Heaps of highlights for Hillmen

Looking Back At 2009-10: Placer
By: Todd Mordhorst, Journal Sports Editor
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After a topsy-turvy 2008 football season, Placer High took a more conventional route to success last fall. The result was the same – another trip to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV championship game. The Hillmen football squad made more history in 2009, highlighting the 2009-10 year in athletics on The Hill. Placer hit just one road bump during the regular season – a bitter 13-6 loss to upstart Lincoln at Le Febvre Stadium. The Hillmen recovered and enjoyed a school-record three playoff victories on their home field. The highlight was a thrilling 15-14 victory over Sonora that sent Placer to the section title game. Senior Dalton Dyer – whose court case added much drama to the 2008 title run – hit Cameron Southward with a halfback pass to set up a late touchdown. Senior tailback Asher Gotzmer sped into the corner of the end zone on an all-or-nothing two-point conversion run to clinch the win. The Hillmen ran into juggernaut Modesto Christian in the Division IV championship game in Stockton. Placer hung tough with the explosive Crusaders, but lost 61-40. Modesto Christian went on to win the CIF State Division III Bowl Game. The Hillgals volleyball team turned in perhaps the best season in school history thanks in large part to a wildly talented senior class. Led by setters Kelsey Lardner and Colleen Stafford, Placer cruised to an 11-1 Pioneer Valley League record and the league championship. Only a star-studded St. Mary’s team kept the Hillgals from playing for a Sac-Joaquin Section Division II title. Placer finished 18-8. The Hillgals will miss seniors Kathryn Reale, Julia Dorsey, Carly Fox, Stafford and Lardner. But the Hillgals should be strong again next fall as sophomores Michaela Leonard and Gabby Orteza return to lead the way. Placer did not slow down on the cross country trail in 2009. With seniors Lucas Stancliff and Shannon Harcus leading their respective boys and girls’ squads, the Hillmen dominated the Pioneer Valley League for a third straight season. The Placer boys took it a step further as Stancliff placed third to lead the Hillmen to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III championship. Sophomore Christian Finkbeiner had a big meet, finishing fifth, while Clay Campbell, Gordon Sproul and Jaron Launer also ran well. Harcus followed up on her second-place finish at the section meet with an outstanding 12th place at the CIF State Championships. The Placer girls golf team came up with its best season in many years thanks to junior Sydney Ryan and freshman Hannah Gregg. Placer took second in the Pioneer Valley League and should be even better next fall with its entire team coming back under coach Carol French. In boys soccer, injuries and defections kept Placer from competing for a playoff berth. The Hillmen finished 13-9-2 overall and 6-5-1 in the PVL. Senior Travis Tidd had a banner year for the Hillmen. Jose Arellano, Mitchell Maddox and Clay Campbell were also strong, along with goalkeeper Nigel Pell. WINTER The Placer wrestling legacy has officially been re-ignited. The Hillmen dominated the Pioneer Valley League in 2009-10 to win their third straight league title. Led by a senior class stocked with talent and experience, Placer took second in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV Championships and was well-represented at the section championship individual tournament. Among the top performers for the Hillmen were senior twins Aaron and Mitchell Maddox, senior Jake Styler, senior Dalton Richardson, senior Carl Pavich, junior Andrew Naleway and junior Joe Thornton. The Hillgals continued their dominance on the slopes with their second straight state skiing title in March at Mt. Shasta. Junior Karly Kenworthy stole the show, beating all of her male counterparts in the giant slalom and cruising to her second straight individual title. Senior Haley Meyer took third overall and senior Paige Rothe was sixth. Senior Caty O’Connor wrapped up her sensational snowboarding career in style, winning her third state title. O’Connor won both the giant slalom and slalom races to claim the overall victory. Junior Emma Obray turned in a 12th place finish at state. The Placer boys basketball team turned in a very strong season that ended with a trip to the playoffs for the first time in three years. Seniors Michael Jensen and James Taber led the team in December, when the Hillmen won championships at the Rail City Classic and Antelope Christmas Classic tournaments. In Pioneer Valley League play the Hillmen won five games in a row, including a stunning 73-68 victory at Colfax on Jan. 26. Placer finished PVL play with an 8-4 record to take third place. The Hillmen traveled to Manteca for a first-round Division III playoff game. They battled the Buffaloes tough through three quarters before the home team pulled away for an 81-63 win. The Placer girls hoops team suffered a rare losing season as coach Tony Camillucci returned to the bench after two years away. The Lady Hillmen were 8-17 overall and 5-7 in the Pioneer Valley League. The highlight victory of the season was a thrilling 60-54 overtime win over a talented Whitney team at Earl Crabbe Gym on Jan. 14. Senior Kayla Reeves landed all-PVL honors after leading Placer in scoring. Senior guard Kelsey Lardner also had a strong season along with senior forward Bethany Feis. SPRING Placer High’s track and field squad once again set the standard for spring sports on the Hill. Senior Brett Crider made the biggest noise, wiping out the school record in the triple jump earlier in the year and extending the mark several times thereafter, including an eye-popping 48 feet, 2-inch leap at the Pioneer Valley League Championships. Crider won the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Meet crown to earn a trip to the CIF State Championships in Fresno. Senior Lucas Stancliff was a big part of the Hillmen’s run to second place at the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III Meet. Sierra of Manteca edged Placer by a single point for the title. Stancliff starred in the 800 meters, taking sixth place at the Masters Meet. Senior Max Fagan turned in an outstanding season in the hurdle events while Jake Styler (shot put), Ryan Sage (pole vault), Clay Campbell (1,600, 3,200) and the 4x400 relay squad were very strong. The Placer girls were hit hard by injuries late in the season, but not before claiming the Pioneer Valley League championship in thrilling fashion. The balanced Hillgals outlasted El Dorado by one point to take the PVL title. Seniors Shannon Harcus (1600, 3200), Cauleen Doughty (400), Kayla Reeves (800), Kelsey Lardner (high jump, long jump) and Bethany Feis (shot put) performed well for the Hillgals. Look for youngsters Shelby Crider (hurdles), Niki Winnet (pole vault) and Ellie Doughty to make noise in 2011. In baseball, the Hillmen could not reach the heights they found in 2009 when they won the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV championship. But it wasn’t for lack of effort. Placer was eliminated from playoff contention less than 24 hours before the postseason began, falling in a one-game playoff to Lincoln and finishing fourth in the PVL at 6-6. Senior Cameron Southward gave the Hillmen a spark with his pitching and his play at third base. Senior Anthony Amara overcame a knee injury to contribute late in the season while Matt Ryan was steady at the leadoff spot. The future looks bright for the Hillmen. Sophomore Ryan Mason was the team’s top pitcher while catcher Michael Reale will also be back for two more seasons. Freshman Eddie Vanderdoes was called up midway through the season and put up astounding numbers. The first baseman could be Placer’s next star. The Hillmen boys golf squad won their first Pioneer Valley League crown in over 20 years. Junior Rob Schauble was the team’s ace while Ryan Holden was a steady contributor for coach Greg French. The Placer girls soccer team could not keep pace with rivals Colfax and Whitney in the Pioneer Valley League, but the Hillgals finished 14-8-2 overall and 7-4-1 in the PVL. Junior Emma Obray had a big year for Placer, scoring eight goals while senior Stephanie Bonitata scored 11. Junior Laura Nash led the team with 13 assists. It was another spring, another Pioneer Valley League banner for Placer’s tennis program. Led by a loaded boys’ ladder, the Hillmen cruised through league play unblemished and made it to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III final. Escalon edged Placer 4-3 in the championship match. Seniors Will Huskey, Dan Ragusano and Cameron McCallister will be missed. The Hillgals’ softball team struggled to a 2-10 record in the PVL, but Courtney Phillips was the lone senior for Placer. Junior Kacy Romero was tremendous for the Hillgals along with junior catcher Taylor Graham and freshman shortstop Brooke Stufflebean. Senior Ryan Studebaker was the story for the Placer swimming team. After signing with UC Berkeley, Studebaker took second in the individual medley and third in the 100-meter breaststroke at the Sac-Joaquin Section Championships. Jason Cole, who starred for the Placer boys volleyball team in the 1990s returned to his alma mater to coach the boys this spring. The Hillmen struggled to a 4-20 season despite outstanding seasons from seniors Conner McKenzie and Brendan Lewis. Lewis landed a spot in the Sac-Joaquin Section Optimist All-Star Game.