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Wolfpack gears up for competitive winter sports season

In the COURIER’s preview of winter sports, one longtime coach, Fred Bruce-Oliver, keeps plugging along while another, Tim Tipping, says goodbye. Catch up on high school sports as the Pack preps for another busy season.

Girls water polo

Claremont is off to a roaring start with a sweep of the fourth annual Wolfpack Invitational Tournament last weekend at CHS.

The girls defeated four teams—San Pasqual, 17-2; West Hills, 18-5; Palos Verdes, 13-10; and Valhalla 12-6—to claim the championship.

Claremont came out strong against Palos Verdes but went cold for two quarters and the Sea Kings tied the score toward the end of the fourth. However, the Pack rallied with a three-goal run. Their victory over Valhalla in the finals was a reversal from last year when the Norsemen eliminated the Pack.

As the defending Palomares League champions the strong showing was not entirely unexpected. The girls are also currently ranked second in the newly reorganized CIF Southern Section Division 3. 

Coach Gary Cheever is in his fourth year leading the Pack and has just completed his first season as head coach of the Diamond Bar boys team.

Players to watch include: varsity attacker Helena Sandhagen, described by Coach Cheever as bringing a lot of experience and energy; junior utility Maddie Waasdorp, one of the leading scorers; and sophomore Adrianna Wong, who is in her first year but has experience in club play.

Coach Cheever has added two new assistant coaches, Kevin Hammond and Lilly Martinez.

The girls had a home match against St. Lucy’s after press time on Thursday with league play starting on the 18th against Alta Loma at home.

“St. Lucy’s will be a really good test early on,” Coach Cheever said.

Girls basketball

CHS girls basketball has a 6-0 record but, as the saying goes, the night—or season—is still young.

In his first season, Coach Mike James reenergized the team and pulled off a late rally, winning their first league game in three years followed by a stunning upset of top-ranked St. Mary’s Academy in the first round of the CIF playoffs. The girls then defeated San Luis Obispo before finally getting knocked out by Saugus in the quarterfinals.

Coach James has a young and very tall team, with five players over six feet. Starting at center will be freshman Sydney Sparks and senior Ella Nolte. Junior guard Jessica Andrada has been red hot from the free throw line and hitting three pointers. “She has done really well shooting the ball,” Coach James said.

“Our front line goes six-one, six-two and six foot so we make it really hard on teams. I think our players are getting more confident, they understand the concepts we are trying to teach. It’s all about the team working together and pulling for each other,” Coach James said.

Last week was the Bonita/Claremont tournament with 17 teams, including several from the Palomares League. “Our goal going in was to end up 2-2 but we ended up going 4-0 so that is even better,” Coach James said. Claremont was undefeated but another team was seeded higher and took the trophy.

The Pack’s next game is Tuesday against Roosevelt as part of the San Dimas Tournament. League play begins December 12 at Alta Loma.

“I am excited to build on the momentum we had last year,” Coach James said. “Some of the girls are really stepping up into their new roles and doing really well so I am really happy.”

Girls Soccer

This season a familiar face will be absent from the sidelines at Claremont girls soccer matches, as longtime assistant coach Tim Tipping announced his retirement following 16 years of service.

For Coach Tim Tracey, the news is particularly rough because the “two Tims” have been together since they were teammates at CHS in the ‘80s. Mr. Tipping, who was the goalkeeper coach, said his main reason for leaving was to spend more time with his son, who will be graduating from high school in a couple of years.

“He is going to be missed. The program will not be the same without him,” Coach Tracey said.

Coach Tracey has tapped recent CHS graduate, and former Pack goalkeeper, Alexis Garvin to replace Coach Tipping.

“Assistant coaching the CHS girls soccer team over the years has been one of my greatest coaching experiences,” Coach Tipping said. “I must thank my friends Coach Tim Tracey, coaches Rosa Castillo, Nicole Giles and Jo Cantelletta for keeping me around well past my prime and usefulness. I will miss not seeing them on a daily basis throughout the season. I cannot say enough good things about all the goalies and players who went through the program and made practices a joy.”

Claremont has had only one game so far, a 3-0 defeat of former league foe South Hills last Friday. That early win is good news because Claremont has 35 freshmen on the team with nine playing varsity.

“Our success this year will come purely from the team effort. We have good leadership with returning varsity players Tyler Higuera and Janelle Gutierrez. Things are going to be positive for us. We are young but have a lot of tough competition [on our team],” Coach Tracey said.

The Pack’s first big challenge comes next week with the Claremont Girls Soccer Holiday Classic on December 15 and 22, followed by the San Gorgonio Tournament starting on December 27.

Boys soccer

Coach Fred Bruce-Oliver has been leading the Wolfpack since 1986, which is a long time to say the least. “Too long to count,” he noted recently.

Claremont went 2-2 in the Rancho Cucamonga Tournament, losing in the semifinals to Granite Hills, but Coach Bruce-Oliver liked what he saw. “They can be a good team. We have got some talent,” he said.

“The strength of the team will be in the returning guys, and most of them are in the attack,” Coach Bruce-Oliver said. “Of eight returners, seven are from the midfield to the forward line.”

With only one returning defender, the head coach is building a defense from scratch. The goalkeepers are brand new for the first time in many years, and there is a lot of organization involved with putting together a brand new defense.

“I am going to put together a group we can work this year who will then be the backbone for next year,” Coach Bruce- Oliver said.

He predicts that Alta Loma and Ayala will be strong in the Palomares League this year. Claremont will host Chaffey on Saturday at home followed by the first league game on December 19 against Alta Loma, also at home.

—Steven Felschundneff

steven@claremont-courier.com