Malibu High sports off to a strong starting season

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Cross country, football, tennis, volleyball and water polo are all looking strong.

By Sean Lynch/Special to The Malibu Times

The end of the summer marks many things. To the students of Malibu High School it means a return to the classrooms and the start of the fall sports season. For the Sharks, six teams return to their various playing fields for the fall sports season. The sports include football, boys’ and girls’ cross country, girls’ volleyball, girls’ tennis and boys’ water polo.

The Sharks girls’ tennis team has the honor of being the defending Division 5 CIF champions. A season ago, the team went 18-2 and had a perfect run through the postseason. While defending their championship will be a tough task, the team does have the advantage of returning all but one player from last year’s squad.

“We are basically the same team as last year,” co-head coach Chris Ruetinger said. “We have the talent and the experience to repeat.”

Senior Kelly Stewart, who is ranked No. 15 in Southern California in the 18-year-old singles division, leads the team. Also leading the team is a pair of sophomores, Dalya Perelman and Chelsea Mosser, both also ranked in their age bracket.

“They are really carrying our team right now,” Ruetinger said. “In six matches on the season, they have collectively only lost about three out of 54 matches.”

As champs, however, the Sharks face charged-up competition. The team has gotten off to a 4-3 start on the season, with all three losses coming to top 10 ranked teams. “The bulk of our team is sophomores and we have the makings of a dynasty set up,” Ruetinger said. “I expect we will come in first in the Frontier League and if we stay healthy, [we] should go deep into the playoffs with a chance to repeat.”

Confident in the team’s singles play, Ruetinger said that the doubles play would probably control their fate. “Finding some consistency in our doubles play will likely decide how far we go this year,” Ruetinger said.

Another Sharks team coming off of a very successful season is the boys’ water polo team. The 2003 campaign saw the team post a 21-7 record and advance to the CIF quarterfinals where they lost to the eventual CIF champions. The 2004 team is hoping to build off of last year’s successes and advance even further this year into the postseason.

Of the four returning players from last year’s squad, head coach Mike Mulligan said he is expecting a big offensive year from 2-meter man Nick Rollins. “He is strong, possesses several different shots and forces a lot of kick out for us,” Mulligan said, adding that the defense is anchored by another returning player, Kelly Jacobson. “He’s a great, smart defender who currently leads the team in steals,” the coach said.

Mulligan said there are some newcomers who are making an early impact on the team. “Blake Hubbell leads the team in assists and uses his speed to lead our counter attack,” Mulligan said. “Bennett Sherman is a strong 2-meter man who has greatly improved his speed.”

The team has gotten off to an excellent 13-1 start. “With the exception of a few tough games in October, we have finished the tough part of our schedule,” Mulligan said. “With the rest of the schedule we just want to continue improving our speed, defensive efforts and special situations.”

Another team not quite satisfied with how the 2003 season ended is the girl’s volleyball team. “We went 8-12 on the season and tied for third in the Frontier League,” head coach Carlos Gray said. “We lost in a one-game playoff and didn’t make the postseason.”

The team returns four starters from a year ago and will be led by returning junior Tara Edie. “She was second-team all-league as a sophomore and should achieve that, if not more, this year,” Gray said.

Another player who, Gray said, is going to have a major impact on the season is Alex Wolf. “She is stepping into the role of our setter, and how successfully she can adjust to that role will have a good deal to do with our success as a team,” Gray said.

The team is off to a 2-2 start to the season. “Where we go from here is entirely up to the development of our players,” Gray said. “It’s a very tough league and, really, our season could go either way from here.”

“As a team we want to place in the league and make the playoffs,” Gray added. “Last season left a sour taste in the mouths of the returning players and we want to take care of business this year.”

The Sharks’ football team is looking to completely turn things around from last season where they went 4-5 and failed to make the playoffs.

Head coach Rich Lawson has a foundation to build upon for this season, returning 14 players from last year’s squad. Offensively, the team is run by senior quarterback/middle linebacker Jonathan O’Neal, junior tailback/corner back Miles Edman and junior receiver/corner back Garrett Brizendine. The defense is anchored by senior defensive end/full back Andrew Heric and senior defensive end Thomas Oden.

Coupled with his returning players, Lawson said that the players who have moved up from last year’s junior varsity team are really starting to make their presence felt on the field. “The sophomores won six games last year and now as juniors are really making a big impact on the varsity team,” Lawson said.

After dropping their season opener, the team has regrouped and won four games in a row. Just five games into the season, the team finds itself just one win shy of their total from a year ago. “I’m feeling pretty good right now with where we are after four games,” Lawson said. “You need to be at least a .500 team to qualify for CIF, which is one of our goals, so at 4-1 we are off to a good start.”

Jeremy Johnson takes over the head coaching duties this year for the Sharks’ boys’ and girls’ cross country teams. Johnson inherits a young team with only seven returning runners. Johnson said returning runner senior Kitty Smith leads the squad. Smith qualified for CIF last year and returns looking to improve upon success.

Despite the team’s youth, Johnson said there is plenty of talent. “Becki Ottusch just ran the third fastest time ever for a Malibu female at 19:56,” Johnson said. “The guys to watch are sophomore Stopher Eldridge, who is running really well, and freshman Cameron Burrell.”

Things are already going well on the young season as the boys’ team has already taken home a first place performance. “As far as I know, that is the first time a Malibu boys’ cross country team has ever taken first,” Johnson said.

“My goal is to just keep getting more people out and having fun,” Johnson said. “We’re going to go out and do what we can and, hopefully, we can get some individuals and maybe even the teams into CIF.”