High school sports returned full-time to Monterey County and oh what a year it was

Having had the previous two years disrupted – shut down – because of the pandemic, created a sense of uncertainty this past season.

COVID remained a huge factor, forcing cancellations and halting practices during the fall and winter seasons. Maneuvering through a pandemic created unforeseen challenges for athletes, coaches and even parents and officials.

Yet, challenges were met – with a lot of patience – as a little more than nine months later, the high school season is complete.

Normalcy didn’t necessarily return. But sports prevailed with numerous achievements, as well as a year of firsts for some programs.

Members of King City’s boys soccer team will never forget seeing the entire student body send them off with a human tunnel to the bus for a Northern California Division III playoff semifinal road game.

Or the more than 500 fans who greeted them at midnight in 37-degree temperatures when they returned with the NorCal Division III boys soccer title – easily the story of the year.

The Mustangs logged nearly 800 bus miles in five days, as Victor Narez scored seven goals in three games to provide a historical finish to the season.

And what an ending to a school year that officially started on Aug. 8, and ended on June 4, when Monterey closed the season with a 5-1 win over Dixon to win the Northern California Division IV softball title.

Football sets the tone for the year and Salinas made another statement with its fourth consecutive Gabilan Division title, going 8-0 before falling in the postseason.

Adam Shaffer threw for nearly 2,000 yards and 18 touchdowns, while rushing for just under 800 yards, while Aidan Fynn compiled 13 sacks. Guess what? Both are coming back.

Palma added to its Central Coast Section record with its 37th straight playoff appearance, while North Salinas went from a winless campaign in 2019 to seven wins and a CCS semifinal appearance in 2021.

Brigham Young University-bound Evan Johnson put up some filthy receiving numbers in just five full games for Stevenson, with 35 catches for nearly 800 yards and 13 touchdowns.

Salinas went out and tied the single-season school record for wins in volleyball with 29, turning to Gabilan Division Offensive Player of the Year Brooke Hibino.

The Cowboys swept 27 of their 29 opponents before falling in the Northern California DI playoffs. Four starters are back in the fold for this coming fall.

Notre Dame, Pacific Grove, Gonzales and Greenfield all won league volleyball titles, with Carmel making its 13th straight postseason appearance behind Player of the Year Nina Robertson.

The return of field hockey saw Monterey bring home a league title behind three-sport standout Mia Henson.

Stevenson dominated the links in golf, capturing the girls’ Gabilan Division title. Freshman Nikki Iniakov finished third in the section as an individual.

Sofia Bozzo and Stanford-bound Kate Morgan both scored over 100 goals for Gabilan Division champion Stevenson in girls’ water polo.

Brothers Wylie and Jasper Dale combined for 185 goals as Stevenson stretched its unbeaten streak in boys’ water polo in league play to 22 games.

York’s Michael Julian capped arguably the greatest county-run in cross-country with his third CCS divisional title, finishing in the top 10 in the state in Division V.

Lineups were shuffled all season during basketball as COVID put more players on the bench than fouls.

Behind Jalen Brown, Alvarez set a school record for wins in capturing the Mission Division title and reaching the Central Coast Section Division I finals for the first time.

Palma got back to the CCS Division IV finals before falling late in the game to Menlo, while Pacific Grove missed the playoffs for the first time in 29 years.

Five months after losing his father to cancer, Max Edria put together a season to remember on the hardwood for Salinas, earning Player of the Year honors.

Three months after winning its first league volleyball title, Greenfield went out and won its first basketball title in the program’s 22 seasons, going undefeated in league.

Two-time Most Valuable Player Daeja Hollands helped North Salinas to a share of its eighth Gabilan Division title in nine years, while Marina won its first-ever girls basketball title, and Stevenson and Carmel locked up titles in their respective leagues.

Sophia Martel scored 50 goals in leading Soledad to a league girls’ soccer title, while Rancho San Juan won the school’s first-ever league title in any sport in girls soccer.

Donn Greer put Soledad on the wrestling map after winning the CCS title at 220 pounds and finishing seventh in the state. Misha Lomboy’s seventh-place finish at the state meet at 197 pounds for Palma helped earn him a scholarship to Michigan State.

Evan Johnson put on a show in the spring, setting a new county record in the 100 meters (10.41 seconds), finishing fourth at the state meet for Stevenson.

Juggling baseball – where he hit over .500 for the Cypress Division champions – Johnson won CCS titles in the 100 and 200, and did not lose a race until the state finals.

Michael Julian brought home a CCS title in the 3,200, and set a new school record in the event at the state championships for York, finishing seventh at 9:03.22.

While Nyziah Hunter weighs dozens of college football offers, the incoming Salinas senior is the heir apparent to Johnson in the 100, having run 10.62.

Juliette Kosmont put herself in elite company when she ran the second-fastest 100-meter time in county history behind Sani Roseby at 11.91.

The Santa Catalina junior won the CCS 100 meter title and finished seventh in the state. She also reached the state meet in the 200 – four weeks after taking up the event.

Freshman Luke Brandler reached the state meet in golf for Stevenson. He and Curtis DaSilva helped the team to a third place finish at the CCS finals.

Stevenson won five boys league team titles in the spring (swimming, lacrosse, golf, tennis and baseball), with baseball being its first in 37 years.

Monterey swam off with the Gabilan Division girls’ team title behind senior all-leaguer Jena Nguyen. Lleyton Alonzo was the Gabilan Division boys singles champion in tennis for the Dores.

UC Davis-bound Rhea Cosand helped Stevenson to its first-ever playoff win in girls lacrosse, while the boys team reached the semifinals.

Behind the golden arm of Nate Wedderburn, Monterey ran off nine straight wins to capture its first CCS baseball title in 11 years, and take part in the CIF Northern California Division III playoffs.

Oregon State-bound Eric Segura of Soledad put together a historic season on the mound, going 12-2 with two no-hitters, three one-hitters, 121 strikeouts and an ERA of 0.67.

Rancho San Juan won a school-record 23 baseball games, but it was not enough to get them into the playoffs.

What a senior season for Greenfield’s Linda Ornelas, who helped lead the volleyball, basketball and softball programs to their first-ever league titles.

King City sophomore Lisa Villanueva broke the county single-season record for home runs with 14 in leading them to a Cypress Division title.

CCS softball titles came in bunches as Alvarez, Stevenson and Monterey all captured their first-ever section titles.

Alvarez turned to freshman Dani Amendola, who won her first 14 starts for the Division I champions before falling in the Northern California Division III quarterfinals.

Behind Player of the Year Samantha Rey and senior hurler Samantha Rocha, Notre Dame reached the semifinals of the Northern California Division II tournament before falling in extra frames.

The Toreadores section softball title was the school’s first CCS title in any girl’s sport. Ella Myers, who hit 12 homers on the season, shutout four postseason opponents, while Mia Henson got hot at the right time, going 10-for-11 during one stretch, catapulting the program to a NorCal title.

Start the count down – 58 days until the official start of fall sports.

Contributed by local news sources

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