On February 5, 2020, Orange Lutheran High School, along with family and friends, gathered to celebrate seven Lancer student-athletes who made their college athletic commitments across four sports.
Hosted in the Nechita Center for the Arts, OLu Athletic Director Paul Jones began the ceremony with a word of prayer and an expression of thanks to the families, teachers, and coaches who have supported these students in their athletic journeys.
“I, first and foremost, want to congratulate all of our students up here for all of their hard work to really invest in the moment and to excel in the classroom as well as on their respective athletic fields, and to make it here to Signing Day,” said Jones. “They’ve been such an awesome example of student-athletes of character in our school, so we really appreciate them.”
Girls Water Polo
Four-year varsity letterman Izzy Gazzaniga will be continuing her water polo playing career at UCLA. A member of the 2019 CIF State Championship team, Gazzaniga is also a 2019 1st Team and 2018 2nd Team All-Trinity League honoree, as well as a four-year Academic All-American.
“Besides her athletic abilities in the pool, the thing that I’m going to miss the most…is her growth as a leader,” said OLu girls water polo head coach, Ed Carrera. “She has become a leader over the last four years by leading by example and learning how to talk to her teammates in an individual format. It was a step that she had to take each year. She’s been such a joy to coach.”
Gazzaniga remembers sitting in the same room as a freshman as she watched her senior Lancer teammates make their own college commitments. From that moment, she envisioned what this day would be like, and she acknowledged that it was not about her, but about those who have helped her realized her dream.
“I would like to say a big thank you to my parents for always believing in and supporting me,” said Gazzaniga. “Thank you Coach Ed and Steve…for being a friend and mentor throughout my water polo experience and helping me achieve my goal of playing [Division 1] college water polo.
“Lastly, thank you God for giving me the awesome ability to play and excel at the sport I love so much so I can bring glory to His name. Just as Philippians 4:13 says, ‘I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength,’ with God’s help, I will continue to grow in the pool, academically and in my faith at UCLA. I cannot wait for my next adventure, and thanks to Orange Lutheran, I’m living my dream.”
Lancer softball player Sarah Casey signed her letter of intent to continue career on the diamond at Arizona Christian University. A catcher and four-year program participant with a great swing, Casey is added to the long list of talented Lancer softball players who have moved on to play at the next level.
“She’s the kind of kid that coaches love to have in their program because she understands being a team player, has a great attitude and is always smiling,” said OLu softball head coach, Steve Miklos. “Arizona Christian is getting a great kid. The coaches are so proud of you.”
Casey reflected on her lifelong dream of playing collegiate softball and all of the family members, coaches and friends who have supported her along the way.
“I’d like to thank my mom and dad especially, for everything they’ve sacrificed for me to be here,” said Casey. “They’ve been my rock in every situation, and have had my back through every win, every loss and anything in between. To my dad, thank you for teaching me the game I am so in love with. And to my mom, thank you for being my best friend and always giving me everything I need. To all my coaches, from my childhood to high school, thank you for investing your time in me and for every lesson you’ve ever taught me. Whether it was on the field or not, it is something I will carry with me forever.”
Track & Field
Lancer track and field team captain Jane Freeman will be competing next year for Vanguard University. A 400 meter and 4 x 400-meter relay specialist, Freeman was given the team’s Rookie of the Year award her freshman year, the Commitment and Leadership Award her sophomore year and was a CIF Finalist her junior year. She was also a key member of the 2019 OLu girls track and field team that finished runner-up at CIF-SS Finals.
“The past three years, you have inspired the past, the present and the future,” said former OLu track and field head coach, Marvin Davis. “You have been one of the pinnacles that has helped the Orange Lutheran girls track and field team become more successful. Your leadership, your ability to hold others accountable, your candid optimism and your relentless effort to believe in the team vision are only a few of the characteristics that describe the type of athlete you are. You are a generational athlete, and I thank you for creating your own path that many will follow for years to come.”
Freeman acknowledged the support of her family, who has cheered her through every race, no matter the outcome. And she had some special words for the commitment her coaches have made to her growth in the sport.
“First off, I want to thank God for continually blessing me and guiding me through this exciting and somewhat stressful process,” said Freeman. “I know that without Him, I would not be where I am today. I would also like to thank my friends and family, especially my parents and siblings for always being there for me and supporting me throughout everything.
“Last, but not least, I want to thank all the amazing track coaches I’ve had the privilege of learning from here at Orange Lutheran that have taught me the importance of hard work and determination. I am so excited for this new chapter of my life to begin at Vanguard University and cannot put into words how grateful I am for everyone who has helped me get to this point.”
The Lancers football program saw four players make commitments to continue their careers at the collegiate level.
As long snapper for the Lancers, Kameron Hawkins is ranked No. 5 in the nation at his position, as per 247 Sports, and will be joining the Wildcats of the University of Arizona next fall on the gridiron.
“The role of a long snapper is critical, a position you only hear about if something goes wrong, but we were fortunate that Kam was one hundred percent for us,” said OLu football head coach, JP Presley. “Kameron is a loyal friend, a trusted player and a reliable teammate. Kam’s attention to detail and his passion for his craft [are] off the charts. Kam possesses all the qualities of a successful person – humble, faithful, inspiring and loyal. Having Kam on the field is like having another coach. Kam gets it, and he is committed to improving in every way.”
As a transfer student, Hawkins was grateful for how the OLu football community embraced him as a player and a person. He thanked his family members and numerous coaches for preparing him for the next level.
“I just want to start by thanking my family,” said Hawkins. “My parents spent countless weekends and holidays helping me become the best student athlete possible. And for that, I cannot thank them enough. Thanks to all the OLu football coaches for making my two-year experience at OLu really fun and special. I’ve made great friends and great memories along the way. I thankful that God opened numerous opportunities for me, and I cannot wait to see what He has in store for me at the University of Arizona.”
A member of the Lancer football team since his freshman year, Jake Kidder has committed to playing for Arizona Christian University.
“He perseveres, he’s faithful and he won’t quit,” Presley said of Kidder. “[He’s] faithful to be content in all things, regardless of the circumstances, injuries, setbacks – the good and bad. He saw these as lessons to grow, and you remained faithful. Your perseverance developed your character, and Jake, character is what will take you to the next level. You’ve made those around you better, including myself and the coaching staff.”
Kidder battled a number of injuries over his playing career at OLu, but he refused to give up on his dream of competing at the next level. He thanked all of those who supported and encouraged him to reach his goal.
“I’d first like to thank God for allowing me to be in this situation,” said Kidder. “With being in a wheelchair my junior season, and concussions my senior season, my dreams of playing college football seemed to be vanishing. But God has allowed me to make my dreams a reality, which I am so thankful for. I would also like to thank my mom, dad and sister for supporting me when nobody else did. Also, special thanks to JP, with your continued support, I could not have asked for a better head coach for four years.”
A team captain for the Lancers this year and All-Trinity League honoree, Adrian Tena will continue his football career with Southern Utah University.
“We’ve been blessed by Adrian’s role as a leader over the last four years,” said Presley. “Big, strong, physical offensive lineman who never backed down from doing the right thing for the team. The sky is the limit for Adrian. Continue to play with fire and courage, for these are the qualities you will need as you transition into this next phase of your life. Continue to exceed all expectations by your work ethic and character. Your ability will only take you so far, but your character will separate you from the pack.”
Tena reflected on the bond he and his teammates shared and how his student-athlete experience at OLu would not have been the same without them.
“I want to start off by thanking my parents,” said Tena. “I really appreciate all the time they spent at practices, games and weekend lifts…This past season didn’t go as planned, but I couldn’t have asked for a better group coaches and brothers to go through it with. I feel like our team as a whole was more connected than it has ever been. Coach JP taught us if you want to go far, go together, and that’s exactly what we did. Together we have formed lifelong friendships and memories. I’m thankful to God for getting me to this point in my life, and I can’t wait to see what He has in store for me next.”
Da Maje Yancey
Lancer player Da Maje Yancey will be joining Tena at Southern Utah University.
“The phrase, ‘I can’t,’ doesn’t exist for Da Maje,” said Presley. “He played the game like a true competitor, respect for his opponent, physical throughout the game and demonstrates leadership on the field. You have an unbreakable spirit, my friend. You refuse to give up, qualities that will fuel you on this path that God is leading you on. Keep him first, Da Maje, in all things. You’ll be tested in this chapter of your life, and hunt for the lessons during the trials.”
Spending only his senior year with the Lancers, Yancey thanked the football program, as well as him family, for providing him the opportunity to play for Orange Lutheran.
“I want to thank all my coaches…and just the OLu family for accepting me,” said Yancey. “I want to say thank you to my dad for working out with me every day. Thank you to my mom for providing [for] me so that I could come to this school. I want to say thank you to my teammates for helping me this season. Thank you to everybody. I appreciate it.”
In closing, Jones thanked the student-athletes for the example they have set for current and future Lancers, both on the field and in the classroom.
“I want to thank all of our students because they’ve done such a great job,” said Jones. “We have some students who have been here four years, three years, two years and one year, and our students in this community have brought these students in to be a part of our culture. And that means a lot. Thank you all for being such a great example, solid human beings, but also great student-athletes.”