When one out of every three students is involved in playing sports and a number of teachers and staff is either coaching or taking tickets at the gate, then add in all the students who work at the games or spectate, it becomes obvious that high school sports is a big deal.
East Sequoia League: 3-2
Coach: Jose Del Rio
Now in his second season as head coach, Jose Del Rio is changing the culture of Woodlake football and the team appears poised and ready to regain the winning Tiger tradition.
“In our program at Woodlake, it’s about gaining the experience so that each time we step out on the field we have the confidence to execute on offense and make plays on defense,” Coach Del Rio said. “It was difficult to lose 28 seniors last season and not take a step back.”
The Tigers had their ups and downs but they won a signature game at home 14-6 vs. Corcoran, beating the Panthers for the first time in several years.
“That was a great win for us and certainly proved to the guys the level they were capable of playing,” said Coach Del Rio. “Corcoran is playing for a Valley Championship this week and next year, if we are dedicated and work hard that could be us.”
Woodlake finished the season by losing a road playoff game at Tollhouse (Nov. 14) to Sierra by a score of 27-18. Their 25-6 win the previous week (Friday, Nov. 7) at Granite Hills (Porterville) ensured that WHS kept possession of the coveted Orange Belt for another year and clinched the playoff berth.
At last Monday’s awards banquet, John Kulick, a senior fullback and linebacker from Three Rivers, was named the team’s MVP. This talented player was also selected as the East Sequoia League’s Defensive Player of the Year.
Andrew Payne, a senior defensive lineman, was named the team’s Outstanding Defensive Player; Augie Rodriguez, senior running back, won the team’s Best Offensive Player award.
Eric Schwarz, a junior quarterback from Three Rivers, won All-League First Team honors as did Augie Rodriguez.
“With three three-year starters returning next season, including quarterback Schwarz, the guys are really excited to get started,” Coach Del Rio said.
Junior Varsity Football
The JVs, under first-year head coach Jerry Alvarado, showed steady improvement throughout the season.
“I’ve known Jerry for years, and he’s a good football teacher,” said Coach Del Rio. “He’s got a number of players ready to step in now and play at the varsity level.”
For the playoffs, the varsity brought up Carlos Rodriguez, a defensive back. Coach Del Rio said Rodriguez played on special teams against Sierra and all he needs is to get used to the speed of the varsity game.
“We had a lot of fun and most of the kids responded well to the coaching,” said Jeff Beck, an assistant JV coach from Three Rivers. “It’s important that they listen and learn because most of these kids have not played much football prior to coming to high school.”
East Sequoia League: 10-0
Coach: David Huerta
After losing Tori Johnson, longtime coach, to Mt. Whitney, coaches, players, and fans were not sure what to expect. After the last two years, the Lady Tigers have become accustomed to undefeated ESL seasons then trips to the sectional finals to win or least be the runner-up.
Drew Sorensen, whose wife Leslie is the head volleyball coach at El Diamante where Drew was principal prior to his return to Woodlake as superintendent, tapped one of Leslie’s assistants to become Woodlake’s head coach.
David Huerta also fields a club volleyball team with whom Leslie Sorensen works as his assistant coach. Huerta’s hiring was not without its share of drama.
A cadre of senior players seemed dead set against Huerta from the start. The administration refused to budge on Huerta’s hiring and as the season wore on the controversy was put aside. No explanation was ever made public for the players’ opposition to the new coach.
On the volleyball court, the Lady Tigers were business as usual. Much like they had done for the past several seasons, they breezed through a weak Division 4 schedule.
Moving up to Division 3 for the playoffs, the Lady Tigers faced a more difficult challenge.
In the first two rounds at home, they trounced Hanford and Arvin by the same 3-0 score. In the semifinals vs. Bakersfield Christian, the tables were turned. Woodlake was shutout and eliminated by the 3-0 score.
Their talented power hitter, KiAnna Cunningham was frustrated throughout the match by aggressive blocking by her front line opponents and was effectively neutralized. Bakersfield went on to repeat as sectional champs. Woodlake had lost to the Division’s best team.
At the awards banquet, KiAnna Cunningham, senior power hitter, was named the team’s MVP. Outstanding defensive player went to junior Karissa Castillo. Hannah Sherwood, a freshman setter from Three Rivers, won the setting award; Callie Vincent, a freshman outside hitter from Three Rivers won Rookie of the Year. Gabby Diaz, a senior from Three Rivers, won the Captain’s Award for best all-around player.
No junior varsity or freshman volleyball records were made available.
East Sequoia League: 7-7
Coach: Mike Judson
Judging by the number of girls who try out for tennis, and it’s growing every season, longtime coach Mike Judson has a successful program. A teacher at the Woodlake Valley Middle School, his classroom skills transfer well to the tennis courts.
Each player gets plenty of practice and, according to his players, Coach Judson makes it fun too.
The Lady Tigers number-one singles player was senior Felicia Gonzalez. Gonzalez also teamed with Katie Pfaff, a freshman from Three Rivers, to place fourth in the East Sequoia League tournament for doubles and were one of two Woodlake doubles teams that advanced to the sectional tournament.
The other team was Brianna Romero, a senior, and Lizette Castillo, sophomore
. They placed sixth. In the Division 4 sectional team tournament, Woodlake was eliminated by Independence in the first round.
The number-one singles player was Gaby Aguilar, freshman; the number-one doubles team consisted of Mariana Loza, junior, and Julisa Romero, sophomore.
Katie Pfaff, heir apparent to the No. 1 singles player for the 2015 season, was cited by a CIF official for “Victory with Honor” for her outstanding sportsmanship during a match in which she shutout her opponent.
Coach: Tony Ramirez
It was definitely a rebuilding year for the 5K student-runners. After stellar performances by several boys and girls in the last four seasons, only one girl came out for the 2014 team.
In the CIF Division 4 Cross Country State Championships, held Saturday, Nov. 29, the top girls’ team was Central Valley Christian of Visalia. The best performance by a local Valley runner in the division was a third place by Alex Torres of Kingsburg.
The Woodlake cross country team’s home course is at Lake Kaweah. Results for qualifying Woodlake runners were unavailable.