym and roughly 100 students, but has a pair of Division I-bound stars from Africa who have been dominant since arriving.
Ransom said that Ugo Nwasike did his best to throw his body around in the post in the Rams’ loss against the Coyotes, as did Mark Mullan. Cate plays Midland this week.
GIRLS WATER POLO
SAN MARCOS: The Royals are enjoying one of their best-ever seasons despite having yet to practice as an entire team all season due to illness and injuries. They’ll host Ventura on Tuesday in a battle which will likely decide third place in the Channel League.
Freshman Hannah Koper has endured a particularly painful injury this season, but is so tough that it hasn’t kept her out of the pool for long. During a practice in the summer, Koper was rolling out a water polo cage and it accidentally peeled her toenail straight up. She went to the hospital and had to have the toenail removed.
Just a couple of weeks ago, Koper had a monster game in a 15-14 win at Long Beach Poly but had a painful trip to the team dinner afterwards.
“Somebody opens up the door and it goes right into her toe,” said coach Brian Roth. “There was blood everywhere, and all that went through my mind was ‘Wow, we lost another one for awhile,’ but she was in the water the next day.”
Roth also introduced senior goalie Mallory Zaunius, who amassed seven saves against top-ranked Dos Pueblos last week.
SANTA BARBARA HIGH: Speaking of talented goalies, Dons coach Mark Walsh has his sights set high for starter Maddie Trabucco.
“I think she’ll be one of the best goalies I’ve ever coached,” said Walsh of the freshman.
Also at Harry’s was the other Trabucco twin, Sophie, who is a one of the team’s best defenders and all-around swimmers.
The team recently had a practice from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m., but the twins had a 9 a.m. doctor’s appointment. Walsh figured they would just skip the practice, but instead they showed up, practiced until 8:45, left, came back at 9:30 and finished practice.
The Dons play Buena on Tuesday and face Dos Pueblos next week.
CATE: After losing to Villanova 7-1 earlier in the season, the Rams showed a big improvement by edging the Wildcats 3-2 on Friday. Ransom said that Kate Montgomery continues to be the outspoken leader of the team and that senior goalie Jasmine Sherwood has been coming up big in recent weeks.
The Rams face Oaks Christian this week, and are fighting for their third consecutive playoff appearance, which would also be their third in school history.
SAN MARCOS: Julian Lake has been the gem of the Royals’ program this year. The 191-pounder won his weight class at the San Bernardino Invitational, and also won his division at a tournament in Santa Ynez before that. He has three wins this year, placing at all six events he’s wrestled in.
Coach Ken Mishima also introduced seniors David Billesbach and Louis Giroux. Billesbach has a record of 26-10 and has placed in five events, while Giroux is 29-6 with two event wins and six places. The Royals are trying to sneak past Dos Pueblos for second place in the Channel League. The Chargers and Ventura are the only two teams to ever make it to the postseason out of the conference.
UCSB: The Gauchos’ thrilling double-overtime win at Cal State Fullerton on Saturday might be just what the team needs to spark a run in the second half of the season. It evened UCSB’s Big West record at 3-3 and was the team’s first double-overtime win since 1976. It also extended the Gauchos’ winning streak over the Titans to 34 games.
Jordan Franey hit a buzzer-beater to send it into overtime and Mekia Valentine did the same with four ticks remaining to force a second overtime. Sophomore point guard Emilie Johnson then hit a 12-footer in the final minute that proved to be the game-winner.
“It was just a tough, gritty performance by our entire team,” said assistant coach Selena Ho.
The Gauchos play at Cal Poly on Thursday night.
WESTMONT: “It has continued to be a year of adversity of the Warriors,” said coach Kirsten Moore, whose team has lost starter Angel Blanco for the season.
The Warriors went 1-1 last week, defeating Fresno Pacific before falling to No. 5 Vanguard.
“There’s a huge challenge ahead for us. One of the opportunities is to see how creative we can get with five guards in the lineup,” said Moore.
Former walk-on and team manager Kelsey Hardeman, a 5-foot-6 backup post player, got in the game for 13 minutes and battled admirably against the much bigger Lions. Men’s coach John Moore told women’s coach Moore that Hardeman has got to be the most improved player in the history of Westmont hoops.
Westmont plays at No. 11 Azusa Pacific, the biggest team in the Golden State Athletic Conference, on Tuesday.
SBCC: The Vaqueros are in second place in the Western State Conference after beating both Oxnard and Hancock last week. Francesca DeAngelis had 20 points in each game, while Mara Lux has averaged over 10 rebounds over the last four games.
Sports Information Specialist Dave Loveton also reported that seven Vaquero spring sports teams are getting ready to kick off their seasons over the next two weeks.
WESTMONT: Coach Moore’s Warriors have now been voted in the NAIA’s top 25 in five consecutive polls, earning the No. 22 spot on Monday. It’s the first time in seven years that Westmont has achieved such a rankings streak.
“We’ve had some great teams over those seven years, but we haven’t had a team that’s done what this year’s team has done,” said Moore.
The squad takes its 13-5, 5-4 record to Azusa Pacific on Tuesday. Before the team’s home game against San Diego Christian on Saturday, all 15 members of the 1999 squad which finished third in the nation will be honored.
SBCC: The Vaquero men picked up their first WSC win of the season last week, a 91-78 decision over Hancock. Daniel Koches went 6-for-7 from long range, tallying a career-high 20 points as SBCC also snapped an 8-game losing streak. Santa Barbara High alum Willie Reese chipped in 14 points and eight boards while Lucky Teeguarden had 14 points, four rebounds and five assists.