Volleyball Continues Near-Perfect Winning Streak

In the world of varsity women’s volleyball, the Lady Mats are sitting pretty.  With an 18-game winning streak and only one loss, team captain Haley Sayres ‘10 has only good things to say of the team this year.

“This is the best team I’ve been on in the four years I’ve played here,” said Sayres.  “Last year’s team was great, and finished fifth in California, but I think this year’s team is closer and we work really hard.  I think we’ll go a long way.”

Mary Diamantidis ‘10, another team captain, has an equally optimistic take on the season.

“We should be able to win our league, NCS too, and I think we can get better than fifth in state,” said Diamantidis.

Diamantidis’ first prediction came true on Thursday, Oct. 29, when the team defeated Dublin easily and won the DFAL league title for the second year in a row.

“Now we’re going to NCS because we won our league,” said setter Sarah Vaccaro ’12.  “That’s in late November, and I think we have a good chance at first or second place.”

The team was ranked second in the state on Nov. 2, behind the Campbell Hall Vikings who have only played 14 games this season.

The local TV station Cal-Hi Sports took notice of the team’s excellent standings, and featured them after they defeated Campolindo in late September.  The same station recently featured Diamantidis, giving her the weekly “Hammer Award,” showing a clip of a kill she made.

The Lady Mats crushed Campo for a second time this year on Thursday, Oct. 22. They lost the first match but came back strong and won the next three.

“Having a lot of fans there to cheer us on helps so much,” said Vaccaro.  “We couldn’t have beaten Campo without our cheering section.”

“This season, I don’t think we need to work on anything major,” said middle blocker Maddie Higgins ‘12. “We just need to fine-tune a little bit and work on the tiny things.”

“Actually, we need to work on showing no mercy,” said Sayres.  “We should just crush the bad teams fast.  We take too long to win on some games that should be really easy.”

Over Halloween weekend, the Lady Mats competed in the Northgate Invitational Tournament, winning five straight matches and only losing one game in the semifinals.  They tied for third place out of 32 teams overall in the tournament.

On Thursday, Nov. 5 the team honored their seniors before their last home game against Las Lomas. Results could not be posted by press time.

The Lady Mats will begin this year’s run in the NCS playoffs on Nov. 11.

Miramonte Cheerleaders Become Competitive

With their sassy clapping, catchy rhymes, flips, kicks and omnipresent  smiles,  cheerleaders raise the spirits of any sports fan. Cheerleaders are the link between the athlete and the spectator, and they remain positive even when a discouraged team takes the field. The time has come for a little taste of MHS’s own cheer squad.

Every summer, Miramonte cheerleaders go to a camp filled with dance routines and team bonding. This summer they attended a camp at UC Davis.

“It’s only four days long, so we pack a lot of new material into those days,” said Christine Requa ‘11. “But we really bond as a team and it’s a lot of fun.”

At camp, they learned many new routines.

“We had a total blast!” said co-captain Sasha Belinksy ‘10. “The team is a little smaller this year, so we had more of a chance to bond and we are all a little bit crazy, so that made it fun. We practiced and learned more stunts and techniques, and a few sideline and game day cheers as well. We learned three very cool dances, and had to perform everything we learned just about everyday.”

This year the squad is entering many competitions, with their first in late November. The competitions take place all over the Bay Area, with Nationals in Southern California.

This is their second year with coach Rebecca George. With her help, they have been able to improve their routines.

“Our squad would be nowhere without Ms. George,” said Tatyana Belinsky ‘12.

“Not only has she created awesome routines and helped us improve our technique so we can compete, but she has guided us to continuously improve our school’s spirit.”

Team captains lead the team with George’s help. This year’s captains are Sasha Belinksy ‘10 and Laura Weston ‘10. With their leadership, the cheer squad hopes to attain their goals this season.

“Our main goals for the season are to learn more complicated stunts, to advertise cheer so we can have a bigger team next year, and to hopefully win some of our competitions,” said Tatyana Belinksy.

Cheerleading requires a lot of commitment, unlike some seasonal sports.

“We don’t really have an off season; we cheer for football and basketball but continue practicing throughout the spring and summer,” said Requa.

The squad recently held a kids camp where they taught 50-60 kids how to be cheerleaders. They practiced routines with them all week, and at the game against Dublin on Oct.  9, the kids got to perform with them during halftime.

“It was a huge success!” said Emily Tribble ‘11. “All of the little girls had so much fun being cheerleaders for the night.”

The halftime shows are the highlight of the cheerleaders’ performance, and they look forward to showcasing their talent once a game.

“After practicing our routine hard all week, it’s fun to finally perform it for a crowd.” “When we see everyone’s spirit and excitement, it’s a great sense of accomplishment,” said Tatyana Belinsky.

Lady Mats Polo Earns Late NCS Birth

Half way through the season, it looked as if the Lady Mats’ playoff hopes were dwindling. In the last couple of weeks, the team, led by Maxine Sharf ‘10, stepped it up and clinched the last NCS playoff spot.

After losing to Campolindo and Acalanes in back to back weeks, the team had a sub .500 record, including losses to Buchanan High School and Rio Americano High School.

Sharf has done her best carrying the load to the tune of 81 goals in the team’s first 17 games. Next year, Sharf will be taking her game to Cal. However, her team this year has been less than stellar.

In 10 of the first 17 games, the Lady Mats have given up at least eight goals. They have only had a few convincing victories, which were  against lackluster schools like Turlock High School, Alhambra High School, Granite Bay High School, and    league opponent  Dougherty Valley High School.

There have been a few bright spots for the Lady Mats, including the play of Erin Byrne ‘12. Only a sophomore, Byrne has made some solid contributions to the team, providing some offense for the lineup.

Even with the progression of the younger players, the Lady Mats are seeded 10th in the NCS playoffs, and have a first round game against 23rd-ranked Amador Valley High School, who finished the season with a .500 record. The Lady Mats may be the higher seed, but they finished their season with a 9-14 record, an unimpressive .391 winning percentage

“I am confident that we can still succeed in the playoffs,” said Sharf.

The team is still very young and it is possible that they could make a late season surge. They are limping into the playoffs, but they still convinced the NCS selection committee that they are worthy of the 10th seed. With the 10th seed comes a game that the Lady Mats should win, but it is not guaranteed. Even if the team does advance past Amador Valley, it will be extremely difficult to beat Marin Catholic High School, who finished the season with a 22-4 record, and will have a bye in the first round of the playoffs. The Lady Mats could also have to face rival Campolindo later in NCS. The Cougars defeated the Lady Mats earlier this year. However, the Lady Mats feel their season could be coming together.

“Our team improves every day, and in the end teamwork is what will make us successful,” said Sharf.

The  playoffs will be a challenge, but it is a challenge the Lady Mats are ready and willing to meet. If they work as a team, they should  be  able  to make a run in the postseason.

Crabtree Signs, Looks Impressive Thus Far

Nearly six months after drafting Texas Tech wide receiver Michael Crabtree, the 49ers were finally able to sign the star receiver to a six-year deal with $17 million guaranteed. In the end, Crabtree did not get the same deal as Oakland’s Darrius Heyward-Bey, but Crabtree decided it was time to get on the field.

At Texas Tech, Crabtree was the first ever receiver to win two Bilitnikoff awards, given to the best receiver in college football. Making the feat even more impressive was the fact that he played much of his sophomore season with an injured foot that required off-season surgery.
Heading into the draft, questions began to arise about Crabtree’s height, as well as his speed and a foot injury, which kept him out of the NFL Combine for incoming rookies to showcase their talent. To make matters worse for Crabtree, many NFL scouts also perceived him as another diva wide receiver like Terrell Owens or Brandon Marshall. So Crabtree slipped to the 10th spot where Mike Singletary and the Niners grabbed the potential star.

After his first week of practice, nearly everyone was impressed with the rookie’s ability, as well as his work ethic.

“He plays much bigger than he is, when you see him, you think he’s a little on the short side, but when he’s out there running, getting his hands on the ball, he’s a big target,” said 49ers quarterback Shaun Hill to a San Francisco Chronicle reporter.

Coach Singletary was also very impressed with Crabtree’s ability. Just a few weeks after signing, Crabtree was thrust into the starting lineup.

He has his work cut out for him. After starting the season strong, the 49ers stumbled into their bye week, losing 45-10 to the Atlanta Falcons. Even with the addition of Crabtree and Pro-Bowl running back Frank Gore back from injury, the Niners played an uninspiring first half of football against the Texans.  In the second half, former first overall pick Alex Smith relieved Shaun Hill and was almost able to pull off a miracle, throwing three touchdowns to tight end Vernon Davis. However, the Niners couldn’t complete the comeback and lost 21-24.

Crabtree preformed well, especially in the second half, with five receptions for 56 yards. He also displayed extremely strong hands and already looks like the Niners number one option at wide receiver.

If the 49ers are in the playoff race in the last  few weeks  of  the season though, the team will rely on him to make big plays opposite second year player Josh Morgan, or future Hall of Fame wide receiver Isaac Bruce.

Many consider Crabtree a cross between Steve Smith and Owens. Crabtree doesn’t possess the quickness of Smith or the size of Owens, but he is a physical receiver and still possesses surprising elusiveness in the open field.

With these skill sets, Crabtree likely won’t have any trouble becoming the most productive wide receiver taken in the first 10 picks of the draft this year. After one game he already has more receptions than Heyward-Bey and only 10 fewer yards.

The biggest factor in Crabtree’s development   right  now looks to be the Niners quarterback situation. Crabtree looked to be a bit uncomfortable with Hill under center, but when Smith stepped in the two were in sync. If Smith does well, Crabtree and the 49ers will also do well; if not, the Niners will be watching the playoffs again from home.