Orange Lutheran High School celebrated 16 of their senior athletes this week as they signed letters of intent to continue their athletic careers at the collegiate level.
Two separate ceremonies honoring the Lancers across nine sports were hosted in The Ellwein Center in front a limited group of family and friends. To view video recordings of the ceremonies, click here for February 1 and here for February 3.
“We are so excited to celebrate these young men and women as they’re going to embark on their journeys to compete at the next level,” said OLu Interim Athletic Director, Karen Kekipi. “This accomplishment speaks so much to these athletes’ character, diligence and discipline to work hard to achieve this goal. You’ve gotten it done in the classroom. You’ve worked hard and invested so much in your athletic pursuits. We in the athletic department and across campus are so proud of you.”
Kekipi acknowledged the immeasurable support each athlete has received from family and coaches alike.
“We know that none of this would be possible without your loving parents, family and friends,” said Kekipi. “Their support is abundant. It is your loved ones who continued to support you along the way and helped you to achieve this goal.
“A big thanks also goes out to our coaching staff for their servant hearts and continued leadership and mentorship to help you to reach this goal. They have played such a large role in your lives, and we are blessed to have them as part of Orange Lutheran Athletics.”
Two seniors from OLu’s girls volleyball program made their commitments to play at the next level.
Riley Ananias will be continuing her volleyball career at Providence College. The three-year varsity player and team captain slotted in as setter and libero for the Lancers.
“Riley is known by her teammates and coaches as a hard-working and unselfish player,” said OLu girls volleyball assistant coach, Kristi Bowers. “Riley puts the needs of the team above herself, stepping in to play multiple positions. It is Riley’s work ethic, paired with a positive attitude, that makes her a player any college would be blessed to have. Riley put in many extra hours, even during the pandemic, to keep her skills sharp and pursue her dream of playing at the next level.”
In addition to athletics, Ananias is a member of National Honor Society and serves the campus as an Ignite Mentor. She is grateful for her how her support system has kept her motivated throughout her playing career.
“Thank you to my family for all of your love and support,” said Ananias. “Thank you for pushing and encouraging me, through the good times and bad. I couldn’t have done it without you!”
Outside hitter Mia Jerue committed to play volleyball for Cal State Fullerton. Also a team captain for the Lancers, the four-year varsity player was a member of the team’s 2017 CIF championship and was a 2019 1st Team All-Trinity League honoree.
“Mia is the player every coach dreams of coaching,” said OLu volleyball head coach, Henry Valiente. “She is hard working, talented, has a great volleyball IQ and is a great team player. She has embraced her role as team captain this year, and has really taken the time to mentor the younger underclassmen. She is someone who leads by example every day, on and off the court. Because Mia puts in 100 percent and is fully committed to getting better, she has earned her way to play at the collegiate level.”
Jerue is also a member of National Honor Society, as well as an Ignite Mentor, and acknowledged those who have helped shape her into the athlete and person she is today.
“I would really love to thank all of my coaches, teammates, family and friends for all of their constant love and support,” said Jerue. “I wouldn’t be where I am today without them.”
From OLu boys volleyball, three Lancers will be playing for collegiate programs.
Team captain Connor Bloom has signed to play volleyball for Long Beach State. The outside hitter and four-year varsity player was a member of the school’s 2018 CIF-SS Division 2 championship and 2018 CIF State Regional championship.
“What is amazing about Connor is the way that he leads by example,” said Valiente. “He is often the first in the gym to set up the equipment, showing the underclassmen what servant leadership looks like. His willingness to do anything for the team shows why he is ready to play at the next level. It is rare that you come across a player who is talented, hard working and humble.”
Bloom thanked those who have supported him along the way during his playing career and the recruiting process.
“Big thanks to all my family,” said Bloom. “You have helped to shape me into a man. And big thanks to my coaches who have each added to who I am as an athlete.”
Lancer setter Riley Oh will be continuing his academic and athletic careers at MIT. Also a member of the 2018 CIF-SS and CIF State Regional championship teams, Riley Oh is a 2019 2nd Team All-Trinity League honoree.
“In his position, he doesn’t always get the glory, he doesn’t always get the kills, but he sets up his teammates in the best possible way,” said OLu boys volleyball assistant coach, AJ Christensen. “He constantly challenged me and our staff to be more prepared and always demanded a lot from his teammates. Riley was always the natural leader on the team, even if he doesn’t always get the glory. His mind always works to see what’s next, and he makes sure that his teammates are on the same wavelength that he is.”
The four-year varsity player is a member of the school’s STEM Academy, a National Honor Society member and an AP Scholar with Distinction.
“I’d like to thank my family and friends for supporting me and helping me reach this point,” said Riley Oh. “I’d also like to thank my coaches at Balboa Bay and here at Orange Lutheran for helping me grow and improve on and off the court. Finally, thank you to my teachers for preparing me for the academic rigor at MIT.”
Riley will be joined by his identical twin brother Grant Oh, who has also committed to playing volleyball for MIT. An outside hitter who has played four years on the Lancers’ varsity squad, Grant Oh is a 2018 CIF-SS and CIF State Regional champion, as well as a 2019 1st Team All-Trinity League honoree.
“Grant has never been the most vocal leader on the court, but he hasn’t needed to be,” said Christensen. “With some great upperclassmen before him, and Connor and Riley next to him, he has led by example every step of the way. The competitiveness he has shines through in every practice, every drill and every touch of the volleyball. He consistently pushed his teammates to be better, and you knew when Grant had something to say, it was game time, he’s getting the ball and he’s putting the ball away.”
Grant Oh is also a STEM Academy member, a National Honor Society member and an AP Scholar with Distinction, as well as an Ignite Mentor on campus.
“Thank you to all of my friends, family, teachers and coaches at both Orange Lutheran and Balboa Bay who have shaped me to become the person I am today,” said Grant Oh.
Runner Sophia Gutierrez committed to the women’s cross country program at UC Santa Barbara. The three-time team captain is a 2019 Trinity League and CIF-SS Division 4 champion and helped bring the Lancers’ program back to the top in distance running.
“It’s not the league title, the CIF championship or individual accolades that make me the most proud of Sophia,” said OLu cross country assistant coach, TJ Oros. “It’s the way she developed into a strong leader that wasn’t afraid of high expectations or a major challenge.”
“Sophia is a once-in-a-lifetime athlete that you get the opportunity to coach,” added OLu cross country head coach, Kristen Goossens. “It is not the miles that she has run, or the tenacity that she brings to the starting line every time she races that separates her from the rest of her peers. It is the thousands of hours she has spent outside of her sport doing the little things that have, and will continue to, elevate her to an elite status.”
Gutierrez was also named 2017-2019 1st Team All-Trinity League and All-County Team, 2019 All CIF-SS Division 4 Girls Cross Country Team, and she was a CIF-SS Division 3 3200 meter finalist.
“I would first like to thank my mom and dad,” said Gutierrez. “They have been my biggest support throughout my running career and have always had my best interest at heart. I would also like to thank all of my coaches that have helped me get where I am today. Jerry Palazzo, Kristen Goossens, TJ Oros, and Connor Kridle, have made a huge impact on my running career. I could not be where I am today without each of them coaching me through running. I would like to thank my friends and family who have supported me in my sport and been my encouragement. Lastly, I would like to thank God for giving me these opportunities and being here for me through this whole process.”
Three Lancer athletes from the school’s aquatics program have committed to continuing their respective sports at the collegiate level.
Mid-distance swimmer Felicity Holdsworth will be continuing her swimming career at California Baptist University. Holdsworth transferred to OLu as a sophomore and competed in one meet for the Lancers last spring before COVID-19 shut down her junior season.
“When we met, I was so excited to see her swim…because I knew who she was and where she was coming from in her swim ability,” said OLu head swim and dive coach and head girls water polo coach, Ed Carerra. “We saw some glimpses of greatness at that (one) meet. Hopefully she gets an opportunity this year to compete and share her talents with the rest of the Trinity League.”
Holdsworth competes in the 200, 500, 1000 and 1650 yard freestyle events, as well as the 200 yard backstroke. She is thankful for her parents, sister Juliette and coach Alex Nieto for their support.
“Dear mom and dad, thank you for making me into the student athlete I am today,” said Holdsworth. “Thank you for teaching me dedication, discipline and the drive to succeed in my sport. I will forever be grateful for how you believe in me. Your dedication to my life’s dream has not gone unnoticed. You made every goal I set for myself possible to achieve.”
Girls water polo goalkeeper Laine Hourigan is headed to USC to continue her playing career.
“Laine has been such an asset to our team this year,” said Carerra. “With the way things played out due to Covid, she has brought leadership, maturity and has established a culture of the team that brought back tradition and positivity. It has been a pleasure to see her excel and mature into the person that she is. She always has a smile on her face when she comes to practice, and she always has a great attitude.”
Hourigan’s gratitude extends to her coaches and teammates, teachers and family.
“The blessings that have accompanied having an incomparable support group throughout my career [are] unfathomable,” said Hourigan. “To my club coaches and teammates, daily pushing me to my limits, thank you. To my teachers that assisted me through academics, thank you. A special thanks to my family whose love and support was more than enough, but took it a step further through constant involvement. Their unwavering love and words of encouragement made it possible for me to be standing here committed to USC. I’m thankful for my experiences and growth resulting from these individuals [being] a part of my journey. They’ve motivated me to become the athlete and, most importantly, the individual I am today.”
Diver Gabriella Russell will be joining the women’s diving program at Illinois State University. The four-year varsity team member competed at CIF in her freshman and sophomore years, placing 11th and 14th, respectively.
“Even though we didn’t have a big dive team…she was ultra-competitive at all her competitions and qualified for CIF,” said Carerra. “I’m so proud of her continuing her career at the next level at Illinois State University. I also pray that she gets to show her amazing talents this final year in the spring season.”
Russell is both a National Honor Society and California Scholarship Federation member and is grateful for those who have help to guide her through her diving career.
“Thank you to my family, coaches and teammates for all the support and guidance over the years,” said Russell. “I wouldn’t be where I am without you!”
From the softball diamond, two Lancers from the varsity softball team have signed to continue their playing careers.
“When I look at these two ladies sitting over there, I’m excited for our season to finally start,” said OLu softball head coach, Steve Miklos. “I not only see two talented players that are gifted and fortunate to be able to play at the next level, but I also see two young adults who best represent what Orange Lutheran is all about.”
Left-handed pitcher Lexi Lacy will be taking her skills to the University of Hawaii, Hilo. A junior year transfer, Lacy has yet to pitch for OLu, but is hopeful for a chance to help lead the Lancers in her final high school season.
“We’re really looking forward to seeing what she does for us in the circle this year,” said Miklos. “Lexi has good speed, great command of her pitches, is a hard worker and I know her goals are to get her ready for next year at Hawaii, Hilo.”
Lacy acknowledged her family, faith and extended support system that have brought her to where she is today.
“I want to thank my family for always being at every game and practice, cheering and supporting me,” said Lacy. “Without them, this wouldn’t have been possible. I also want to thank my boyfriend for pushing me to work hard, taking me out to hit and making sure I never give up. In addition, I want to thank every coach that has helped guide me into the player that I am today. Lastly, I want to thank God for receiving my prayers and leading me on the right path.”
Catcher Hailey McCarthy has committed to playing softball for Babson College. McCarthy transferred to OLu her sophomore year and is described as a “fundamentally sound catcher.”
“She has…strong blocking, a quick release to second and a good arm,” said Miklos. “She’s also a good line drive hitter who makes consistent contact at the plate. She’s going to be a big asset for our team this year, and we’re really looking forward to what Hailey does for us and the Lancers this season.”
McCarthy batted a .280 average in last year’s shortened season and is grateful to her family for helping her achieve her college goals.
“I wanted to say thank you to everyone that’s helped me throughout this journey because I couldn’t have done this without the guidance, support and help of my parents, coaches and friends,” said McCarthy. “Mom, thank you for driving me all over the planet for softball tournaments and lessons. Thank you for picking me up when I fell down and believing in me when I failed to find hope. Dad, thank you for being the first coach to believe in me and for being super honest and kind. Without your guidance and coaching, I wouldn’t even be playing softball, let alone at the collegiate level. Thank you for sacrificing your time and resources for not only me and my recruiting, but also that of all my teammates. You are the most generous and kind-hearted human being I’ve encountered, and I am so thankful that you’re helping put us all in our college homes.”
Varsity wrestler Zack Stone has signed to continue his wrestling career at Vanguard University. The three-year captain broke a number of OLu program records, including the most wins of any Lancer wrestler – all with no prior wrestling experience before arriving at OLu.
“He’s one of those individuals who makes you want to do your absolute best coaching,” said OLu wrestling head coach, Joe List. “He has such strong faith. His character and his faith are infallible. It is a pillar of who he is and how he competes. His work ethic is the reason why he excelled. Zack was a leader on and off the mat. His leadership ability was truly what we embody as an Orange Lutheran wrestler.”
Stone was a three-time CIF qualifier, a CIF placer, a CIF Masters placer and a CIF State qualifier in the very competitive 120-pound weight class.
“My mom and my dad have helped me so much, and a huge portion of anything I do in my life will be because of them,” said Stone. “I want to thank the rest of my family from my grandparents to my uncles, aunts and cousins for the insane amounts of support in anything that I do. Lastly, I would like to thank my coaches, both my wrestling coaches at OLu and also to my lifting coach J.R. Posadas. Without my coaches I would be nothing in this sport, and because of my coaches I am now blessed with the opportunity to continue my wrestling career at another great school.”
Four varsity Lancer football players have signed to continue their playing careers at the collegiate level.
Nationally ranked offensive lineman Jason White has committed to Oregon State University. The three-year varsity player is also a track and field Trinity League champion in the shot put.
“In the last four years, I’ve seen growth on and off the field as a humble and loyal teammate,” said OLu football head coach, JP Presley of White. “I know he values all who have helped him along the way to achieve his goals, a goal to play football at the national level at Oregon State. His perseverance, resiliency and faith really set this young man apart.”
Those who White credits with helping him on his journey to play collegiate football are his family, his faith and his coaches.
“I want to thank all the coaches who gave me the opportunity to play at each of their prestigious programs,” said White. “I also want to thank God [for] guiding me and helping me make my decision on where I will play at the next level. I also want to thank my amazing parents and my brother for the countless hours, money, blood, sweat and tears they put into helping me be the best version of me I can be on and off the field, while teaching me unmatched discipline and composure the whole time.”
Offensive lineman Fa’aeanu’u Pepe has signed to play football at Rice University. Pepe is also a National Honor Society member and spent four years in OLu’s Honors Choir program.
“He will be the first one to tell you he didn’t do it alone,” said Presley of Pepe. “His humility is far beyond his years. He is thoughtful, caring and reliable, a faithful young man whose commitment to his family is so evident in all that he does. His character, his spirit-filled heart and his commitment to excellence are unlike many I’ve seen.”
Family, coaches, teachers, teammates and his church family are among those Pepe acknowledged for helping him take these next steps in his academic and athletic careers.
“First, I'd like to thank the man up above for all that he's done for me and my family – all glory to God,” said Pepe. “Next, I would like to thank my parents for presenting me with opportunities to make it this far and go further. They worked so hard to put me in a private school and pushed me to work hard in the books and on the field. In general, I'd like to thank Orange Lutheran for preparing me for the next level in terms of athletics and academics.”
Safety Noah Chase has signed to continue his playing career at Kenyon College. The three-year varsity player tallied 59 tackles and 6 pass deflections during the 2019 season.
“His toughness, his discipline and his physicality always stood out for me,” said Presley of Chase. “He plays the game like a true competitor. He respects the opponents, he’s physical throughout the game and he demonstrates leadership to the other players around him.”
Chase’s support system of family, teachers, counselors and coaches are who he credits for helping prepare him for the next level.
“First off, I want to thank God, because without him, none of this would have been possible,” said Chase. “Next, I would like to thank my family for all their support and love throughout my life! Their sacrifices have shaped me into the person I am today. I want to thank Coach JP for giving me the opportunity to play football for you and supporting my family and I throughout the years.”
Three-year varsity player Aydin Bennett has committed to playing football for the University of La Verne. Described as “extremely coachable and reliable,” Bennett played a number of positions for the Lancers and embraced the meaning of the word “team”.
“He’s a player with a genuine love and support for his teammates and coaches,” said Presley. “Aydin never takes a day for granted. He embraces every snap and plays each down like it’s his last. He’s a phenomenal young man with a tremendous heart for people.”
Bennett is grateful for all those around him who have supported him on his path to play college football.
“First off, I would like to thank God for blessing me with the opportunity to further my education and athletic career,” said Bennett. “I would also like to thank my family and my coaches for always pushing me to be the best version of myself on a daily basis, my mother especially.”
While their new journeys are just beginning, Kekipi encouraged the Lancer athletes to keep their faith at the center of all they do as they pursue what God has in store for them in these next chapters.
“It has been so wonderful to see you excel and to continue on to your next adventure,” said Kekipi. “Remain steadfast in the Lord, as he will always carry you through. Never forget that his love is abundant and unconditional.”