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Wild Week in Softball

Mira Costa comeback falls short in seventh inning of CIF first round playoff game. Plus, baseball, boys volleyball, and lacrosse at RUHS is a family affair (with four sets of sisters on the team.)

Peninsula coach Tim Hall didn't say much, but Mira Costa’s Dick Amberik questioned his team’s draw in this week’s CIF Southern Section softball playoffs—and he had a point.

Despite finishing as co-champs of the Bay League, the Panthers and Mustangs didn’t receive favorable draws for the Division III playoffs.

Peninsula, which opened the playoffs with a 5-3 win over Paso Robles on Thursday, is now looking at a second-round clash with top-seeded Oaks Christian on Tuesday.

Hall won’t say it, but Peninsula is probably being punished for an awful start, when it lost 11 of 14 before winning eight of 10 in the Bay League.

Hall sees the game with Oaks Christian as an opportunity for his club, he said. Against Paso Robles, the Panthers passed a test with a group effort, led by senior shortstop Taylor Karp, whose two-run double in the third turned out to be the difference.

“The great thing about the playoffs is that you get to focus on playing well,” said Hall, whose team improved to 13-13 with its victory over Paso Robles. “If you do that, you’re going to go as far as you get.”

“The team that really got a tough draw though was Mira Costa,” he added. “They went in as a No. 2 seed, but that was because of a coin flip. We finished as league champions. For them to have to play a wild card game when there’s some teams [in the division] that finished in second place in their leagues and didn’t have to play a wild card doesn’t make sense to me.”

Amberik was still shaking his head Wednesday by his team’s wild-card draw, believing his club should have been hosting a first-round game instead of a wild card.

“You’re darned right I was surprised,” Amberik said. “We finished [as co-champs in league] and get 21 victories and they give us a wild card?”

Santa Maria Righetti, an at-large entry and the fifth-place team from the Pac-7 League, faced off against the Mustangs on Wednesday.

The Warriors put Costa in a 6-1 hole and led 7-6 heading into the bottom of the eighth before catcher Katie Saunders rescued the Mustangs with a game-winning two-run double to score the Glover sisters, Kamyle and Taylor, and lift Costa to wild card victory.

Then, Costa had to pack its gear and play a first-round contest at Lake Elsinore Lakeside, which eliminated the Mustangs with a 7-6 victory Thursday. Costa ends the season at 22-7-1.

Megan von Behren drove in four runs, Stefanni Lajeunesse homered and Taylor Glover went 3 for 4 with a pair of runs in the loss.

Palos Verdes also was eliminated in a 6-4 loss at Chaminade on Thursday. And, Redondo exited earlier than that, though, getting beat by Heritage, the No. 2 entry from the Sunbelt League, in a 5-0 defeat Tuesday. Not a good week for Redondo.

Baseball Blues

Maybe the CIF bracketologists got it right about the Bay League’s baseball teams. Not to be cruel, but the proof is in the outcomes.

Redondo was the first to go, dropping a 3-1 setback to visiting Damien in a wild-card game Tuesday. On Thursday, West Torrance went down in flames to Yucaipa, Peninsula fell to Chino Hills (2-1) and Palos Verdes was on the short end of the stick at Chaminade (13-5.)

For Palos Verdes, it’s a bitter pill to swallow—the Sea Kings lost to Chaminade in the softball and baseball playoffs. 

Costa, Redondo vs. Orange County

Mira Costa wasn’t prepared for what hit at Mater Dei on May 14. Neither were the Mustang fans.

They stood in stunned silence after the Monarchs earned a five-game victory (29-27, 20-25, 25-14, 18-25, 15-9) over top-seed Mira Costa in the quarterfinals of the Division I playoffs for boys volleyball at Mater Dei.

The Mustangs seemed flat at the start and it eventually cost them. They were hammered in third game before springing to life in the fourth. But Mater Dei used a flourish to capture the final game and the match.

The Mustangs never seemed like the same team after blowing the first game, where they dictated until Mater Dei surprised them in the end for a 29-27 win. Mira Costa led most of the way before the Monarchs seized the lead late.

In the fifth game, it was difficult for Mira Costa not to feel the pressure, especially with the Mater Dei crowd playing a factor.

Mira Costa head co-coach Sean Shoptaw said all the right things after the loss, but he couldn’t hide his disappointment.

“They played a great match,” Shoptaw said of Mater Dei. “We played well for spurts but we just never got into a consistent rhythm and it showed. We never really had the consistency to play our game like we’ve been playing all year. Give them credit. They made life tough on us on every point.”

The Mustangs might earn a berth in next week’s Southern California regional playoffs. The team rolled to a 33-2 mark and is considered a favorite to advance to the division final.

“This team was an absolute pleasure to coach,” Shoptaw said. “I love every one of these kids. There’s not a bad thing to say about them. We had a great year, a year most people didn’t think we’d have. I’m proud of them.”

Meanwhile, Redondo’s boys volleyball team also saw its season end in the quarterfinals of the Division I playoffs. Host Santa Margarita (another Orange County team) swept the Sea Hawks, 25-22, 25-18, 25-14, on May 14.

Santa Margarita, which finished ahead of Mater Dei in the Trinity League, overwhelmed Redondo, which finished the season with a 28-8 mark. The Sea Hawks were runners-up to Mira Costa in the Bay League.

Family Affair at Redondo

For the Redondo girls lacrosse program, it's all in the family—literally.

"I've been coaching some kind of sport since '93, and yes, I've had sets of brothers on a team, but never four sets of them," said Tom Borgia, the team's head coach. "This is really unusual."

Four sets of sisters are members of the Sea Hawks' standout program—and the foursome has made a significant impact on the varsity club, which rolled through the Bay League again and advanced to the U.S. Lacrosse Girls Southern Section Division I final on May 14 for the second straight year before falling to defending champ Los Alamitos.

The introductions, please: Bailey and Heather Czech; Allison and Emily Field; and Micayla and Allison Kotzbach.

Twins Ariel and Alina Mistuloff were members of the unbeaten junior varsity team this season, though Ariel earned a bump to the varsity team during the playoffs. She scored a crucial goal in Redondo's thrilling 11-10 victory over Santa Barbara Cate to advance to the title match, and she started in the loss to Los Alamitos.

Field, a senior, was one of the Sea Hawks' top performers, finishing as the second-leading scorer behind Julia Denney with 51 goals and 16 assists.

Micayla Kotzbach, a junior and another one of the team's best, scored 40 goals and recorded 13 assists throughout the season. In her first season of varsity play, sophomore Allison Kotzbach had 25 goals. Senior Bailey Czech also scored 25 goals and had nine assists.

Sophomore Heather Czech, the team's goalie, stopped 165 shots. Borgia called Czech the best goalie in the South Bay and said the Sea Hawks, who finished 20-3 overall and undefeated for the second consecutive season with a 12-0 mark in the Bay League, wouldn't have fared nearly as well without her.

The lacrosse connection for the sisters developed almost four years ago. The older siblings joined the team, then the younger ones, seeing all of the fun their older sisters were having, became members of the club.

"During my freshman year, I was considering running track," said Allison Field, who also was a member of Redondo's highly successful volleyball team, which advanced to the CIF and Southern California Regional finals before falling to Long Beach Poly last year.

Field is considering walking on at the University of Arizona, where she will attend school this fall.

"But then I said, 'Why not [play lacrosse]?' It's probably been the best experience I’ve had in high school," she said. "I thought lacrosse was so different. At first, before I knew much about it, I was like, 'What’s [lacrosse] all about?' I figured I’d give it a try.”

The decision exceeded her expectations, particularly when she and Emily, who has made some valuable contributions as a reserve on the team, started playing together.

"I love playing with my sister," Allison said. "And since all of the girls have been like sisters to me, it was an easy transition with my sister joining the team. She fit right in. It's the first sport we played together. We've played the same sports together before, but we had never been on the same team."
 

"Allison got me interested in lacrosse, so I figured I'd try out, too," said Emily Field, a sophomore, adding, "It was just really fun having [Allison] there for me…I was on the JV team until this year, so this was a great experience. She taught me so much in the last two years. I'm obviously going to miss her next season, but I think we'll do well because she has taught us all so much."

The family affair—and the winning ways of the program—also appealed to the Kotzbach sisters.

"We all help each other out if we need help with anything," said Micayla Kotzbach. "We all get along well and have fun playing together. We're just like a family."

"It's been really exciting to play with my sister and the rest of the girls," said Allison Kotzbach, who also plays as a midfielder on the school soccer team. "The best highlight for us was passing to Micayla and watching her score. That's been one of the biggest moments for us. It happened two or three times this season."

Allison Kotzbach said that she couldn't resist the sport after watching the good times roll with Micayla.

"I just saw how much fun the game was, and I decided I wanted to play with my sister," Allison Kotzbach said. "It's been an awesome experience."

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