Sports staff lay out their top ten winter athletes
February 27, 2017
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#1: Shelbie McKay
Taking the top spot on the winter sports list is senior girls basketball shooting guard Shelbie McKay. The four-year varsity player averaged a Capital Valley Conference league high of 16.7 points per game as well as 7.5 rebounds per game. McKay also earned the honor of CVC Most Valuable Player and CVC All League.
McKay led the team offensively and defensively in its successful 21-8 season. She reached the 1,000-career-point mark midway through this year and continued to excel after that, scoring 32 points in the girls’ recent win over the Ponderosa Bruins. McKay also leads the Tigers in steals, averaging 5.0 per game.
According to senior center Isabelle Bautista, McKay’s work ethic and motivation brings out the best in her teammates.
“She’s an intense player and she brings that energy to games and practices,” Bautista said. “She pushes everyone to go hard in every aspect of the game which translates to success on the court.”
#2: MACKENZIE GILL
Taking the second spot on our list is sophomore Mackenzie Gill. The second-year varsity forward led the team in goals with 14 and recorded 11 assists this season.
After already having one season of experience at the varsity level, Gill has more than quintupled her assist tally from last season’s total of two. She also netted two hat tricks this season, one of which was in the team’s 5-2 win against River City in the first round of playoffs last week.
Senior midfielder McKenna Andrew believes Gill’s efforts this season were integral to the team’s success and will be for years to come.
“The amount of goals and assists she’s had this year really shows how much practice and commitment she gives to this sport,” Andrews said. “I truly see Mackenzie being a huge part of the varsity team for the next two years and will continue playing after high school”
#3: SEAN GRANUCCI
Senior varsity boys basketball guard Sean Granucci closed out his high school career with his best season yet, earning himself the third spot on the list. His points per game and assists per game averages were the highest they have ever been this year, and he also earned all-CVC honors.
As a guard and one of the team’s best shooters, Granucci was able to score from all over the court and especially thrived from outside the three-point line.
Four-year teammate and center senior Cameron Anderson believes that Granucci’s work over last summer helped improve his shot for this season and made him a more versatile player overall.
“The biggest thing that Sean did this year was he really worked on his jump shot this summer,” Anderson said. “He had always been good at getting to the rim, but this summer he really expanded his game.”
#4: RYAN BRANIGAN
Senior center midfielder and team captain Ryan Branigan comes in at number four. Branigan is a three year varsity soccer player who led the Tigers to their first playoff appearance this year since joining the Capital Valley Conference.
On offense, Branigan scored two goals and had seven assists this year, which helped the boys finish in third place in the CVC. He also helped anchor down the defense, which conceded only nine goals in league play – the fewest in the CVC this year.
Senior forward Braden Triplett believes that although the statistics might not seem to show it, Branigan was one of the main reasons for the Tigers’ success this season.
“Even though Ryan hasn’t done a lot of stuff like scoring he still helps our team a ton through the leadership he shows,” Triplett said. “He knows the game very well and always gives advice on how to take on a team or what we need to work on. He’s [very] helpful in that way.”
#5: JAKE SOLSO
Weighing in at 152 pounds and the number five spot is varsity wrestler junior Jake Solso. Before even competing in the Masters tournament last weekend, Solso had already earned 18 pins, 37 takedowns, 187 points and 25 wins in just 33 matches this season.
Junior wrestler Miles Banks believes that Solso is an exceptional teammate who leads by example by showing that hard work and practice can lead to drastic improvement.
“He shows that you have to push yourself everyday at practice,” Banks said. “How far he’s come for a wrestler, from not even wrestling freshman year and barely wrestling at all sophomore year to this – it’s impressive.”
Banks also said that Solso’s ability and eagerness to try new things, such as techniques or moves, in matches have also been a factor in his dominance this season.
“He’s really outgoing when it comes to wrestling.” Banks expressed. “He’s never afraid to try new things in a match even if he’s not sure how well it will work.”
#6: TOMMY EDWARDS
Varsity basketball forward Senior Tommy Edwards comes in at number six on the list. Scoring the second-highest amount of points on the team this year, Edwards was vital to the Tigers’ offense.
He scored many of his points from beyond the three-point arc, but also could easily drive to the basket for quick floaters and layups, making him a serious all-around threat to opponents.
Even with his many offensive capabilities, coach Greg Granucci believes that Edwards was not just a scorer and that he evolved into a well-rounded player this season.
“Tommy has become more of a complete player this year,” Granucci said. “The last couple of years he has kind of been a scorer, and this year he kept scoring but also started to facilitate a little bit more which really helped us out. In practice, also, he became a leader and really pushed everyone to do their best.”
#7: AUSTIN WEHNER
Taking the number seven spot is sophomore Austin Wehner.
Wehner burst onto the varsity soccer scene this year as a forward and was a major force against opposing teams, leading the team with 15 goals.
His offensive success helped lead the Tigers to the playoffs where he continued to excel, scoring two goals in the Tigers’ 3-1 comeback win over the Rodriguez Mustangs in the first round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II bracket.
Senior goalkeeper Kyle Kellogg realizes the young player’s talent and knows that he was a crucial component in the Tigers’ dominance this season.
“He has been an amazing asset to the team,” Kellogg said. “He is the strength of the offense and has been playing great all year.”
Wehner is considering continuing his soccer career at higher levels and may try out for the Sacramento Republic Football Club’s Academy program this summer.
#8: JESSICA VANDERHAEGEN
Coming in at the number eight spot is varsity girls soccer player senior Jessica VanDerHaegen. The three year varsity forward has been a key offensive threat for the Tigers this season, having racked up seven goals and seven assists. The numbers indicate this season has been VanDerHaegen’s strongest performance yet.
According to teammate senior Juliette Oliver, the senior’s activity on the offensive end has helped lead the Tigers through the season and into their playoff push. VanDerHaegen has scored and/or assisted goals in 11 of the girls’ 19 games so far.
Oliver believes that VanDerHaegen is a leader on the field and her engagement in every play makes her an important factor in the team’s success.
“Her hard work on and off the field really inspires us,” Oliver said. “She makes the plays happen. Without her, our scoring plays wouldn’t even have started, and ultimately we wouldn’t be as successful as we are now.”
#9: NATE RICHARDSON
Junior Nate Richardson stepped up big time for the varsity boys basketball team this year and earned a well-deserved spot on this list at number nine. Richardson was tasked with filling the shoes of senior center Cameron Anderson, who broke his foot early in the season and was unable to play.
Richardson’s strength is his ability to finish around the rim, even when closely guarded, scoring the majority of his points in the paint.
According to forward junior Cooper Baddley, Richardson rose to the occasion and was a vital piece of the Tigers’ offensive and defensive machine.
“He stepped up when the team needed him and also surprised all of us for turning into one of the biggest parts of the offense,” Baddley said. “We wouldn’t have gotten to where we did without him.”
#10: ARI MCCURRY
Closing out the list at number ten is varsity girls basketball center Ari Mccurry. Standing at 6’5”, Mccurry towers over the majority of players on the court and uses this to her advantage on both offense and defense.
She averaged 9.5 points per game, good for second best on the team, and led the Tigers in rebounds and blocks with averages of 8.4 and 2.8 per game, respectively.
Point guard junior Jada Kranig, sees great improvement in Mccurry’s game since last year, noting Mccurry’s devotion in practice.
“She worked really hard this past year to get where she is now,” Kranig said. “We’ve all struggled getting the ball to the middle and she’s gotten to the point where she can come to it now and grab it with two hands.”
Senior point guard Skyler Rubey recognizes Mccurry’s versatility and strength.
“She’s been a very key asset to our team,” Rubey said. “She’s a well rounded player and is a lot stronger than most people think.”