Laguna Hills swimmer Tona Zinn commits to Northwestern

Laguna Hills High swimmer Tona Zinn, who became a CIF Southern Section individual champion as a freshman, committed to Northwestern on Tuesday, Jan. 19.

The junior from the SOCAL club announced his commitment on Instagram, thanking his friends, family and coaches for their support.

As a freshman in 2019, Zinn captured the 200-yard individual medley at the Division 1 final in 1 minute, 48.61 seconds. He also placed third in the 100 breaststroke with a time of 55.79.

Zinn went on to race at the CIF State meet in Clovis, finishing fifth in the 200 IM and ninth in the breaststroke.

Last spring, Orange County’s high school swimmers didn’t get much of a chance to make a splash as the pandemic ended their season in mid-March.

In a club meet in Arizona last month, Zinn clocked a swift 1:47.61 in the 200 IM. Corey Okubo holds the county record with a 1:45.42 for University in 2014.

Please send swimming news to Dan Albano at dalbano@scng.com or @ocvarsityguy on Twitter or Instagram

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Laguna Hills High, SOCAL swimmer Tona Zinn commits to Northwestern

Laguna Hills High swimmer Tona Zinn, who became a CIF Southern Section individual champion as a freshman, committed to Northwestern on Tuesday, Jan. 19.

The junior from the SOCAL club announced his commitment on Instagram, thanking his friends, family and coaches for their support.

As a freshman in 2019, Zinn captured the 200-yard individual medley at the Division 1 final in 1 minute, 48.61 seconds. He also placed third in the 100 breaststroke with a time of 55.79.

Zinn went on to race at the CIF State meet in Clovis, finishing fifth in the 200 IM and ninth in the breaststroke.

Last spring, Orange County’s high school swimmers didn’t get much of a chance to make a splash as the pandemic ended their season in mid-March.

In a club meet in Arizona last month, Zinn clocked a swift 1:47.61 in the 200 IM. Corey Okubo holds the county record with a 1:45.42 for University in 2014.

Please send swimming news to Dan Albano at dalbano@scng.com or @ocvarsityguy on Twitter or Instagram

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Oxford Academy’s Angie Choi commits to MIT for women’s basketball

High-scoring Oxford Academy point guard Angie Choi has committed to Division III MIT, the Patriots’ girls basketball program announced.

The 5-foot-3 Choi led Orange County in scoring last season by averaging 21.6 points. She shined for a team that finished 12-16 after graduating seven seniors from its CIF-SS Division 2-A runner-up squad in 2019.

Choi also averaged 4.1 assists and 3.7 steals last season. She scored a season-high 36 points in a 53-51 loss against Cerritos.

In three seasons at Oxford Academy, Choi ranks second in school history in scoring (1,323 points) and owns the school record for 3-pointers (128). She made 56 of her 168 attempts (33 percent) from beyond the arc last season.

MIT reached the Division III postseason in 2018 and 2019, losing in the first round each year. The Engineers also won their New England conference title in 2018 and 2019, and placed second last season.

Assistant Meghan O’Connell was named the team’s interim coach in September.

Please send girls basketball news to Dan Albano at dalbano@scng.com or @ocvarsityguy on Twitter and Instagram 

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SoCal club football league organized by Winner Circle Athletics aims to play in Arizona starting Dec. 28

A Southern California club football league at the center of discussion among high school coaches and administrators plans to begin later this month in Bullhead City, Ariz., organizer Jordan Campbell of Winner Circle Athletics in Corona said Saturday, Dec. 19.

Campbell, who owns the Winner Circle Athletics’ training and wellness center, said the league’s Elite 10 will play a showcase Dec. 28-29 and continue with games Jan. 8, Jan. 22 and Feb. 15. Most dates pair 10 teams in five games.

The league’s plans arrive as the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) recently released guidelines that will allow high school and youth sports to begin competition as early as Jan. 25, if they can meet certain health conditions.

The CDPH announced on Dec. 14 that football, for example, can be played in a county that has cleared regional, stay-at-home orders and has reached the orange tier (moderate risk) in the state’s COVID-19 monitoring system. Nearly all of the 58 counties in the state are in the purple tier (widespread risk) as cases have spiked in recent weeks.

The updated guidelines have cast doubt about whether the high school football season can be played, especially in hard-hit Southern California.

High school football is a fall sport that was scheduled to start Jan. 7 and could be played as late as April 17, CIF Southern Section commissioner Rob Wigod said.

The CIF State has canceled its regional and state playoffs to allow as much time as possible to schedule games. The Southern Section has indicated it could make a similar move.

State executive director Ron Nocetti also has said that the federation will advocate for football and others sports in the orange and yellow tiers to placed in tiers that will allow competition sooner.

Moving football to the spring season, officials say, isn’t a viable option because of safety reasons related to the proximity to the fall of ’21 season.

Youth sports teams from Southern California began traveling to Arizona and other places to compete after California prohibited competition on Aug. 3. High school and youth sports were limited to physical conditioning and skill development in an effort to curb the spread of the virus.

The rise of club football has been a new trend for high schools, raising questions about rules and participation. Because of the pandemic, CIF State adjusted its rules for this school year to allow athletes to compete in club sports at the same time as high school athletics.

Mater Dei High football coach Bruce Rollinson recently said that he will encourage his players to hold off playing club and to wait for the high school season.

“What I tell them is ‘Hold tight fellas. Lets stay together because I truly believe there is going to be a season,’ ” Rollinson said. “Our preference is to play CIF football. … If a parent wants to meet with me (about club), and decide, I’ll cross that bridge when I get there. Ultimately, the parent is the provider. The parent ultimately makes the decision.”

Rollinson said the subject of forming a Mater Dei club team if the high school season were canceled has come up but those discussions have been preliminary.

“I’d look into it in a heartbeat if it got my team on the field but I think there will be other solutions to get us on the field of play,” he said. “I just say my prayers every night that they get to play together and we have a season.”

Campbell, who played at Norco High before moving on to USC and the NFL, has advice for players whose high school coaches ask them not to play the club league. “Listen to your high school coach and keep your high school program first,” he said.

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Fairmont Prep girls basketball players Kayla Ishibashi, AnLing Su Vera commit to colleges

Fairmont Prep senior guards Kayla Ishibashi and AnLing Su Vera have committed to strong, Division III college programs, Huskies girls basketball coach Sara Brown said.

Ishibashi, a 5-foot-6 shooting guard, has pledged to Claremont-Mudd-Scripps while Su Vera, a 5-foot-3 point guard, has selected Division III powerhouse Amherst College in Massachusetts.

Amherst College reached the Division III Sweet 16 in March but the tournament was canceled because of the pandemic. The Mammoths also reached the Sweet 16 the previous season and captured back-to-back national titles in 2017-18 with 33-0 records.

Ishibashi joins former Oxford Academy standout forward Austyn Masuno at Division III Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, a regular contender in the SCIAC now led by second-year coach Chanel Murchison.

Su Vera and Ishibashi helped Fairmont Prep finish as the CIF Southern Section Division 2AA runner-up to league rival Orangewood Academy last season and reach the first round of the CIF State Division 1 SoCal regionals.

Please send girls basketball news to Dan Albano at dalbano@scng.com or @ocvarsityguy on Twitter and Instagram

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CIF-SS and state officials get a lot of questions about new guidelines for high school sports

The CIF Southern Section will be releasing new information to its schools on Wednesday morning, Dec. 16 that is supposed to address some of the questions that came up one day after the state rolled out its new health guidelines for youth and high school sports.

In somewhat of a surprising move, the California Department of Public Health issued its new  guidelines on Monday evening, which were seen as a mix of good news, bad news and unanswered questions by those most deeply involved in high school sports — the coaches, athletes and parents of athletes.

The most prominent question: Does this mean there will be high school sports this school year?

Gov. Gavin Newsom took a shot at answering that question Tuesday during a news conference.

“The virus will make that determination,” Newsom said, “(through) our actions, each and every individual action, the sum total of which will determine how quickly that will occur.”

In other words, the state and each county need to see a drop in their number of coronavirus cases, showing they are getting the COVID-19 pandemic under control, for the green light to go on for high school sports.

If the COVID-19 numbers stay where they’re at, maybe a handful of sports — those that don’t involve contact, such as cross country, golf, swimming, tennis and track and field — will be the only ones cleared to have a season this school year.

The new guidelines use the state’s color-coded system for a county’s COVID-19 transmission risk to determine when a sport can begin in that county. For example, Orange County would need to be in the orange tier (moderate risk of COVID-19 spread) for football and volleyball to begin their seasons.

For now, all sports in the state are on hold until Jan. 25, although conditioning workouts are still allowed. The CDPH also said it will take a look at the state’s progress toward controlling the virus on Jan. 4, and the start date could be changed, perhaps to an earlier date.

The guidelines are comprehensive (they apply to all youth sports, including club teams), and include details about practice routines and fan attendance, which vary from sport to sport.

But all of that detail led to more questions, so CIF commissioner Ron Nocetti and the commissioners of the state’s 10 sections went through the guidelines thoroughly in a teleconference Tuesday, Nocetti said, so that they could provide guidance to their member schools.

“Now I think the sections are looking at that information and putting together information to share with their member schools,” Nocetti said. “They’ll start to have conversations with their leadership about what this means for their sections moving forward.”

The CIF-SS said it will release new information to its member schools at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, but did not offer any details.

Most likely, it won’t be anything that greatly changes what is already in place.

“There were questions about things we could look at in the future,” Nocetti said of Tuesday’s discussion. “But everyone is going to proceed pretty cautiously because it says clearly in the guidance that they’re going to reassess the start date on Jan. 4.

“People are a little hesitant to do things until we see if that Jan. 25 date is going to hold.”

There was a great deal of discussion on Twitter on Tuesday about changing the sports calendar as a way to improve the chances for some sports to have a season.

Sports such as football, volleyball and water polo are in the second-most difficult tier to reach — orange — and those are all sports that are supposed to be having their seasons right now.

If the sports calendar was changed and the start dates for those sports were pushed back 2-3 months, it would give them more time to possibly reach the tier they need to be in. Right now, all of the area counties — Orange, Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino — are in the purple tier (widespread risk).

Nocetti and CIF-SS commissioner Rob Wigod have both insisted that it’s unlikely the football calendar will be changed again this year. They have cited the recommendations of health officials that football should not go beyond mid-April this school year if there are plans to begin next school year’s season in August.

The change that is more likely to happen throughout the state: The season for many sports will be shortened, with a later start date, which allows for more time to get the virus under control, and the emphasis would be on league games and perhaps a brief postseason that does not include regional or state championships.

The sports that appear to be most in danger of not having a season are in the yellow tier (minimal risk), as it is the most difficult tier to reach. Those sports are cheerleading (indoors), basketball, hockey and wrestling. (Basketball and hockey move to the orange tier if they are played outdoors, but that is usually not done at the high school level.)

Newsom insisted that he wants to see high school sports return this school year, and that state officials are committed to finding a safe way to bring them back as soon as possible.

“I’m reverential in terms of my desire (for sports to return),” he said, “for kids’ mental and physical health, for parents’ mental and physical health, to get kids playing sports again in a safe manner. So we’ve been stubborn, we’ve been working on this, lot of work behind the scenes on this.”

– BANG reporters Darren Sabedra, Michael Nowels and Nico Savidge contributed to this report. 

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Still time to save football season in Orange County, but COVID-19 has a big lead

Orange County high school football fans should keep these dates in mind as they try to figure out if there will be a season this year: April 16-17.

That will probably be the final weekend for any football games to be played this season — if there is a season.

And that is about the only certainty there is at this point.

CIF Southern Section commissioner Rob Wigod has said many times in recent weeks that there will not be another revision of the high school sports calendar, regardless of the circumstances.

So based on the formula of starting at the end and working forward, how late could the CIF-SS actually start the football season?

It has been pushed back a few times already — from August to early January to … a date that is still to be determined by the California Department of Publich Health, which on Monday said football and all of the other sports will be on hold until at least Jan. 25.

Wigod laid out a potential scenario for a last-gasp start date during a Q&A with student-athletes last week. He said practices could begin as late as Feb. 15 — roughly 10 weeks from now — and teams would play 6-7 games, which allows for a league season and perhaps some type of postseason that might involve bowl games. There will not be regional or state championships this season for football, so the final two weekends of the season (April 9-10 and 16-17) are open for the CIF-SS to use for regular season or postseason games.

Can Orange County make it from the purple tier, where it is now for widepread risk of COVID-19 spread, to where it needs to be — orange tier (moderate risk of spread) — in those 10 weeks and get the green light to begin?

Answer: It’s a longshot, or maybe we should call it a very long Hail Mary.

Orange County needs to be in the orange tier, where the positivity rate for COVID-19 over the past week is 2.0–4.9%, in order to be cleared to begin holding full practices and play games.

The county’s positivity rate on Monday? 12.6%

Clearly this requires a Hail Mary of epic proportions — something equal to what Kirk Gibson did for the Dodgers in the 1988 World Series, or what the U.S. hockey team did to the Russians in 1980. (Check it out on YouTube, youngsters.)

You say it can’t be done? Well, Orange County was in the red tier (moderate risk of spread) back in mid-November, right before Gov. Gavin Newsom placed O.C. and a bunch of other counties in the purple tier — the most restrictive tier — because the state was moving backwards in its efforts to control COVID-19.

So one month ago: red tier.

Does that mean O.C. could move forward two tiers — from purple to orange — in the next 70 days or so and save the football season?

It’s not looking good based on recent trends. Numbers went way up after Thanksgiving week. Will that happen again this month as families and friends are likely to gather to celebrate the December holidays and events?

Put that on the negative side of the ledger.

On the positive side, maybe people don’t gather as much and follow the stay-at-home orders, the vaccine starts to play a role and maybe the youth sports guidelines are changed again. (It could happen.)

Things could go right, and the football season is saved. It’s not an impossible situation, but there are only a few possible ways to make it happen.

The clock is counting down to April 16-17, and every day will help — or hurt — the chances of there being a football season.

Will it be the amazing comeback that football coaches, players and fans want to see? Or will it be a devastating setback — an entire season lost to the virus — that didn’t seem possible back in March, when the pandemic started.

We’re going to find out in these next several weeks, but clearly this is make-or-break time.

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Mater Dei offensive lineman Ross Maseuli commits to San Diego State

San Diego State’s recruiting class for 2021 has added another Trinity League football standout.

Mater Dei High offensive lineman Ross Maseuli committed on Wednesday, Dec. 2 to the Aztecs, giving the Mountain West Conference program three recruits with Trinity League ties.

All Glory 2 God!!! Please respect my decision🙏🏽🙏🏽🔴⚪⚫pic.twitter.com/zI9ZaBp59B

— Ross Maseuli (@RossMaseuli) December 2, 2020

Maseuli joins a recruiting class that includes Servite defensive back Noah Avinger and former JSerra safety New Zealand Williams, now at St. Bernard in Playa Del Rey.

San Diego State has 20 commits from the class of 2021 and ranks second in the Mountain West Conference to Boise State, according to 247sports.

Maseuli (6-3, 350) spent last season at JSerra but didn’t play because his transfer from Cathedral Catholic in San Diego wasn’t cleared by the Southern Section.

He also was offered by Alabama, Arizona and Fresno State among others.

The early signing period for football is Dec. 16.

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Ex-Rosary basketball star Asia Avinger, now at San Diego State, suffers knee injury

The start to Asia Avinger’s promising collegiate basketball career will be delayed.

The San Diego State freshman from Rosary High announced on Tuesday, Nov. 24 that she recently suffered a torn ACL that will require surgery.

The Aztecs are scheduled to open their season Wednesday against Washington at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

“A few days ago, I had a freak accident and ended up tearing my ACL completely,” Avinger wrote on her Instagram. “I know this is in God’s plan and he gives his toughest battles to his strongest soldiers. … This is just one obstacle that I have to overcome but best believe I’ll come back stronger than ever.”

Avinger, a 5-foot-7 guard, arrived at San Diego State coming off an outstanding senior season in which she earned Register player of the year and female athlete of the year honors.

The highest-ranked recruit under eighth-year coach Stacie Terry-Hutson, Avinger was selected the preseason freshman of the year in the Mountain West Conference.

Last season, Avinger led Rosary to its second consecutive CIF State Division 1 final before the COVID-19 pandemic canceled the championship game.

She averaged 13.8 points, 6.3 rebounds and 4.0 assists to earn Trinity League MVP.

San Diego State was picked to finish fourth in the Mountain West Conference behind favorite Fresno State, San Jose State and Boise State.

Avinger’s twin brother, Noah, a senior at Servite, has committed to San Diego State for football.

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Ladislav Kohn hired as hockey coach at Santa Margarita

Santa Margarita High has hired Ladislav Kohn as the head coach of its boys hockey program.

Kohn, a former NHL player who spent two seasons with the Ducks, was an assistant coach for the Eagles the past two years, including when they won their third national championship in 2019. He replaces Craig Johnson, who resigned in September.

“I am humbled and honored to be named as the new head coach for the SM Eagles,” Kohn said. “I’m looking forward to coaching this talented group of players and being a mentor to them on and off the ice.”

Kohn played for eight NHL teams during his 20 seasons as a professional player. He has been involved in California youth hockey for the past seven years.

“I am thrilled to hear that Laddy will be the next head coach of the ice hockey program,” said Johnson, who is now a consultant for Santa Margarita’s hockey program. “Laddy is a great person and coach who will continue to grow the program and be a great leader for all current and future players.”

 

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