Fall Sports Recap

Fall Sports Recap
Football
Football

The opposing quarterback drops back and hands if off one more time and his teammate runs past the first down marker as you look up at the clock and the time runs out. The time runs out on the game, the time runs out on the season, and for many the time runs out on their career.

“It’s the most athletic team we’ve had in years,” Said Senior John Sing, “Also, the attitude has been something different for our class of 2024.”

While the football team’s season here at Sunnyslope ended with a heartbreaking 35-20 playoff loss to Notre Dame prep. The success and memories of this year’s team should not be forgotten.

“I feel like the second half of our schedule we found our stride and we found out how to score, Junior Theo Pike said, We were just in tune with each other and I feel like that was a great way to wrap up the season.”

The latter half of the year was indeed a very successful one for the Vikings as they swept their region on the way to be San Tan regional Champions and finished 6-4 on the year.

“It was awesome just to watch them be able to focus on their goals,” said Head Coach Sam Jacobs, who also won region coach of the year, “They didn’t let not reaching the first half goal affect their second half which was awesome.”

On top of winning the region the team also had several players on the first and second region team including: Dillon Dwiggins, Keynon Clark, Jacob Harkins, John Sing, Gavin Mitchell, Devem Broady, Dylan Cunnanan, Jacob Jenners, Alek Vargas, Mack Kump, Jack Preston, and Isaiah ward. 

Jacobs said, “The kids got recognized and honored for their hard work and determination that they showed throughout the season, so it’s always great to be recognized like that.”

Many of the region players were seniors as the team was very senior heavy having 18 starting and for many this season may have been the hardest of their career – especially the first 5 games.

Pike said, “We were getting beat down and a lot of people were just not looking at us and feeling like we had an opportunity and we were overhyped.”

An opportunity was indeed had by the team as in the first 5 games they played a team that would go on to be 1 top 8 seed in the playoffs.

“There was definitely some frustration at the beginning of the season,” said Jacobs, “Anytime you’re losing games that many people get frustrated, but I really think it was the senior leadership that helped keep it together.”

These early games were part of the reason why Sunnyslope had so many expectations at the start of year with some even thinking they had a shot at making the Open Division Playoffs, but a 1-4 start put an end to these thoughts. 

Sing didn’t look at any expectations and believes people are gonna talk all they want and said “Your job is to show up everyday and give it your all and in terms of that I’d say we did pretty well regardless of results of the season.”

Like Sing said, regardless of the results of the season there is much to celebrate and look back upon for those 58 kids who played football this year. Pike said that Sunnyslope seems to have a curse with losing in the first round of playoffs, but this is his second year in a row making the playoffs and he said “It’s a great feeling.”

While the playoff curse didn’t end this year, unfortunately, it will one day soon, but that doesn’t mean Sunnyslope hasn’t won some big games.

Sing said, “My favorite memory I think is pulling off the upset against Desert Mountain last year.”

November 9th is a day that for most is insignificant, but for 58 football players they will remember it, and hopefully while full of pride and joy for their time playing ball.

Swim
Swim

Michael Jordan won 3 NBA finals in a row twice, the New York Yankees had a 3 peat from 1998 to 2000, and the Montreal Canadiens won the Stanley Cup 4 times from 1976 to 1979.

However, not many teams have been so dominant that they are expected to win the championship for the 17th year in row, but for Sunnyslope swim it was indeed much of the same this year – as expected.

Winning isn’t anything new for Sunnyslope’s swim team and this year was no different as they were dominant for most of the season, but was it really that certain?

Senior Claire Calkins said, “I think we knew from the start because a lot of our club swimmers swam last year, so I think it was kind of from the start that we knew we’d be good.”

17 straight years of winning districts is not something that comes easy nor is it something that comes only from those swimming. 

“We had a new head coach this year (Cameron Licht) and he was amazing,” said Calkins, “He did a great job as a first year coach.”

Head Coach Cameron Licht was not alone though as he had help from some others, too.

“We have a really good coach [Charlie] and he designs our workouts every day,” said Senior Tate Parker, “Without him we would probably not be as successful.”

Winning is not the only thing that makes swimming at Sunnyslope special, as the community that has been established is excellent, too.

Parker said that everyone is very welcoming and really nice as the community as a whole is very close.

There were of course challenges this season like everything else in life, but there’s nothing too big for the swim team to overcome.

big for the swim team to overcome.

“Our biggest challenge this year was that it was our coach’s first year being coach,” said Senior Preston Kasovac, “we overcame it through lots of hours of work and really engaged captains.”

Of course another big challenge is performing well at state as once again several swimmers were sent to state: Tommy Hinks, Bogden Pangborn, Preston Kasovac, Max Braur, Parker Sessler, Sophie Fromm, Peirson Regier, Kloie Jacobs, and Elizabeth Fitzsimmons.

Kasovac said, “Our expectations for state weren’t that high and we did better than we had expected for some races.”

“I know that the team wanted to drop times and I know they did,” said Calkins, “For individuals it was the same thing.”

Having a streak like 17 years requires a lot of different factors to line up and the swim team at Sunnyslope once again checked everything off.

Volleyball
Volleyball

Many times when stories about high school sports are covered some sort of a brotherhood is usually mentioned, but what many people don’t realize, perhaps, is that a sisterhood can be just as if not more important than any sort of brotherhood.

This year Sunnyslope saw a sisterhood forged and succeeded at the highest level from the first moment the volleyball team swept an opponent in 3 sets all the way to their unfortunate loss in the playoffs.

“I think this year we went in thinking we’re gonna try and win state and we really wanted to go as far as we could,” said senior Mellisa Wentworth, “Once we beat O’connor and they haven’t lost a game yet we really focused on each game ahead of us.”

While the team may not have met the goal they believed they could meet, a tremendous amount of success was still had as they finished 5th in their conference and 2nd in their region with a record of 13-4.

“The team’s success this year was a TEAM effort,” said Head Coach Amber LeTarte, “We had a deep bench and all players did a great job of working hard when they were in the game as well as cheering their teammates on when they were off the court.”

The team also received plenty of recognition as the 6A Desert Valley region saw Junior Georgie Stein, Sophomore Kaiya Pixler, Senior Andie Purdie, and Junior Zoe Haan make a first or second team, and everyone acknowledged their importance.

Seniority or politics is not something that exists with Sunnyslope’s volleyball team and Senior Andie Purdy; it’s just about whoever is good enough to get playing time and everyone appreciates that.

This attitude is something not only seen by the players but is looked upon by coaching with pride and joy.

“It’s amazing to see the upperclassmen accept, support and teach the younger players the traditions and culture of the special volleyball program,” said LeTarte.

Selflessness is clearly a key part of the volleyball program’s culture, but it does not stand alone.

“I feel like everyone’s really close and it’s competitive but it’s too competitive where it’s not fun,” said Wentworth.

This kind of culture in a sports program is something that can be hard to find, but with the sisterhood at Sunnyslope the team wouldn’t be the same without it.

LeTarte described the culture of Sunnyslope volleyball in 6 words: “Hard working, kind, respectful, unselfish and coachable.”

Of course, some players will be leaving this culture as they move on to the next part of their lives, but a season like this past one has meant the world to them.

Purdy said, “I think it was really special because this is probably my last year playing competitive volleyball, so I’m glad that we ended it on a good note.”

Ending a high school sports career is one of the hardest things to experience which is why having a group of people to go through it all means a lot to those seniors.

“We’ve been looking forward to this year for as we’ve been here and being able to be on such a good team when not a lot of people get that experience,” said Wentworth, “To be with and around players that are some of the best in our state is super cool.”

While the athletes may have made this kind of ending possible most of the time top teams anywhere have excellent coaches.

LeTarte has been quite a successful coach and she focuses on being reliable for the team as Wentwroth said that Le Tarte is very stable and trustworthy which helps all the players get better by listening to her. 

All this reflects in the accomplishments of the players as Pixler led 6A in assists, Stein and Haan were top 4 in region kills, Purdy was 2nd in region digs, and Freshman Kendall Omoruyi was 8th in 6A blocks.

Obviously there were Vikings all over the leaderboard after a great season and Wentworth attributes this to chemistry and said, “I think the chemistry and the energy that we have on the floor, it just makes us play a lot better.”

A sisterhood is something that will make an unforgettable bond; a triumphant sisterhood is one that will never die and Sunnyslope was just witness to the latter.

Badminton
Badminton

Sunnyslope High School may be known for the success of their basketball team or the recent success of their football and volleyball programs which have rightfully exploded onto the Arizona scene, but there is no other sport that has been more dominated  by the Vikings than badminton. 

Senior Corrine Valente contributed to this dominance with her victory in the last set of the state championship this year and said, “I feel so honored because I get to play with my best friends and just have the best coaches and it’s one the best programs in the state.”

Valente was just one part of a talented team that went 13-1 and won the state championship as well as being part of D1 Desert Valley Duo of the year with Senior Sabrina Case.

“We just took it one point at a time and we got more relaxed because at the beginning of the year we were more frantic,” Case said, “but, we just calmed down and talked to each other through each point.”

Sunnyslope made an expected run in the playoffs and were led by Head Coach Sarah Schlesinger who won D1 coach of the year.

“Winning coach of the year is a great honor, but coaching is easy and fun when you have such a wonderful group of players,” said Schlesinger. 

However, there is another coach that has had a big role in the badminton program: Coach Bobbi Forner, who led the team to multiple championships as a player and coach.

“She still helps us with practice and comes to practices and comes to our games, so it’s great to see the legacy and to be a part of it is just amazing,” said Case.

Forner may be one of the most influential people in the history of the badminton program and that is still evident today.

Schlesinger said, “Coach Forner was the one who created this program and started a tradition of excellence.  We are simply following in her footsteps and continuing her legacy.  She still comes around every season and helps coach and continues to pass her wisdom to our new players.”

All this coaching and work culminated in yet another appearance in the championship for Sunnyslope and it was for the history books.

In a match that saw Senior Jessa Jacobs draw blood and go to the very final set the Viking came away with the victory over Hamilton and Valente said that the whole time they were just trying their best.

After a match that surely felt like the hardest one they’ve ever played in, the team drove away from Desert Vista high school as state champions.

Case said, “It was just so rewarding and we worked so hard all year and it was a great way to end 4 years.”

Case would not only finish her badminton career with a state championship but was also named the D1 Desert Valley player of the year.

Honestly we have carried on a great tradition of excellence for many years, but this team is special to have been able to compete all the way to the end,” said Schlesinger. 

Dominant is the only word that would properly describe the run that Sunnyslope badminton has been on over the past several years, and this past season only added more accolades to that legacy.

Cross Country
Cross Country

There are many people out there who would call themselves great runners or say that they love running; however, there may be only one way to really tell if someone is a runner.

Cross Country quite literally consists of pretty much just running, but not for no reason, they run to be the fastest, they run to win, and they run to cement their name in history. 

“I think the team performed really well,” said Senior George Diaz, “We had a lot of growth this season and I’m excited for the future.”

The boys team qualified and ran at the state meet and were joined by individuals Senior Hannah Funk and Freshman Eva Jacobs.

Funk is somewhat unique in her accomplishments as she only started cross country her junior year and it took some persuasion for her to do so.

“I decided to start running cross country so that I could be involved in the school and meet new people while also staying fit,” said Funk.

This was a blessing in disguise as while Funk’s career may have been short it was sure successful as she set a school record and made state as an individual. 

Funk said, “Making state has been a dream for me, it just feels like all the hard work from the season has paid off and I’ve accomplished my goal.”

Of course, the cross country team was a team and not just her alone, and lets just say the wealth was spread around when it came to having a great season.

“We push each other like no other team does,” said Funk, “We wake up early in the morning and just run limes together.”

Making state is a great accomplishment and it is a great experience for everyone who goes.

“State for me was really fun,” said Diaz, “It meant a lot to me because I got to show the guys what it’s like and prepare them for their future.”

Getting experience will be very important for the team as there are only 3 seniors on the team that is filled with underclassmen. 

“The dynamic is very positive, communicative, and united,” said Diaz.

This dynamic that has been built in the program is one of many reasons why they were successful this year and they were confident where the culture would lead them.

This year the cross country put their mind to one thing: winning, and they made sure they did a lot of that.

Boys Golf
Boys Golf

Golf is often a sport that goes overlooked among the excitement of other sports like football or basketball and many people think that it is very easy and boring.

The members of the Sunnyslope golf team, on the other hand, would have to disagree as they put countless hours of work into their game but did always make sure to have fun.

“The boys golf team performed well this year. Obviously, the goal of the team making state did not happen but there were a lot of great moments and improvements overall,” said Head Coach Josh Woznicki, “From winning the district championship for a second year and winning the Desert West Region for the second year in a row. There were some great achievements that will help us build momentum going into next year.”

The golf team had a great season this year which did include a region championship as well as 7 golfers in the top 200 of the state and one golfer was sent to state.

Junior Ira Goldman said, “It definitely means that we have some potential for next year and we just need to keep grinding out this year.”

Potential is definitely something that the golf team has as with only 2 seniors leaving the program and with experienced underclassmen ready to step up; only good things are in store.

Woznicki said, “The program is in a very good place right now. We were fortunate to have some talented and dedicated players come in the last few years.”

Leading this youth movement has been Junior Jackson Pieratt who qualified for the state tournament this year, but he is not the lone reason for success.

Senior Bobby Hubert said that Pieratt was a big part of the teams success but the rest of the teams hard work and resilience pushed everyone ahead. 

However, Pieratt’s accomplishment should not be underrated as he is now the second Viking golfer to qualify for state in as many years.

Last year Gael Quesada qualified for state and Pieratt has followed in his footsteps except a year earlier which Woznicki said going back to back is great and “success breeds success.”

Sunnyslope golf soared this year even if they didn’t make state as a team, so next year will hopefully be even better and more impressive.

Goldman said, “My expectations are definitely to get some more guys to state and ust try to improve from this year.”

Although, that is still a year away and there is no need to rush away from what happened this 

year and not only the achievements but the memories as well.

This year was Hubert’s first on golf and he said it was a great experience and especially looks fondly back at the Aguila tournament this year.

The golfers aren’t the only ones who have a great time being a part of the program but Woznicki also appreciates being there along the journey.

“The players bring me back every year. I love watching them mature and get better. I also enjoy contributing to their success in any way I can,” said Woznicki, “Seeing them through Senior year is a great blessing.”

It seems like golf is joining the rest of the Sunnyslope sports team in moving up in the world and letting the rest of the state know who they are, so make sure all eyes are kept open. 

Girls Golf
Girls Golf

For the first time in a long time a new sport was introduced to Sunnyslope high school … well kind of. 

2023 was the debut of the girls golf team, the newest sports team to be created since boys volleyball, and the team certainly did not disappoint.

“It was good,” said Sophomore Caroline Gibson, “There’s definitely room for improvement, but I think from the beginning of the year to the end there was a lot of growth.”

Growth was expected to be seen as starting a program often takes time, but the level of play that the girls team was at is exceptional.

Sophomore Molly Lawrence agreed with Gibson that the inaugural season was very good and said that they “had more wins than losses.”

They did have more wins than losses, in fact quite a few more, and this opening of success will only help the program in the years to come.

“I really hope as more people learn about golf that our team will grow and it will get to play in more tournaments and get more funding as a whole,” said Lawrence, “and will just get more girls access to playing golf because it really is a fun sport.”

Golf is not only  a fun sport to play and try to master, yet it also goes beyond just fun and teaches a lot to those who play.

Gibson said, “I think it teaches our girls leadership and it teaches them how to be independent but also work with others on the course.”

Nevertheless, the girls had a tremendous season and fortunately they weren’t the only ones who got to witness it.

One of the main reasons for success, according to Gibson, is the following that the team had as she said all their families were very supportive. 

“First” for everybody are usually very memorable and when your first season playing high school golf went as well the past season there were surely plenty of memories to go round.

Lawrence said she loved just playing matches and said they went to dinner afterwards which was always really fun and “just all of us joking around.”

Fun seemed to be always present with the girls golf program as well as delicious post match meals, too.

Gibson said her favorite memory was “the team dinners we’d get after every match” which varied from Chick-Fil-A to In-and-Out to Chipotle.

When starting something new it’s always a good idea to start off with success, and the girls on the Sunnyslope girls golf team made sure that was the case for their inaugural season. 

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About the Contributor
Sam Porell, Sports Editor
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