Orange Lutheran High School is proud to honor 19 senior student athletes across eight sports who have made the commitment to continue their athletic careers at the collegiate level.
In response to current stay-at-home orders due to COVID-19, the April 22 celebration took place virtually, and through a video message, OLu Athletic Director Paul Jones congratulated the athletes on this important milestone.
“While we can’t have this celebration on campus as we had hoped, the accomplishments of our student athletes are no less exciting, so we celebrate today from the safety of our homes,” says Jones. “To the athletes signing today, what you have accomplished is outstanding, not just on the field, but in the classroom as well. On behalf of the Athletics Department and OLu’s administration, congratulations to each of you as you take the next step in your athletic and academic careers.”
Boys Water Polo
Five Lancers from Orange Lutheran’s boys water polo program have made commitments to continue their playing careers at the collegiate level.
A standout both in the pool and the classroom, Mason Killion is headed to Princeton University to play water polo. The OLu Co-MVP tallied 93 goals in his time as a Lancer, 52 of them during his senior season. The 1st Team All-Trinity League honoree also got it done defensively with 215 career steals, including 96 single season steals and 7 single game steals in 2019 versus Loyola. Killion is also a member of the school’s STEM Academy, National Honor Society and is an AP Scholar with Honors.
“Mason has had such an impact on our program by setting the standard both in and out of the water,” says OLu boys water polo head coach, Nestor Nunez. “He pushes his limits every day, and in turn, lifts his teammates up by doing so. Mason was the ‘Navy Seal’ on the team, as he often had the toughest defensive assignment and happily accepted the challenge.”
Killion is looking forward to both the education and athletic opportunities that Princeton will provide, and he is grateful for his OLu coaches, trainers and teammates who have all invested in his growth.
“I would like to thank my coaches, especially Coach Steve and Coach Nestor, for helping me grow as an athlete and as a person,” says Killion. “I would also like to thank my parents for encouraging me to go to practices when it felt like the last thing I wanted to do. I’m very grateful for my teammates, who I wouldn’t trade for any other players to go through my career with. Finally, I would like to thank God for all the people I mentioned before and for putting them in my life.”
Riley Catino will be taking his goal-scoring touch to the men’s water polo program at California State University, Long Beach. As the 2019 Trinity League MVP, Catino amassed 212 career goals, leading his team in single season goals with 100 in 2019. As such, he was named 1st Team-All Trinity League and 1st Team All-County, as well as 1st Team All-CIF in both 2018 and 2019.
“This young man has demonstrated so much growth during his time with our program,” says Nunez. “His maturity has influenced our team against tough opposition and has demonstrated to the lower classmen what it means to play with character. Always the first one in and last one out of the pool, Riley led the team by example. He is mastering his skill set relentlessly and will be an absolute joy to watch at the next level.”
Grateful for his time as a Lancer, Catino refers to transferring to OLu as, “the single greatest decision I have made in my water polo career.” He is looking forward to his next chapter and will be taking everything he has learned from his time at OLu as an opportunity to bless others.
“I'd like to thank my parents, first off, for supporting me from the time I was four until now playing water polo,” says Catino. “I’d like to thank my teammates and coaches for helping me and pushing me to become the player I am today. Lastly, I’d like to thank God for allowing me to be able to play this sport for so long and blessing me with my abilities.”
In a step that will provide him the opportunity to serve our country, Cameron Burns will be playing water polo for the United States Air Force Academy. The varsity Lancer was a member of the 2016 CIF-SS Division 1 championship team, an experience that Burns valued as an opportunity to train with teammates who are some of the best players in the nation.
“Cameron has demonstrated to his peers what it means to be resilient,” says Nunez. “The amount of work he has put into his game was put on full display this last season. The way in which he approached the game and his presence of mind throughout the match consistently translated into positive possessions for us. Although not every goal had his name on it, almost all of them had his fingerprints all over it. His confidence in himself and his teammates always lifted the group at the right time. I believe he will be an absolute pleasure to watch in the college game.”
Burns is looking forward to the Air Force Academy as an opportunity to push himself mentally, physically and intellectually. And while he will miss his friends the most, he is looking forward to playing against them and seeing what they all achieve at the next level.
“I would like to first of all thank my family for supporting me and enabling me to participate in this sport,” says Burns. “I would also like to thank my coaches, Steve Carrera and Nestor Nunez, for developing me into the player I am today. Most of all I would like to thank my teammates, particularly the other seniors – Miles Wilson, Zack Baxter, Mason Killion and Riley Catino – as I could not have made it through the practices without them. They consistently pushed me to be better.”
Four-year varsity Lancer Miles Wilson will be taking the next step of his water polo career at the University of California, San Diego. A two-time Trinity League champion, as well as a member of the program’s 2016 CIF-SS Division 1 championship, Wilson was honored with a 1st Team All-Trinity League nod his senior season. He is also a member of National Honor Society and served as the school’s Ignite Program president.
“Miles has really impressed me throughout his time,” says Nunez. “This was another natural leader in the program that exhibited a lot of growth and maturation. Although a key scorer for our team, I have been blown away by his passing ability and how he sets up his teammates. He does a great job of anticipating getting himself into attacking positions that were one step ahead of the defender. He is going to be able to contribute immediately at the college level.”
Wilson will be studying international business and is looking forward to getting to know his new team, along with playing matches against his former teammates. He credits OLu with providing an environment that allowed him to thrive, from the coaching, conditioning, and training resources, to the teachers who viewed him as more than just a number and helped him stay focused on his goals.
“I would like to thank my parents and family, first and foremost, who allowed me to pursue my athletic and academic goals at a higher level at OLu than I otherwise would have,” says Wilson. “I would also like to thank my coaches who helped me to learn and grow not only as a player, but as a human being as well. Finally, I would like to thank my best friends and brothers that I got to play and practice with every day, because without their constant support, I could not have gone as far.”
Zack Baxter will be heading to the University of California, Irvine for water polo. A 2019 Trinity League champion, as well as a USA Water Polo Academic All-American 2017 – 2019, Baxter scored in 26 games for the Lancers, including 10 multi-goal games. The three-year varsity player also served his campus as an Ignite leader and a Writing Center tutor.
“I am so proud of this young man for his adaptability,” says Nunez. “There was an apparent struggle Zack went through when he first arrived, but to see him embrace the work and effort required to excel in his extracurricular activities was mind blowing. His leadership shows up every day in his ability to teach and relay information to his peers. His understanding of the game has evolved, and that was put on display this year. I have every bit of confidence that he will continue to polish his game and will have an impactful role in the college game.”
Baxter feels his time at Orange Lutheran significantly helped him develop his relationship with Christ, thanks to support from both faculty and his peers. He will miss everything about being a Lancer, from the culture, to the relationships, to the community, but is excited about the new opportunities in front of him and what the future has in store.
“Firstly, I would like to thank God for this blessing and opportunity he has placed in front of me,” says Baxter. “I would also like to thank my mom and dad for their time and effort in my water polo career…they have been in my corner since the beginning, and I am forever grateful. I would also like to thank my coaches, Coach Steve and Coach Nestor, for developing and growing me as both an athlete and a man…and for pushing, guiding and coaching me throughout my journey at Orange Lutheran. I would also like to thank Mrs. Lambert for always being there for me by talking about college with me or just helping me out along the way.”
Girls Water Polo
From the Orange Lutheran girls water polo program, Christiana Marchese will be attending Pomona College and competing for Pomona-Pitzer Athletics. Voted “Most Improved” in the 2020 season, Marchese is also a 1st Team All-Trinity League and 3rd Team All-CIF honoree. Additionally, the three-year varsity player is a member of National Honor Society, a three-year USA Water Polo Academic All-American and a 2019 CIF-SS Champions for Character award winner.
“Christy has been an amazing story of dedication, hard work and perseverance,” says OLu girls water polo head coach, Ed Carrera. “She came to our program as a sophomore and has blossomed into one of the best defenders and offensive players this year. Her confidence, demeanor and willingness to improve were an inspiration to her teammates and me. I’m so proud that she is going to continue her athletic career at Pomona-Pitzer. I think it is going to be a great fit, and the best is yet to come.”
Marchese is thankful for her time at OLu and acknowledges how the positive student-athlete high school experience placed a special network of teachers and friends into her life. She is looking forward to pursuing her passion for computer science, alongside continuing to play competitive water polo.
“I would like to thank my teammates, my coaches and my parents for always supporting me and pushing me to do my best throughout my water polo career and the college recruiting process,” says Marchese. “I would also like to thank God for giving me the resilience and strength to persevere through difficult times when I questioned myself and my athletic ability.”
Two members of the Orange Lutheran girls soccer program have committed to college programs.
Voted MVP of the OLu girls soccer program in both 2019 and 2020, Ashley Wielenga will be continuing her playing career at Chapman University. The four-year varsity player is also a two-time 1st Team All-Trinity League player, as well as a High Honor Roll and California Scholarship Federation member.
“Ashley is a phenomenal player, often the hardest worker on the field, and does it all with a fantastic, positive attitude,” says OLu girls soccer head coach, Sarah Klinkenberg. “She is coachable and willing to put in work. She was a huge leader in our program on and off the field. She played multiple positions from center back to midfielder, but wherever Ash was on the field, she demanded the ball and brought rhythm to the possession of the game. Off the field, she is an individual of high character and excels in the classroom. We are excited to watch Ashley play at the next level.”
Wielenga acknowledges that attending OLu has made her a better athlete, teammate and student, and has been a place where she has learned invaluable communication and time management skills. She would not trade anything for the memories she was able to make with her teammates, and while she will miss the support and community that comes with being a Lancer, she is looking forward to striving for her next set of goals.
“I would like to thank my family, teammates, coaches and God for helping me get to this milestone in my athletic career,” says Wielenga. “I wouldn't have been able to get to where I am without my family and coaches. My family has been my constant support system throughout my life and has always pushed me to do my best. My coaches and teammates shaped me into the player I am today and taught me the importance of hard work and unity. I thank God every day for all the blessings he has put into my life and for being my stronghold through everything.”
Lancer goalkeeper Megan Schellhase is headed to the University of Puget Sound to play soccer at the collegiate level. A three-sport athlete who also competed in cross country and track and field for the Lancers, Schellhase is an Ignite leader, a member of National Honor Society and California Scholarship Federation, as well as a National Merit Scholarship Commended Scholar.
“Megan has worked incredibly hard throughout her entire career at Orange Lutheran, and we are thrilled to see her play at the next level,” says Klinkenberg. “Being a multi-sport athlete for the Lancers, she has a great work ethic. She is a competitor on the field, technically sound in the goal and she’s able to cover all angles. When her team needs her to come up with a big save, she does so fearlessly. Megan is a great leader, and her hard work shows in the classroom as well. We look forward to seeing her excel as she continues to play soccer in college.”
Schellhase credits the OLu teaching and counseling staff for giving her the resources to effectively participate in multiple sports while maintaining strong academics. She will miss the Lancer community, but is looking forward to this next step where she will be able to challenge herself both on the field and in the classroom.
“I would like to thank my family for supporting me throughout the years and not letting me quit when I thought I wanted to,” says Schellhase, “and my many club coaches that I’ve played with, but especially my Slammers coaches for teaching me to believe in myself. Lastly, to all my teammates, I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t have them to play for and be better for.”
From the Lancers cheer squad, Keri Wolfe has committed to California Baptist University. She is a three-time World Championship qualifier, as well as a 2016 NCA Champion, a 2016 Summit Champion and a USA Champion.
Wolfe’s All-Star Cheer coach, Troy Hedgren, states that when it comes to her work ethic, she exemplifies legendary Coach John Wooden’s block of “condition.”
“She is a tremendous worker who understands that, ‘nothing worthwhile or lasting comes from ease and comfort,’” says Hedgren. “She learns from everything around her…and she continues to grow in faith because God is continuing to teach her that, ‘Physical exercise has some value, but spiritual exercise is much more important, for it promises a reward in both this life and the next.’ (1 Timothy 4:8). I have watched Keri grow from a young child into the wonderful young woman she is today. Her strength, passion, zeal, and drive have inspired me as a coach every day.”
Wolfe admits she will miss cheering at pep rallies and football games with her teammates, but is thankful for the opportunities and facilities that OLu provided to support her as an athlete. She is excited to take the next step in her career by joining one of the nation’s top collegiate cheer programs.
“First, I would like to thank my parents for never failing to provide for me throughout the years,” says Wolfe. “Cheerleading is not only one of the most time consuming sports, but also a high expense sport, and my parents never failed to show their support every step of the way. I additionally want to thank each and every one of the coaches who have worked with me over the years, and two very special coaches, Coach Mike Burns, and my favorite, Coach Troy Hedgren. I may have spent more time with some coaches than others, however, these coaches have devoted their time to me and have taught me so much more than the sport of cheerleading. Finally, I would like to thank all my family who has shown up, and everyone who has supported me over the years.”
Track & Field
The Orange Lutheran track and field program will see two of the team’s top jumpers move on to college athletics.
Long jump and triple jump specialist Sophia Hartwell will be heading to the track and field team at UCLA. Hartwell is the reigning 2019 Trinity League MVP and 2019 CIF-SS Division 3 champion in the triple jump and long jump. She also holds the school records in both events. Additionally, she is a 2018 USA Track & Field Outdoor Youth National Silver Medalist in the two events.
Hartwell’s jump coach Keinan Briggs says, “Sophia is the embodiment of a true student athlete. In the classroom, she understands the importance of learning and the value of a great education. On the track, she is a true student of the sport and an amazing leader.”
Former OLu track and field head coach Marvin Davis adds, “Sophia will go down in the history books as one of the greatest athletes to walk through the halls of Orange Lutheran. During her tenure at OLu, she broke both school records in the long jump and triple jump…was team MVP and was also a 2019 CIF Track & Field Masters/State Finalist. Academically, Sophia was also a scholar athlete throughout her high school campaign.”
A transfer student her junior year, Hartwell will miss the people she has met during her short time in the OLu community, and she is looking forward to the new experiences that await her in college.
“I would like to thank my mom and dad for their amazing support system,” says Hartwell, “and for giving me the opportunity to train with such great coaches like Preston Rawlings and Keinan Briggs who really shaped me to be the athlete that I am today.”
Lancer high jumper Ryan Bentley will be continuing his track and field career at California State University, Bakersfield. Bentley is the current Trinity League high jump champion, as well as a 1st Team All-League honoree. His 6’-6” personal best lands 4th on the OLu all-time marks list. In his shortened 2020 season, he was the high jump champion at the South County Classic, the Mustang Roundup and the Louis Zamperini Invitational. Away from the track, he is a member of Honors Choir and helped develop the school’s boys lacrosse program.
“Ryan Bentley is a hard working athlete who understands the complexities of high jumping at a very high level,” says OLu high jump coach, J.R. Richardson. “His resilience over adversity and exemplary work ethic mirror his faith and determination to achieve his goals. As a teammate, Ryan is always proactive to help his fellow jumpers learn and improve for the betterment of OLu track and field. I am certain Ryan has everything it takes to compete and excel as a Division 1 collegiate student athlete.”
Bentley values the experiences and opportunities OLu provided him, both academically and athletically, and he is looking forward to creating new memories with his college team.
"I can't thank my family and coaches enough for helping me achieve my goals,” says Bentley. “They would always tell me, ‘I believe in you’ or, ‘You've got this.’ I especially want to thank Coach J.R. for helping me to be the best I could be. I would also like to thank Coach Briggs from Leap Squad and Alison who helped me advance in my training. Lastly, I would like to thank my biggest supporter, my sister. She is such an amazing high jumper, and I hope to follow in her footsteps."
Five members of the Orange Lutheran varsity baseball team have committed to continuing their playing careers at the collegiate level.
Lancer pitcher Drake Frize will be heading to the baseball program at the University of San Diego. The two-year varsity player was injured during his junior year, but worked his way back as the team’s closer this season. He also is a High Honor Roll and California Scholarship Federation member.
“Drake is the true symbol of resilience,” says OLu baseball head coach, Eric Borba. “He has battled through injury after injury throughout his high school career. He has always had the talent to be a two-way player as both a pitcher and hitter, but a back injury forced him to focus solely on pitching. He has taken this opportunity and run with it…as our closer, and [was] relied on to get big outs.”
Despite the setbacks he faced, Frize said that attending OLu taught him that, “the sport you play is way bigger than yourself.” He will miss a Lancer community that always had his back, and he is looking forward to the next step of his journey as he competes against other top collegiate programs.
“I would like to thank God, my family, my coaches and my teammates because without them, I would not be the man I am today and would not be where I am today,” says Frize. “They have been with me each step of the way, never giving up on me, which has pushed me to be the best version of myself.”
A dual-sport athlete in football and baseball, Lancer pitcher Joseph Wiersma will be playing baseball for the University of California, Santa Barbara. A two-time All-Trinity League football player, Wiersma is a member of National Honor Society, California Scholarship Federation and High Honor Roll, and was able to maintain a 4.3 GPA while playing two demanding sports.
“Joe has been a huge blessing to our program and to the school since he transferred he after his freshman year,” says Borba. “He has been a front-line athlete on the gridiron and on the ball field. He was a starter and all-league defensive end for the football team and [was] a front-line relief pitcher for us on the mound.”
Grateful for the opportunity to participate in two sports, Wiersma is looking forward to taking the next step in his baseball journey.
“Orange Lutheran gave me a platform to be able to play both baseball and football at a high level of competition,” says Wiersma. “I would like to thank my family for always pushing me to be my best and my coaches for all their support.”
Four-year varsity starter Elijah Buries has committed to play baseball for Grand Canyon University. A 2nd Team All-Trinity League honoree in 2019, Buries finished his career as a Lancer with 37 runs, 47 hits, 28 RBIs, 14 stolen bases and a .342 OBP in 87 games.
“Elijah has been…one of the core players in giving our program the best four-year run in history,” says Borba. “He has been instrumental in leading us to three straight NHSI Championships, and the past two Trinity League Championships. He is the ultimate competitor, and he hates to lose more than he likes to win, something I as a coach really admire.”
Buries feels that his years at OLu have taught him not only how to manage athletics and academics, but how to model Christian character in baseball and in life.
Buries would like to thank, “My mom and dad, my brother Ezekiel, and (my) whole family…also all the coaches who have believed in me and given me an opportunity over the years.”
Outfielder Nathan Blocher is headed north to play baseball for the University of Puget Sound. As a sophomore transfer, the two-year varsity player tallied 10 runs with a .375BA in 21 games.
“I can best describe Nathan as a small energy bus,” says Borba. “He plays way above his stature and is simply fearless. He is the ultimate team player that cares about his teammates and makes everyone around him better. Nathan is the ideal ‘special forces’ player for us, as he [was] relied on as one of our best defensive outfielders, one of our best base runners and a spark plug whenever he [was] in the game.”
Blocher credits his grandfather for introducing him to baseball and for his continued influence. Attending OLu has impacted Blocher’s faith and helped him grow as an athlete more than he believed was possible. He will miss seeing his friends, but is looking forward to what the next four years hold for him as baseball player and a person as he takes the next step.
“I would like to thank my family, friends and coaches,” says Blocher. “I would not be here without my family and all the support they have given me during my baseball career. I can't thank my mother enough for driving me everywhere and making sure that I am on time and that I am continuously putting in work every day to get better…My father for always letting me know when I am doing things right and also when I am doing things wrong…My friends for always pushing me to get to a different level and become a better player and person…My coaches at Orange Lutheran for accepting me into this family when I transferred and for holding me accountable and pushing me to get better at something small every single day…My coaches throughout my earlier years and my hitting coach, Scott Stroud, for helping me out every single day, whether it was with baseball or not, and always having my back no matter the circumstances.”
Pitcher Brett Pierson has committed to playing baseball at Lewis & Clark College. Having earned his way to the mound for the Lancers, he ended with a 1-0 record, 0.56 ERA, 5 hits, 11K and 4BB across 13.1 innings. He is also a High Honor Roll, National Honor Society and California Scholarship Federation member.
“This young man is about as fine of a person you could ever want to coach,” says Borba. “He simply does everything right. He gets it done in the classroom, maintaining a 4.0 cumulative GPA. He is always reliable to make the best decisions off the field. He is always on time and always working to get better. Each year he has shown great improvements. He has waited his turn to get innings on the mound…and as our number three starter this year, he always [gave] us a chance to win.”
Being a Lancer allowed Pierson to connect his faith to his sport and to perform to the best of his ability with the support of the coaching staff. He will miss the bond he was able to create with his teachers, teammates and peers, and he is excited for the new adventures ahead.
“I would like to thank both of my parents for being so supportive and for always pushing me to be my best,” says Pierson. “And also my coaches, who saw my ability and helped me to flourish in any situation thrown at me.”
Two members of the Orange Lutheran football team will be continuing their playing careers on the collegiate gridiron.
Linebacker Tayber Tomanek will be playing football for UCLA. Having earned 2nd Team All-Trinity League honors in 2019, he will be noted as one of the best outside linebackers to play for OLu.
“Tayber’s work ethic and focus are several qualities that stand out,” says OLu football head coach, JP Presley. “He has provided great leadership and a great attitude throughout his four-year tenure within the football program. He elevates during the toughest games and makes those around him better. He is committed to his craft, excels on and off the field, continues to strive for excellence and possesses great work habits. We are very proud of Tayber and his accomplishments, and we look forward to watching him excel at UCLA.”
Tomanek thanks God, his parents, his coaches, and specifically, Mrs. Laulhere, Mrs. Lambert and the OLu athletic training staff who pieced him back together each time he was hurt. The group he will miss the most at OLu is the teachers, who always cared about him and wanted to see him succeed. He is excited for the next step in his playing journey.
Tomanek says his time at OLu, “really opened my eyes to Christ and strengthened my faith. I will always be grateful to OLu for what they’ve done for me with my relationship with God…I’m excited to use all these tools I’ve been given through all my life in real world experiences. I know not everything will be easy, fair, or maybe even enjoyable, but I’m excited for the journey.”
Four-year member of the OLu football program as an offensive and defensive lineman, Jonathan Engelbrecht has committed to playing for Wheaton College in Illinois. A “team first” player, he provided invaluable support and leadership to the younger players in the program.
“Jonathan completes a fantastic four-year career within the Orange Lutheran football program,” says Presley. “As a starter on the offensive and defensive line, his commitment to his team and coaches [went] above and beyond what is expected. He is committed to improving, and his positive attitude was contagious. We look forward to watching Jonathan grow in his collegiate career.”
Leaving OLu with a lifetime of memories, Engelbrecht will miss playing under the Friday night lights with teammates he calls his brothers. He is looking forward to playing football at the collegiate level alongside earning a degree.
“I would like to thank my family and friends for always supporting me and my decisions,” says Engelbrecht. “I also want to thank my coaches for giving me the opportunity to succeed, believing in me and pushing me to be a better player.”
OLu football player and nationally recognized rugby player Ethan Howard will be continuing his rugby career at Davenport University. A varsity starter on both offense and defense since his sophomore year, the 2018 1st Team All-Trinity League honoree also served as a captain for the 2019 season.
“Ethan is a cornerstone for the Orange Lutheran football program,” says Presley. “He plays unselfishly, is resilient and has a natural instinct as a football player. A true leader with a heart for the team, the Orange Lutheran football program was blessed by his leadership and humility.”
Grateful for the OLu football staff, the athletic trainers and Mrs. Laulhere, Howard credits his time as a Lancer for making him, “hold a higher standard towards myself in terms of balancing academics and athletics.” He will miss the OLu community, but is excited at the prospect of starting fresh in a new setting.
Jones acknowledged those who have played significant roles in helping these student athletes achieve their goals, and in closing, offered a prayer that faith would remain their cornerstone as they move forward.
“We also want to recognize the time, commitment and sacrifice of so many who have helped you get to this moment,” says Jones. “From your parents, to your coaches, to your teachers, friends, siblings and beyond, we thank them for all they have poured into you.
“Athletes, as you take the next step in your journey, we pray that you will continue to represent Orange Lutheran well, and that you will stay close to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.”