Three Rebels join college ranks

QUARTZ HILL — Three Quartz Hill athletes signed their National Letters of Intent to play their respective sports at the next level in the Quartz Hill High library on Tuesday.

Baseball player Tyler Vargas is headed to Utah Valley University, while Natalie Horton will play softball at the University of the Pacific and Marya Ghafur will play volleyball at Fresno Pacific University.

Tyler Vargas
Tyler Vargas had an offer to attend and play baseball for his dream school.

Since he was a boy, all the varsity baseball player at Quartz Hill High School would talk about was finding a way into Cal State Fullerton.

But when his cousin, Drew Sims, decided to play at Utah Valley University, suddenly Fullerton wasn’t the main focus for Vargus. Last December, he and his parents took an unofficial visit to Utah Valley’s campus, and he came away liking the area, the weather, the campus and even the school colors.

But the thing that made Vargas choose against going to his dream university was the opportunity to play alongside Sims.

“He’s like a best friend to me,” Vargas said of his cousin.

Vargas and Sims played together periodically, mostly in 12- and 14-and-under tournaments. The two remained close despite Sims living in Temecula and Vargas living in the Antelope Valley.

“We’ve always played together,” Vargas said. “So it’s kinda cool to be able to play next to him.”

Vargas’ mother, Cindy – who coaches the Antelope Valley College softball team with her husband, Mike – said during that during the recruiting process, Sims would constantly text Vargas asking him when he would make his decision on a college. A few days before the current school year, began, Vargas made the choice to play with Sims.

Vargas will also have close friend and Highland baseball player Romeo Carrillo attending Utah Valley with him.

Vargas hopes to get drafted into the MLB. If that doesn’t work out, he has his mind set on becoming a teacher of math or history.

Rebels head coach Aaron Kavanagh said Vargas has the work ethic and desire to make it into the professional ranks.

“I think whatever he puts his mind to, he’s gonna be able to do,” Kavanagh said. “I think he has just as good a shot as anybody going to college.”

Natalie Horton
Choosing a college was somewhat of a no-brainer for the shortstop on the Rebels softball team.

Horton chose the University of the Pacific over Loyola Marymount University almost immediately after she saw the area and the campus.

“When I got to Stockton, I just felt like I was at home,” Horton said, adding that the campus had an “East Coast feel” with its greenery and brick buildings. “I felt like I was at a college, so I liked that a lot.”

Horton started softball at 7 years old, and initially was asked to play catcher. Her father, Tom, recalled that at the time, his daughter couldn’t catch and couldn’t throw.

But Horton’s coach, Tom said, insisted that even if she missed a few balls, he knew she would hustle to retrieve them.

From the first time Tom saw his daughter’s work ethic on the field, he knew she would be a good softball player.

“I never forgot that coach saying that,” Tom said. “That’s what got her really inspired to really go after it. She just really really got better and progressed.”

Over the years, Horton also received plenty of help from her uncle, Dan Massari, who was drafted into the MLB and played for two minor league teams. Horton practiced with him often as a young player, and to this day still visits his batting cage at least once a week.

Head softball coach Robert Drennan said it has been a pleasure coaching Horton, and has seen her biggest growth come in her leadership skills.

Drennan also said Horton’s intelligence and study of softball could land her a coaching job some day, if she wanted it.

“You could tell that later on down the road … she could definitely use her knowledge and be a coach at some point,” Drennan said. “It’s good to see her grow at that point where she definitely has the knowledge of the game.”

Horton will major in business with finance and marketing at UOP.

Marya Ghafur
The senior volleyball player was just happy the process was over when she finally chose to attend Fresno Pacific.

After several months of going through schools, and moments when she was afraid her choice would somehow be the wrong one, Ghafur happily signed her papers with the knowledge that she charged through all the bumps in the road.

“I just felt happy with my decision,” Ghafur said. “It was a huge relief knowing where I’m gonna go next and knowing that I’m gonna be happy with where I’m going next.”

The relief was not only Ghafur’s. Her mother, Naeemah, was also thrilled when she her daughter said she had chosen Fresno Pacific.

Naeemah could not attend the official visit with her daughter and husband, Jaleel. Moments after the visit was over, Ghafur made the phone call to her mother, who said she felt a physical weight off her shoulders.

“She is ecstatic and we are ecstatic for her,” Naeemah said. “Her goal since starting volleyball was to play at the college level and perhaps afterwards maybe go overseas. So to see your child achieve this level of her dreams and goals, it’s indescribable – especially after this period of anxiety was prolonged for months now.”

Ghafur’s other choice she mulled was UC Santa Barbara, a Division I program. But for Ghafur, what mattered more to her was going to a school where she would feel most happy, as opposed to the school that had a higher NCAA division.

“Title was never really big for me,” Ghafur said. “I just wanted to go somewhere where I thought I’d be happy going.”

Head volleyball coach David Gutierrez said Ghafur has a great deal of potential to play well at the college level.

“I think she’s at the right school at the right level for her to excel,” Gutierrez said. “I think she’s going to have a blast. I think that she’s going to be a contributing member of her team. I know that she has the skills that she needs to do well at that level.”

Ghafur may want to find a way to play volleyball overseas after she graduates from Fresno Pacific, she said. But her main career goal will be becoming a pharmacist.

“I wanted to be in the medical field without being a doctor or nurse,” Ghafur said.


Samohi softball takes it all

IRVINE — Last year, the Santa Monica softball team ended their playoff run in disappointment. But they were determined to force a different outcome in 2014.

“We were here last year [and] got our butts kicked,” head coach Debbie Skaggs said. “The girls knew that we had to come out here and not just be happy to be here, but get here and finish business.”

The Vikings easily defeated the Ventura Cougars, 3-1, in the Division IV CIF-SS championship on Saturday, May 31, giving Samohi its second title in five years.

Junior pitcher Whitney Jones struck out three Ventura batters, while senior first baseman Francesca Golick had two RBIs. Senior infielder Marina Coffin had one RBI for the Cougars.

Samohi’s last division championship was in 2010 when they defeated the North Torrance Saxons, 11-3.

The Viking offense started strong in the bottom of the first inning with senior Sara Garcia smacking a triple into right field, allowing freshman second baseman Jasmine Gomez to score Samohi’s first run.

With Garcia on third, Golick connected on a Ventura pitch, driving in Garcia for an early 2-0 lead.

Jones said her pitching loosened up after her team was able to build an early advantage.

“It feels much better when you have a little cushion,” Jones said.

The Cougars got on the board in the top of the third inning off an RBI by Coffin. However, Golick responded at the bottom of the inning with her second RBI of the game with the bases loaded. Samohi never looked back.

The Vikings were able to use strong defense to take away any chance of a Ventura comeback. With two outs in the top of the fourth inning, junior infielder Amanda Gilchrist launched a double into deep right center field. But Samohi took a ground ball by Ventura’s next batter and was able to retire the side.

“There are plays that, if they don’t make, it could get us into a lot of trouble, into a mess,” Jones said about her team’s defense. “It definitely takes down the other team and pumps up our mentality, which is just great. I can’t ask for a better defense. They really helped me this year.”

Skaggs said the team’s defense is key to their success because of the type of pitcher Jones is.

“We’re known to be a pretty solid defensive club, and that’s what we lean on because our pitcher doesn’t strike out a lot of batters,” Skaggs said.

Despite a slow start, Jones was able to find her pitching groove as the game went on. She said her positioning of the ball is what worked well for her on Saturday.

“I kept the ball low and I kept moving the pitch around, which I think was really effective,” Jones said. “[I] stayed in on some of their hands and took the ball outside when I needed to.”

This year’s championship came with a lot of growth among the team, Jones said.

“We had a really tough season this year before we got to CIF, and then once CIF came, we really gelled together as a team, just like we did last year,” Jones said. “But this year, we had a lot more talent and we were just a stronger team together and we just really had teamwork, which is what got us here.”


Softball loses last home game, sophomores honored

It was the worst of times again for the Santa Monica College women’s softball team on Tuesday afternoon.

On the last home game of the season, the Corsairs fell to the Glendale Vaqueros, 12-1, extending their losing streak to 27.

The loss brings the Corsairs record to just 2-28 overall and 0-15 in the Western State Conference.

The game got out of control for SMC in the second inning, when Glendale scored six runs and extended their lead to 8-0. The Corsairs were never able to recover.

SMC head coach Stephanie Spychaj said that what hurt her team was three errors in that inning.

“We walked a couple of batters, and then three errors don’t really help us out,” Spychaj said. “It kinda got away from us, slowly but surely.”

The Corsairs finally got on the board in the bottom of the third inning with a home run by shortstop Selma Cortez.

The game also served as “Sophomore Night”, a time when the second-year players are honored by their fellow teammates and the athletic department.

“We wish all the sophomores in this game the best of luck in their future,” SMC athletic director Joe Cascio said before the game. Flowers were given to sophomores from both teams while they stood at home plate.

After the game ended, outfielder Arlene Garcia, outfielder Marissa Machado, catcher Paola Cabrera, and outfielder Niki Magana each received a basket of gifts from their fellow teammates which included a plastic SMC baseball bat, a blanket and other gifts that were tailored specifically to each player.

The Corsairs will end their season with a doubleheader against the Bakersfield Renegades on Thursday.

“We gotta hit and we gotta play defense,” Spychaj said about what it will take to win Thursday. “Catch and throw. That’s pretty much it.”

Thursday’s games will be on the road at Bakersfield College starting at 2:30 p.m.