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.


Cal City seeded No. 1 in playoffs

The California City girls volleyball team will take its undefeated High Desert League record into the CIF Central Section Division 5 playoffs next week.

The Ravens (24-6-1, 10-0 HDL) are the No. 1 seed in Division 5, according to playoff brackets released on Saturday. Cal City will face off against the 16th-seeded Lee Vining (7-12-1) at home on Thursday at 6:30 p.m.

“Being the (No.) 1-ranked team is definitely a feather in the cap of the girls,” Ravens head coach Shane Moores said. “It’s nice for them because it shows how hard they’ve worked this year and they’ve been rewareded for that.”

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Rosamond tops Desert

ROSAMOND — Thursday night was a night of many lasts for the Rosamond girls volleyball team.

The Roadrunners played their last match of the season and swept the Desert Scorpions 25-14, 25-14, 25-21. It also marked the final match for the Rosamond seniors, who were honored before the opening serve with heartfelt speeches from teammates and coaches.

And, for Roadrunners head coach Rebecca Eubanks, Thursday was the final match of her 19-year-long volleyball coaching career. She said she’ll now have the opportunity to spend more time with her two daughters, one of which is in middle school and plays volleyball.

“I’m kind of excited to be mom now and get to watch her and help her develop more,” said Eubanks, who took over as head coach of the varsity team in 2002. “I feel like over the years, I’ve helped other people’s kids with volleyball. So it’s gonna be a nice opportunity to help my own daugher.”

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Palmdale Aerospace wins season finale

PALMDALE — The Palmdale Aerospace Academy girls volleyball team ended its season with a bang Tuesday night with a three-set sweep (25-9, 25-14, 25-14) of the Guidance Charter Gators at home.

The Griffins (14-14-2, 4-6 Heritage League) were most successful with their serving, amassing 38 aces in the match, compared to only 20 kills.

Senior opposite hitter Dalia Calva served 11 aces, while senior defensive specialist Ashley Martinez had eight and two other players had four apiece.

Senior middle blocker Sabrina Rashid and senior setter Ashley Silva each had four kills, while Calva and sophomore setter Jocelyn Reyes each contributed three.

“I think (Tuesday) was more psychological for my girls,” Griffins head coach Mary Thomas said. “I think they needed this win in order for them to continue with that team environment and bonding and sticking together no matter what.”

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Culver City bounces Quartz Hill

CULVER CITY — The Quartz Hill High School girls volleyball team’s season ended Tuesday in a 3-0 (25-18, 25-18, 25-19) to the Culver City Centaurs.

The loss marks the third straight year in which the Rebels lost in the semifinal round of the CIF Southern Section Division 5 playoffs.

“I’m pleased with the season,” Quartz Hill head coach David Gutierrez said. “I think that the girls did well. They learned a lot. We had a young team and came a really long way this year. I’m super pleased.”

The Rebels finished a season that saw them go 14-0 in the Golden League and win the league championship. Quartz Hill also went undefeated in the league in 2014.

Senior outside hitter Megan Taflinger felt proud of the team’s season, citing its win in the Burbank Tournament, going undefeated and making the semifinals of the playoffs with seven sophomores on the roster.

“I wouldn’t have wanted a better season my senior year,” Taflinger said. “It was great.”

But the year ended sooner than the team wanted Tuesday when it ran into a Culver City team that went 24-8 overall and 9-1 in the Ocean League.

The Rebels started slow and found themselves in a 5-1 hole early in Game 1, but took an 8-7 lead on a kill by Taflinger. The Centaurs then scored six straight points and built a 19-11 lead after two Quartz Hill hitting errors and a violation.

Quartz Hill closed the gap late with an ace by Melina Lee and kills by Taflinger and Kylia Bradford, but Culver City pulled out the set, 25-18.

The Rebels held a 3-2 lead in Game 2 after Marya Ghafur, but more hitting errors by Quartz Hill gave the Centaurs a 6-3 lead. Behind an extended 15-3 run, Culver City built an 18-6 lead.

Quartz Hill cut the deficit to only six at 21-15, but the Centaurs again gained control thanks to some hitting error by the Rebels and a kill by Lena Johnson.

Game 3 was closer throughout. After a slow start, the Rebels tied the score at 5. Culver City took a 12-7 lead, but Quartz Hill pulled to within two on a Centaurs hitting error.

The Centaurs went on a run and took a 19-13 lead, only to let the Rebels come back and trail, 21-18. Culver City then pulled it out, 25-19.

Culver City neutralized Quartz Hill’s offense, constantly and consistently digging and blocking powerful attacks from the Rebels.

“They were very scrappy,” Quartz Hill’s Abbie Adams said. “Their libero got everything up. They have a great libero. And their hits were still hard on balls and I feel like they’re a very good team.”

Taflinger said the Rebels struggled with serving and passing on Tuesday. Gutierrez said serving was a “serious problem.”

“We missed a lot of serves,” Taflinger said.

While Quartz Hill did not advance to the final round of the CIF Southern Section playoffs, the team will compete in the CIF state tournament, which starts next week, Gutierrez said.

“The season’s not over,” Gutierrez said. “We’ll keep playing, see if we can’t win another game.'”

Quartz Hill heads to semis

QUARTZ HILL — Despite a rocky start, the Quartz Hill High School girls volleyball team advanced to the semifinal round of the CIF Southern Section Division 5 playoffs with Saturday’s sweep (27-25, 25-16, 25-16) of Cerritos.

The win marks the third straight season the Rebels advanced to the semifinals.

Rebels outside hitter Megan Taflinger led the way with 16 kills and two aces, while Amaya Smith added six kills.

Quartz Hill struggled out of the gate with five hitting errors en route to an early 9-1 deficit and trailed for most of Game 1. Rebels head coach David Gutierrez said the team was nervous.

“I think it was quarterfinals and playing in front of our home crowd and wanting to do a little too much, wanting to play really, really well instead of just kind of settling down and playing the game we normally do,” Gutierrez said. “I think the girls really, really wanted to perform, and sometimes that’s not the best approach to volleyball.”

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Cal City sweeps, seeks revenge

CALIFORNIA CITY — Last year in the semifinal round of the Division 5 CIF Central Section playoffs, the California City High School girls volleyball team led in a close Game 3 against the Immanuel Eagles with the match tied 1-1.

But Ravens then-sophomore Chloe Emory crashed into the referee stand and had to leave the match with a lower leg injury. The Eagles then outscored Cal City 34-5, taking the match 3-1 and ending the Ravens’ season.

This year, the Ravens want revenge.

Cal City advanced to the semifinal round for the second straight year in a sweep (25-9, 25-21, 25-15) of Caruthers at home, and will face Immanuel on Tuesday. Ravens senior setter Cally Schoettmer has had last year’s loss in her mind all season.

“It’s something to me that stuck in the back of my mind,” Schoettmer said. “It was an ugly loss last year, and it’s never going to happen again. Ever since last year, that’s been my goal – to see them again. It’s not going to happen. We’re going to take it.”

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