In the final National Signing Day of the 2020-2021 school year, Orange Lutheran High School honored 12 Lancer senior student athletes as they made college commitments to continue in their respective sports at the collegiate level.
The socially distanced ceremony was hosted in The Ellwein Center on April 14, 2021, in front of limited family and friends.
“What a wonderful day it is to celebrate these great men and women on reaching their goals to compete at the next level,” said OLu Interim Athletic Director, Karen Kekipi. “Their accomplishments speak so much to their character in remaining diligent and disciplined in working hard towards this goal. You’ve invested so much in your athletic pursuits. We here at OLu are so proud of you.”
Four-year varsity tennis player Emily Thinnsen has committed to the University of Sioux Falls. The 2019 1st Team All-Trinity League player is known for her work ethic and commitment to the sport.
“Emily is a very smart, tenacious player on the court,” said OLu tennis assistant coach, Lindsey Motis. “If her opponent is going to take the win, she is going to make them work for it. She is very coachable, has always been willing to do what is asked by her coaches and is willing to do whatever is needed to benefit the outcome of the team as a whole.”
As a student athlete who is also a talented vocalist, Thinnsen is a member of OLu’s Honors Women’s Chorus and Creative Worship Team and is grateful for all who have contributed to her path as a Lancer.
“I would like to thank my coaches for pushing me to my hardest and making me a better player,” said Thinnsen. “I would also like to thank my parents for always coming to my tournaments and believing in me. Lastly, I want to thank God, for this would not be possible without Him.”
Emily Sirois has signed to play soccer for the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. The outside back and four-year varsity player is a two-time 2nd Team All-Trinity League honoree who is known for her talent and athleticism, as well as her leadership.
“Emily is a servant leader and cares deeply about her teammates on and off the field,” said OLu girls soccer head coach, Sarah Klinkenberg. “She makes those around her better, and she has a remarkable way of mentoring the younger players in the program. She has been a foundational leader and player in continuing to push Orange Lutheran soccer to the next level.”
Klinkenberg also stated that Sirois’ work rate, discipline and resiliency as an athlete are what set her apart. Sirois is looking forward to the next chapter of her playing career.
“I’d like to thank my family, my coaches and my teammates for shaping me into the player I am, and ultimately supporting me in my decision to play college soccer,” said Sirois. “I couldn’t have done it without you guys!”
OLu soccer goalkeeper Jude Jones will be continuing his playing career at Loyola Marymount University. The two-year varsity player and team captain has been a stellar example of what it means to pursue excellence on and off the field.
“Jude has worked extremely hard throughout this past fall and now into the spring and is willing to do whatever I ask him to do to put the team first,” said OLu boys soccer head coach, Jon Spencer. “He’s a player who exemplifies what every coach wants – a young man who puts Christ first in everything he does. The servant leadership example he sets within the team and around campus is critical to our team culture.”
Jones cited the many people who have been influential in helping him achieve his goal of playing soccer at the collegiate level.
“I’d like to thank God, my family and my friends for their constant support through my athletic career,” said Jones. “I’d also like to thank my coaches I have had through the years for pushing me and believing in my abilities. I’d specifically also like to thank my younger sister, Jensen, who is my little cheerleader both on and off the field. To those who doubted me, thank you. You give me the drive to work harder and to push myself to the limit every single day. To those that believe in me, you are the reason I don’t give up.”
Two distance runners from OLu’s girls cross country team made their commitments to compete at the next level.
Ishani Hansji has signed to run cross country with Lewis & Clark College. Hansji was part of the 2019 squad that earned the Lancers both Trinity League and CIF-SS championships.
“Within five minutes on my very first day of practice, I knew that you were going to be a very important component to our girls’ team success,” said OLu cross country head coach, Kristen Goossens. “I’m so proud of the way you have stepped up for your teammates, forgoing some of your own personal doubts, to lead this team to its current state. You being here today symbolizes the ultimate hope of what this program can bring to its athletes – to climb the ranks from the lower levels, to varsity, to becoming a CIF champion. Having your sport serve as a platform for your education is the hope of what all coaches want for their athletes.”
OLu cross country assistant coach, TJ Oros, spoke of Hansji’s “perfect stride” and how she has overcome the challenges that accompany racing to achieve where she is today.
“Ishani has grown so much over the last four years, both as a runner and as a person,” said Oros. “Her development as a runner really depended on figuring out how to embrace the pain that comes with the sport. After gaining some experience with the highs and lows of racing, she figured it out. In my opinion, learning to push through those mental barriers was one of Ishani’s greatest accomplishments as a runner. And I believe it is something that she will carry into her life and career beyond running.”
Hansji is looking forward to taking the next steps in her running career with the Pioneers’ program.
“I would like to thank my family and coaches for helping through this journey,” said Hansji. “I am excited for the future to come!”
Nicole Meyer has committed to run cross country and track and field for San Diego State University. The four-year varsity runner also served as a key component to the Lancers’ 2019 Trinity League and CIF-SS championships.
“In my 14 years of coaching, I have yet to work with someone who is as feisty, competitive, mentally tough and as headstrong as you are,” said Goossens. “You carry a confidence that instills fear and doubt into your competitors. However, you are honest, hard-working, gifted, and underneath all that toughness, a kind, generous and intelligent young woman. I’m so honored to call myself your coach. Nicole, I can’t wait to watch your running career develop over the next four years.”
“It has truly been a privilege to coach Nicole during her time at OLu,” added Oros. “She always had the talent and the competitiveness to be good. But when she embraced running as her sport, she became great. It wasn’t fair that her breakout seasons were shortened because of the pandemic, but she did not let that stop her from working hard and proving that she deserved to run at the next level. Her mentality over the last few seasons matched her running style – gritty and tough. For me, there’s no better example than Nicole for persevering through difficult situations and coming out of it successfully.”
Meyer credited her coaches, teammates and family for helping push her to achieve this next milestone.
“I would like to thank my coaches Kristen Goossens, TJ Oros, and Connor Kridle for helping to develop my athletic ability and invest in my future as a distance runner,” said Meyer. “Your guidance and coaching has helped make running D1 at SDSU possible. I’d like to give an additional thank you to my team who has made OLu an environment where I can thrive. I would also like to thank my family for their endless support and love.”
Seven Lancer seniors from OLu baseball made their commitments to play at the collegiate level.
Each year the senior players in the program come up with core values, words that become the focal point for the team that season. This year, the senior class came up with seven core values, and with seven senior ballplayers signing, OLu baseball head coach Eric Borba thought it would be fitting to designate one of those values to each player.
“Each of these men embodies what it truly means to be a Lancer,” said Borba. “They should be very proud of what they’ve accomplished by getting here today, both physically and academically, but I’m more proud of the Christian men they have become.”
Chris Canada will be continuing his playing career at San Diego State University. The pitcher has battled a number of challenges to be able to represent the Lancers this season on the mound.
“The core value that I chose for Chris is overcome,” said Borba. “We as a coaching staff waited over three years to see him pitch. Although he has helped our program offensively and defensively over the course of his career, he has not been able to show what is perhaps the greatest tool the Lord has blessed him with, which is his arm as a pitcher. Throughout high school, he has dealt with growth plate issues that have prohibited him from getting on the mound. Finally, over the course of the last year, he was cleared to pitch, and wow, have we seen him shine.”
In 17.1 innings pitched for the Lancers, Canada has an ERA of 1.61, 18 strikeouts, 5 walks and a .865 WHIP. The two-year varsity player is also on the school’s honor roll.
“Firstly, I would like to thank God for blessing me with this opportunity,” said Canada. “Thank you to my parents for being there through it all, not only on the long road trips, but also mentally. They have always been the best support system for me, and I can’t thank them enough. I would also like to thank my coaches for all they have done. They have helped so much, showing us not only how to be great players, but great men. I would finally like to thank all the teammates I’ve ever had. Each person has helped me in a different way, whether that being on or off the field, and without them I wouldn’t be the man I am today.”
Pitcher Ethan Collins has signed to play baseball at Pomona College. With a GPA of 4.61, Collins is a member of National Honor Society and California Scholarship Federation. He also serves as an OLu Ignite Leader on campus.
“Ethan demonstrates every characteristic of a young man who is accountable,” said Borba. “He is always doing the right thing, all of the time. Never do I have to worry about poor choices, disrespect or laziness. He’s going to give it everything he has, all the time, in every aspect of his life. On the field, Ethan is a pitcher who has tremendous ability. He has been blessed with a 90 mph arm and has an unbelievable amount of movement on his pitches.”
As both a starter and a reliever for the Lancers, Collins has an ERA of 1.75, 3 walks and a 1.00 WHIP in four innings pitched.
“I would like to thank my family, particularly my parents and brother, for always supporting me throughout my life,” said Collins. “They have shaped me into the person I am today. I would also like to thank all the coaches and people who have pushed me to get better over the years, giving me the opportunity to get to where I have.”
Lancer starting shortstop Justin DeCriscio has committed to play baseball for the University of San Diego.
“When I think of reliable, there’s a picture of Justin next to it,” said Borba. “He’s not only one of the most reliable athletes I’ve ever coached, but he’s one of the most reliable people I’ve ever met. On the field, we can rely on him to get the big hit, make the great play or do something special that lifts our team to another level. When not in game or practice, I can rely on him to take other players under his wing or give them a motivational talk, if needed. His leadership abilities are off the charts. Every ballplayer in our program looks up to Justin in every way.”
The four-year varsity player is batting .281 in 37 games with the Lancers with 13 runs, 17 stolen bases and a .392 OBP.
“I would like to give thanks to my family, my friends, my teammates and all of my coaches for helping me achieve my goals of playing college baseball,” said DeCriscio. “Without you all, I wouldn’t be the person I am today, on or off the field. I have learned a lot from each and every one of you and will cherish every moment we have together.”
Pitcher Gunther Mansfield is headed to Northwest Nazarene University. An OLu legacy with several family members who are alumni, Mansfield has “always bled Lancer red.”
“Although he might not have been gifted with a 90 mph arm or the greatest speed or the most power, he has worked hard to get to where he is today - hence, very determined,” said Borba of Mansfield. “I am very proud to see him signing with Northwest Nazarene today because there is no one else more deserving.”
After making the decision a couple of years ago to change his throwing mechanics to sidearm, Mansfield is now a reliable option for OLu out of the bullpen, having pitched in half of their games so far this season, and often getting the Lancers out of a jam. In 7 innings pitched, he has 6 strikeouts, 2 walks and a 3.00 ERA.
“I would like to thank my parents and my family for all the love and support they have given me through my athletic career,” said Mansfield. “[I am] thankful to the coaches that have taught me the game of baseball and how to be a good young man. [I am] thankful for the friends that have motivated me and encouraged me to be my best, [and I am] thankful for God blessing me with the ability to play the great game of baseball.”
Lancer pitcher Weston Millis has committed to play baseball at California State University, Northridge.
“Weston’s constant perseverance has enabled him to be here today, signing with a Division 1 university that competes in the Big West Conference,” said Borba. “Weston was never the biggest prospect. He started high school young and was physically behind many of the guys in his class. I knew right away, however, that he had the potential to be great. I always say that the path for each young ballplayer is different. For Weston, the perseverance to be great has always been there. He never shied away from a challenge and always trusted in the coaching staff to get him where he is. This young man can achieve some big things in his future, and I know his perseverance will allow him to reach those heights.”
When asked by the coaching staff last season to play on the JV team as a junior, Millis willingly played at the lower level and took the opportunity to develop his craft, allowing him the chance to continue his playing career at the collegiate level.
“First, I would like to thank my family,” said Willis. “My parents have helped me throughout my entire career and made me into the ballplayer I am today. I would also like to thank my coaches who not only made me a better baseball player, but also a better person. And finally, my friends and teammates, thank you for supporting and being there for me every pitch.”
First Team All-CIF player Matthew Polk is headed to Vanderbilt University, the defending NCAA baseball champions.
“Respect is a word that comes to mind when I talk about Matthew,” said Borba. “I respect everything about this young man. He is respectful to everyone he comes in contact with. Furthermore, a true baseball fan could only respect how he goes about his business. He’s always working to be the best he can be. We respect his talents, as there is not much he can’t do on a baseball field.”
As centerfielder and first baseman for the Lancers, Polk has a .423 batting average and was recently named MVP of the JSerra Classic, having helped OLu win the championship game. For his efforts at the tournament, the Orange County Register named him the OC Varsity boys athlete of the week on April 13, 2021.
“First and foremost, I want to thank my family for their support and love through my entire life,” said Polk. “Thank you to [the OLu coaches] for…allowing me into your program as a transfer and giving me the opportunity to go out and play. Thank you to my teammates for giving me respect as soon as I stepped foot on campus. Thank you to Ms. [Shevlin] for keeping me on track and aware of what I need to be doing to succeed in the classroom, as well as being someone to sit with during lunch and break.”
Pitcher Luke Summers has signed to play baseball for Harvey Mudd College. The two-year varsity player has a 1.11 ERA, 3 strikeouts and 1 walk in 8 innings pitched.
“Commitment is the core value I think of when I think of Luke,” said Borba. “His commitment to the program, to his teammates and in the classroom are second to none. Over the course of four years, I do not remember a time where I could question his commitment. He is always working hard and doing everything to get the most out of his God-given abilities. Luke has also become one of our most reliable pitchers. He is a strength thrower and gives us a chance to win every time he pitches. If our team is going to reach it’s goals, Luke is going to be a major piece in making that happen.”
Summers has been on high honor roll every semester at OLu, is a member of California Scholarship Federation, an AP Scholar with Distinction and part of the College Board National Hispanic Recognition Program. He carries a 4.62 GPA, the highest in OLu baseball program history.
“I would first like to thank my parents for helping support me through all my endeavors,” said Summers. “I would also like to thank my teachers for helping me develop into the student I am today. Lastly, I want to thank my coaches for giving me the help to get me to where I am today.”
Kekipi acknowledged the role of family, friends and the coaching staff at OLu for their efforts in guiding these student athletes.
“We know none of this would be possible without the incredible support of your parents, family and friends,” said Kekipi. “It is your loved ones who have prepared you along the way and helped you to achieve this incredible goal. And thanks also goes out to our coaches for their continued mentorship and tireless efforts during these years. They have played such a large role in your lives, and we are blessed to have them as a part of the athletic department.
“I’ve also been blessed to watch you compete over the years, and I’m so excited to see how you excel in your next adventure. Remain steadfast in the Lord, and never forget that his abundant and unconditional love will always carry you through.”