Ball Dribbling Into Play for Malibu High Sharks

Malibu Sharks junior Cameron Nwede shoots in the second half of a game last season before the COVID-19 shut-down.

The ball is back in play for some Malibu High Sharks sports this spring, while for others it’s still up in the air because of COVID-19 restrictions. 

The Malibu girls’ tennis team, the defending Citrus Coast League champs, began its season early this month with a home match against Brentwood. The squad’s coach, Rev. Joyce Stickney, said in a March 14 interview the Sharks were awash in a range of emotions—joy, relief and excitement—about being able to serve court this spring. 

“We get to be together again,” she said. “We get to be outdoors and we get to do something that is so healthy and recreational. We are out there hitting the ball. They are thrilled.”

The group’s season normally takes place in the fall, but like other high school and youth sports around the country, the Sharks’ campaign was postponed. After hanging out in a sort of sports limbo with no clue whether a season would take place or not, CIF, the Golden State’s high school sports governing body, gave school systems around California the green light to begin outdoor sports seasons because of a decline in the number of positive coronavirus cases across the state.

Along with Stickney’s team, the Sharks boys’ tennis team and boys’ and girls’ soccer teams have begun play. On Thursday, the school’s baseball team is scheduled to take to the diamond for the first time this season, hosting Santa Paula at 3:30 p.m., and in April the golf, track and swimming teams are scheduled to start their campaigns. 

The 17-member girls tennis team has also played against Viewpoint, Marymount, Hueneme and Nordhoff this season. The bunch hosted Santa Paula on Wednesday and next takes the court against Hueneme on April 14 at 3:15 p.m. The Sharks’ scheduled games against Carpinteria were canceled because the state still isn’t allowing competition in Santa Barbara County. 

Sharks were first allowed to practice in mid-February. Stickney recalled that even though all the players had masks on, she knew all the girls were smiling. 

“It felt like everyone was in a place of gratitude,” she said. “I just felt so much positive energy.” 

Stickney said her players want to play tennis as much as possible. 

“This has been such a lift, such a high point for the girls and me,” she said. “It’s such a positive after so much challenge and time staying at home with anxiety and illness and so on. It’s kind of a big gift that I didn’t see coming.”

Stickney said this spring season is a big deal to the Sharks, including team captain Jaz Abbey, a junior, who has a winning singles record.

“She is really strong and ready to go this season,” Stickney said. “She is playing really well.

Basketball season will also tip off soon in Malibu. Hoops games were permitted to begin March 12 in the CIF Southern Section, of which Malibu is a member, but complicated COVID-19 testing measures set by state government for indoor sports delayed dribbling for many teams. 

Sharks boys’ basketball head coach Richard Harris said his team might be allowed to practice in the gym within the next two weeks. The squad only had a conditioning session on Monday this week because of spring break but had been conditioning two or three times each week this month. 

Harris said although he is sure some of his players have found ways to play basketball, the group is excited to get in the gym as a team, after regulations changed quickly.

“Literally, one week it would be like, ‘There is no way we are having a season,’ to, ‘Most likely we are going to have a season,’” he said. 

The Sharks are scheduled to start a 10-game Citrus Coast League schedule on April 21 at home against Carpinteria. 

Harris said Malibu is going to make the best of its season. 

“If they tell us April 14 we can start the season on April 21, we are going to have a really good week of practice and try to be the best prepared team we can be,” he said. 

Sharks boys and girls volleyball coach Derek Saenz said on March 7 that, unfortunately, the girls’ team won’t have a spring season, but the boys’ team hopefully would. The six-member group was recently competing in tournaments as a club team. Malibu snatched two victories at a tournament in Anaheim on March 20. A day after the pair of triumphs, senior libero Liam Moore said playing club volleyball was great, but the Sharks are aching to play a high school season. 

“Everybody is pretty committed; I’m pretty committed,” he said. “Last year, we didn’t get a season because of COVID. I’m really looking forward to getting to play, hopefully.”

Sebastian Quinonez, a middle blocker, said playing high school volleyball would end his final months in high school “with a bang.”

“I want to be out there with my boys winning our league,” he said. “Having something to cap off my senior year means a lot.” 

Saenz isn’t concerned about the coronavirus spreading among players competing against each other. He said the players will be cautious in their actions off the court to prevent the spread of the sickness. 

“They are going to be so protective of their season,” he said. “They are going to make better choices in order to not shut down their programs.” 

Stickney said allowing student athletes to have sports seasons helps them balance things out with their academics. 

“This is a reward,” she said. “I think this is helping them get through their school year.”

Stickney, speaking of her squad, said, “These girls realize what a blessing it is.”