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2011-12 West Ranch Year in Review: Welcome to elite status

Posted: June 30, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: June 30, 2012 1:55 a.m.
West Ranch basketball player Ako Kaluna was a dominant force in leading his team to one of the school's seven Foothill League championships in 2011-12. West Ranch basketball player Ako Kaluna was a dominant force in leading his team to one of the school's seven Foothill League championships in 2011-12.
West Ranch basketball player Ako Kaluna was a dominant force in leading his team to one of the school's seven Foothill League championships in 2011-12.

In five previous seasons, the West Ranch boys volleyball team never won a postseason match.

In 2012, the Wildcats won three for its first appearance ever in a CIF-Southern Section division semifinal.

It was a surprise to outsiders, yet to no one within the program.

But the label of “surprise” is not a slight.

It’s appropriate.

One has to take into account what West Ranch High School’s accomplishments coming into the 2011-12 season to understand why any team from the school had a label of surprising.

The school tallied seven Foothill League titles coming into this school year, with four resting on the mantel of the boys golf program.

Though the school has quickly developed talent, won games and showed promise, it wasn’t quite considered among the elite programs in the Santa Clarita Valley as a whole — yet.

Until this year.

West Ranch won seven Foothill League titles this past school year, sent two teams to the CIF-Southern Section division semifinals (baseball and volleyball) and another (basketball) to the quarterfinals.

Collectively, no other school in the Santa Clarita Valley had that success.

It started in the fall, when girls tennis and girls golf knocked established programs off their perches.

On Oct. 19, the West Ranch girls golf team, led by freshman Julie Ward, unseated four-time defending Foothill champion Hart for the league title.

Exactly one week later, the Wildcats girls tennis team clinched its first-ever outright league title, sending a Valencia program that had won or shared the last nine titles to second place.

Much earlier, the season started out on a great note for Wildcats football, which won its first four games including a season-opener victory where senior running back Jeff Coprich rushed for a school record 213 yards on just nine carries.

But the Wildcats went 1-5 the rest of the way.

As the season changed to winter, boys soccer, led by Foothill and All-Santa Clarita Valley Player of the Year Brandon Dooley, continued what it started the year before. The Wildcats won their second straight league championship.

West Ranch basketball fully arrived at the same time.

Though the Wildcats lost two head-to-head matchups with co-league champion Canyon, West Ranch boys basketball claimed a share of the championship by finishing with an 8-2 Foothill mark.

West Ranch played an exciting fast-paced brand of basketball with the wild-haired duo of power forward Ako Kaluna and guard Kevin Harris. They missed out on a trip to the semifinals in a heartbreaking four-point loss to Mission Viejo on Feb. 24.

The spring was the most productive season, though.

Baseball, softball and boys golf all won league titles, with each having an interesting story behind it.
Baseball, led by left-handed senior J.C. Cloney, won its first-ever crown.

Softball also won its first, led by an offensive arsenal that included the league’s top player Kylie Sorenson, who got hits in more than 50 percent of her at-bats.

Golf relied on its star — J.J. Holen — in four straight championships leading into 2012, but his graduation produced a challenge for the team.

It answered that challenge by outdistancing second-place Valencia by a large margin.

Individually, track and field had a standout star in senior thrower Nick Bultman.

He won Foothill titles in the shot put and the discus and he broke his own school record in the shot put three weeks in a row. He also finished eighth in the state in the shot put on June 2.

So, right back to where we started and boys volleyball, which finished in second place in the Foothill League.

Second-place teams with little history, especially among the giants who are perennial league champs in boys volleyball, usually don’t fare well in the playoffs.

But the Wildcats beat Righetti, then San Juan Hills, then No. 3 seed Laguna Beach, before losing to Corona Del Mar 3-1 in the semifinals on May 15.

It was a surprise.

But in the future, West Ranch’s teams won’t surprise anyone.

That’s what West Ranch High accomplished in 2011-12.




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