Once again in 2013, the Davis sports scene featured way more ups than downs.
From the pool to the diamond, the cross country course to the soccer pitch, the basketball court to the tennis court, teams from Davis High and UC Davis — and individuals with local ties — won titles, overcame adversity and made lasting memories for themselves and fans throughout the community.
Through it all, 10 Davis sports stories stood out in 2013:
1. Blue Devils run onto the national scene: Paced by Sac-Joaquin Section and CIF state champion Fiona O’Keeffe, the Davis High boys and girls cross country teams each won SJS titles and finished in the top 10 in the state. The Blue Devil girls squad’s second-place finish at the CIF meet was the best ever for the program, and was good enough to earn an invitation to the Nike Cross Nationals earlier this month in Portland, Ore.
Despite entering the 2013 season with sky-high expectations, DHS exceeded them all in a special campaign.
O’Keeffe broke two course records and a section mark during various fall meets before the Devils charged into Folsom to dominate the Nov. 16 section championships at Willow Hills.
There, the Davis boys — made up of Brian Song (third place individually), Jasper Laca (fourth), Ben Roberts, Gavin Monges, Charlie Harris, Nick Borowsky and Blake Croft — ran to their second consecutive SJS crown, while the locals needed every point they got to edge St. Francis for the girls title.
O’Keeffe’s 17:20 was a new Sac-Joaquin record and good enough for her second straight section championship, with teammates Sofia Castiglioni (third place), Giulia McIsaac, Maggie McManis, Sophie Meads, Pooja Tripathi and Jeanne-Marie McPherson getting better as the race went on to overtake the Troubadours.
Two weeks later, that group of girls — with Elisa McIsaac subbing in — also got stronger late in the race to supplement O’Keeffe’s individual win at the state meet. O’Keeffe crossed the finish line at Woodward Park in Fresno with a time of 16:58 — the best ever for a California sophomore girl and the fourth-best performance ever by a girl at that course. The DHS boys took ninth in the state.
Hours after the race, the Devils found out that the girls squad was one of 22 in the country invited to compete at the Nike Nationals. Davis battled freezing temperatures and an unfamiliar — and extra hilly — course at Portland Meadows race track to take 12th at the national meet.
2. Musical chairs for Blue Devil coaches: At different points in 2013, it looked like DHS was going to have to find replacements for volleyball coach Julie Crawford, 14-year boys basketball coach Dan Gonzalez and football coach Steve Smyte.
But after Crawford’s contract wasn’t renewed in June and Gonzalez stepped down for a few days in September, both ended up back at the helm. Smyte, however, either stepped down or was asked to move on — depending on whom you ask — at a meeting with district and school officials in June and, less than two months before fall camp, was replaced by former Devil star running back Marc Hicks.
One of the top RB recruits in the nation in the mid-1980s after a record-setting career at Davis High, Hicks had been the top assistant to Smyte in 2012 and worked with local kids on and off the field for the past 20 years.
Under Hicks, the Blue Devils started the 2013 football season with wins in four of their first five games before struggling through their Delta Valley Conference slate to finish 5-5, the same record they had in 2012.
The same week as Smyte’s three-year tenure ended, Crawford learned that her contract would not be renewed as girls volleyball coach — despite winning DVC Coach of the Year in 2012. Crawford, who coaches both girls and boys volleyball, was rehired two weeks later with a trustee vote at a school board meeting that featured 45 minutes of sometimes-severe public criticism regarding the departure of several high school coaches over the past two years.
Crawford’s Blue Devils then made the section playoffs for the second straight season, but lost in the first round.
Gonzalez cited challenges in hiring the coaching staff he wanted for his program when he abruptly stepped away in September but, after meeting with school officials, he was back a week later to guide the high-scoring DHS boys basketball team.
3. Davis pool power: In winning back-to-back water polo games at the Roseville Aquatics Center on Nov. 16, the Blue Devil boys and girls teams each repeated as section champions.
For the Davis girls, who posted the program’s 500th victory earlier this fall in the same pool, it was their fifth consecutive SJS crown. The title run ended with an 11-3 win over St. Francis and was led by seniors Heather Johnson and Lauren Owens, along with junior Colby Stapleton, the section’s most valuable player.
SJS MVP Garrett Fisk helped the Devil boys beat Jesuit, 13-9, in the championship contest.
That wasn’t the only 2013 section title for boys coach Tracy Stapleton, who guided the DHS girls swim team to a SJS championship in the spring despite it being just his first year taking that squad over from Doug Wright. Stapleton also led the Blue Devil boys swim team to second place, just a few points short of a title.
The pool success extended to UCD’s teams in 2013 as the men’s (11th) and women’s (18th) water polo squads finished their seasons in the national top 20, while the Aggie women concluded their swim campaign last spring as the 10th-ranked mid-major team in the country.
4. Heroics in high school hoops: The 2012-13 prep hoops season saw both the Blue Devil boys and girls teams earn spots in the section playoffs with the Davis girls rolling into the tournament quarterfinals.
Paced by league MVP Ashleigh Vandenbrink, the Lady Devils won the DVC with a 9-1 mark and finished 22-4 overall. A first-round playoff win over Napa was the first postseason victory for the program since 2007.
Gonzalez’s DHS boys took third place in the DVC and made the SJS tournament before losing a heartbreaker at Lincoln of Stockton in the opening round. But the local boys season was most memorable for using The System to set program scoring records, including most points in a single game when they defeated Valley Christian, 134-55, in January.
The Blue Devil boys led California and were third in the country in scoring at 87 points per game.
5. UCD gridiron gang gets it going under Gould: After Ron Gould was hired in late 2012 to take over the UC Davis football program from Bob Biggs, who had spent the previous 20 years as head coach, the Aggies were picked to finish 11th in the Big Sky Conference.
Gould and Company got off to a slow start at 0-4 and four-year starting quarterback Randy Wright was benched for a few games, but then things started to click.
UCD navigated through its conference schedule with an impressive five wins in eight games, finishing in a tie for fourth place in the Big Sky.
Thirteen Aggies were recognized as all-league, paced by running back Gabe Manzanares, who was named the Big Sky Newcomer of the Year after rushing for 1,285 yards (fifth on the UCD all-time list) and scoring 11 touchdowns.
6. Diamond Devils get on Trask: Playing in the talent-filled Delta Valley Conference, DHS went 14-1 to capture the league championship behind DVC Player of the Year Matt Trask.
The Blue Devils won a section playoff game before being eliminated from the SJS tournament.
After posting an ERA of 1.64 in the past two seasons, Trask signed a National Letter of Intent to pitch at UCLA after his senior year at Davis this spring. A versatile performer, Trask also batted .413 with a couple of game-winning hits in 2013.
7. DHS tracksters go faster: Breaking 10 school records over the course of the season, the Blue Devil track and field team completed its campaign with what coaches called the best Sac-Joaquin Masters performance in program history and sent a nine-athlete contingent — its largest ever — to the state meet.
At that Masters event, Davis’ Paul Mohr won the 800 meters in a school-record time of 1:53.98, Nick Denton captured first place in the shot put and Ellie Eaton set a new Devil mark at 55.54 in the 400.
That trio was joined at the state meet by Han-ah Sumner, Jack Scranton, Sophie Meads, Fiona O’Keeffe, Blake Croft and Kyle Clancy.
8. Les leads UCD men to more wins: In his second season as head coach of the UCD men’s basketball team, former Sacramento Kings sharpshooter Jim Les guided the Aggies to a nine-win improvement and a Division I program best of 14 victories (against 17 losses).
UCD discovered a star in guard Corey Hawkins, who led the Big West and was 12th in the country in scoring at 20.3 ppg and set a new Aggie benchmark with 40 points in a win over Hawaii in January.
The country then had a chance to discover UCD when a March 7 game against Long Beach State was televised on ESPN2. The 5,670 fans at The Pavilion — as well as the national TV audience — saw the Aggies go toe-to-toe with eventual Big West regular-season champion Long Beach State that night, falling by one point after barely missing a shot at the buzzer.
9. DHS tennis teams tear up the court: The four-time defending champion Blue Devil boys tennis team played its way into the finals of the section tournament for the 11th straight season, but failed in its bid for a five-peat when it lost to rival Jesuit, 7-2.
The highlight of the DHS season, however, may have been a March trip to Kentucky for the DecoTurf High School Tennis Championships, an elite national tournament.
The Devils added many more victories on the tennis court this fall when the local girls made it all the way to the SJS semifinals.
10: Potent on the pitch: Not surprisingly in a soccer-mad town like Davis, 2013 was a good year for the local teams on the pitch.
The Blue Devil girls edged Franklin for the DVC title and earned the top seed in the section tournament, where they made it to the finals. There, the Wildcats got their revenge, winning the SJS title in a shootout.
The DHS boys went undefeated at 9-0-1 in winning the conference crown before being knocked out in the section quarterfinals.
In UCD soccer news, women’s coach MaryClaire Robinson won her 200th career game this fall, then stepped down following her 22nd year at the helm.
DHS lacrosse: The Blue Devil boys went 12-0 to win the Sacramento Valley Lacrosse League (16-3 overall), then beat Granite Bay in the first round of the North Coast Section playoffs, before being eliminated in the quarterfinals. The Davis girls took second in the SVLL and were seeded 10th in the NCS tournament, but lost in the opening round.
A family affair: Former DHS and UCD water polo standout Dakota Sturla (née Mohr) and her brother Tanner Mohr (rugby) represented the U.S. at this summer’s Maccabi Games in Israel. Mom Rhonda, the DHS girls golf coach, also went overseas this summer as coach and chaperone for the American High School Championship in St. Andrews, Scotland. Then this fall, Rhonda Mohr’s Blue Devils dominated the DVC links to win the league title and advanced to the Sac-Joaquin Masters tournament.
Aggies make noise nationally: The UCD women’s golf team finished its stellar spring season ranked 16th in the country and Aggie track and field standout Lauren Wallace set a school record while earning NCAA All-American first-team honors in the 800 meters. She was joined at the NCAA championships by UCD sprinter Ashley Marshall and Katie Fry, who competed in steeplechase.
Great grappling: Three Blue Devil juniors — Marvin Grant and brothers Adrian and Elias LoBuono-Gonzalez — wrestled their way to the 2013 Sac-Joaquin Masters tournament.
Quite a career: UCD gymnast Katie Yamamura completed a historic career with her second straight MPSF Gymnast of the Year award. She broke her own school record in the all-around several times in the 2013 season.
Jahn makes MLS: Adam Jahn, who grew up in El Macero and prepped at Jesuit, became the second local player in the MLS — following Chicago’s Jalil Anibaba, a former DHS standout — when he was drafted by the San Jose Earthquakes in the league’s supplemental draft.
World Series has Davis connections: The 2013 World Series between St. Louis and Boston had some local flavor as Cardinals infielder Daniel Descalso and relief pitcher Randy Choate both have ties to Davis. Descalso — who played in four of the six games, reached base four times and scored two runs — is a former UCD standout, while Choate (four appearances) is married to Davis High graduate and former Blue Devil volleyball coach Leigh Whitmire. The Series was won by the Red Sox, who feature Woodland High grad Dustin Pedroia at second base.
Locals near Boston bombing: Twenty-five Davis runners traveled to compete in the 2013 Boston Marathon, including Mick Petersen, who crossed the finish line less than eight minutes before it was bombed. The blasts killed three people and injured more than 250 others.
Volleyballers are Starz: Four teams from the local Five Starz Volleyball Club earned trips to the 2013 USA Girls Junior National Championships, with the U16 squad taking third place in its division.
Little Leaguers play big: Two local Little League all-star teams — the Davis American 10-11 squad and the Davis National Juniors — won District 64 championships to advance to their respective Section 1 tournaments.
Rocketwoman: In January, Sumiko “The Rocket” Yuki, now an eighth grader at Harper, won the national BMX racing championship for her age group.