In honor of the first National Signing Day of the 2021-22 academic year, Orange Lutheran High School celebrated nine of their senior athletes who have made the commitment to play their respective sports at the collegiate level.
Family and friends gathered in the Ellwein Center as student athletes from across five sports were recognized for their accomplishments.
“You have all sacrificed and dedicated yourselves to be the best you can be,” said Orange Lutheran Athletic Director, Vince Brown. “Orange Lutheran is so proud of you. Today you join the ranks of many legendary Lancers that have come before you.”
Brown went on to thank all the parents, coaches, teammates, teachers and mentors who have been instrumental in helping each athlete achieve their goal. He then shared a prayer of blessing as these students take their next steps.
“My prayer today comes from Joshua 1:9, ‘Go be great. Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid. Do not be discouraged, for the Lord will be with you wherever you go,’” said Brown. “It’s the prayer I shared with my children, and I want you to understand how awesome it is to have you make this step forward.”
Recognition of the athletes began with softball player Kiana “Kiki” Estrada who is headed to the University of Arkansas. The first baseman transferred to OLu as a junior and made an immediate impact on the softball diamond, leading the Lancers last season in RBIs and home runs while helping to lead the team to a Trinity League title. Her efforts earned her Trinity League MVP for 2021 and All-CIF Division 1 honors.
“One thing about Kiki that I’ve learned is that she’s more than just a good softball player,” said OLu head softball coach, Steve Miklos. “Her Christian faith, her leadership skills and her dedication on and off the field are phenomenal. She’s a great role model for our younger players.”
Estrada is currently ranked as the #1 first baseman in the nation in her class and has stats that include a .440 batting average, .505 OBP, 82 RBIs and 18 home runs, all while carrying a 3.9 GPA.
“I would like to thank God, my family and everyone who has gotten me here,” said Estrada. “I would not be the person or athlete I am today without all of you. I could never give enough thanks to God for giving me the opportunity to embrace this beautiful talent he has blessed me with. Thank you to my family, for being there for me, all the early mornings and late nights and for showing me tough love to get better everyday as a person and an athlete. Thank you to all my coaches who push me to my limits every day and for believing in me when I didn’t believe in myself. Lastly, I would like to thank the University of Arkansas softball staff for believing in me and giving me this great opportunity at such a young age, since 8th grade.”
Men’s Water Polo
Two senior athletes from the OLu boys water polo program have signed to continue their playing careers at the next level.
Conor Brough has committed to playing water polo for Pepperdine University. OLu boys water polo head coach Nestor Nunez spoke about the Lancer attacker.
“When Conor first arrived, he was a pretty quiet young man and kept to himself a lot, but one of the things I noticed is that he expressed himself really well in the water,” said Nunez. “Often times we found ourselves with our offense stalled out, and somehow, Conor was able to make something happen out of nothing. And when he did, he followed up with these celebrations that were just electric. It sparked everyone on the bench. It was very inspiring.”
Brough thanked all those in his life who have been instrumental in helping him achieve his dream.
“I would like to thank my family who drove me to all of my practices and came and cheered me on, even when it was freezing and raining outside,” said Brough. “Also, I want to thank my water polo coaches that patiently worked with me and helped me to become a better player. Additionally, thank you to all of my teammates who always have my back and make this sport amazingly fun! Finally, I want to thank God who has given me the opportunity and ability to participate in water polo.”
Lancer co-captain Leonardo Giessmann signed with the University of California, Davis. The utility player helped to lead his team through the challenges of the last 20 months.
“Every year we try to play with certain core values, and I felt like Leo really was the embodiment of one of our values, which was endurance,” said Nunez. “He knows how to keep going when the times get tough. We faced a lot of obstacles this last year…but Leo was always the driving force behind our team. He was constantly leading by example.”
Referring to Giessmann as a “model student” within the program, Nunez recognized the senior for getting it done in the classroom with a 4.25 GPA.
Giessmann credited his parents for their role in helping him take this next step.
“I want to thank mom and dad for their support through this entire process,” said Giessmann. “All of this could not have been possible without the endless conversations, jokes and level-headedness that you guys brought to the table. I want to thank my former coaches who believed in me and made me into the man I am today, as well as the teachers who made my time in the classroom memorable and enjoyable. This next chapter could not have been done without all of your help.”
Women’s Water Polo
Three Lancers from the girls water polo program made their commitments to play at the collegiate level.
Four-year varsity Lancer Anna Pearson is heading to UCLA to continue her water polo playing career. The 1st Team All-League utility player leads the team in nearly every statistical category.
“Anna is someone that everyone in our program looks up to,” said Nunez. “She always had strong sense of determination and understanding of the game. She’s very clearly become the real driving force behind our team, and she’s done an excellent job of keeping everyone together in a time where there was a lot of turmoil. She crushes every training session and leads by example.”
Pearson is grateful for her time as a Lancer and is looking forward to her next steps as a Bruin.
“I would like to thank my family, my friends, my teammates and all of my coaches for helping me achieve my goal of playing Division 1 water polo,” said Pearson. “I would also like to thank the UCLA coaching staff for providing me with this amazing opportunity. Go Bruins!”
Utility player Caitlin Cohen committed to USC for collegiate water polo. The senior transfer has yet to play for the Lancers but is already making an impact with her team.
“Coming out of year that was full of obstacles for just about everybody, Caitlin immediately became the ray of sunshine for our program,” said Nunez. “Immediately she showed up with an infectious attitude and an infectious amount of optimism that’s helped us refocus every day at training. She does an excellent job of reminding us to enjoy the moment and not always be so cutthroat about whatever it is that we’re doing. She does it in a style that convinces everyone around her to follow. She really provided a big spark that we needed coming off of last year.”
Cohen already has 100 assists in her high school career and is looking to add to that total once the Lancers’ season gets under way next month. Alongside her accomplishments in the pool, she is also maintaining a 4.0 GPA.
“I would like to thank my family, friends and teammates for supporting my dreams to play water polo at USC,” said Cohen. “Thank you to Coach Ethan Damato and all my national team coaches for everything you have done for me! Thank you to Coach Milos, Coach Pavle, and Coach Drew for teaching me so much and for all the fun we had in age group! To my OLu coaches and teammates, thank you for making me feel at home! And I am so grateful for the USC coaches for making my dreams come true! FIGHT ON!”
Lancer attacker Delaney Palmer has committed to playing water polo for the University of California, Santa Barbara. The four-year varsity player is a 2nd Team All-League honoree.
“I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Delaney going into her 12-and-under days, and although I wasn’t her direct coach, it was easy to notice the impact that Delaney had on those around her,” said Nunez. “She always guards the opponent’s best player, and more importantly, she makes great relationships with everybody on the team and is a ‘team first’ type of player. She builds everybody up, and even when things aren’t going according to plan, she’ll come out of the water with a smile on her face and start lifting up every one of her teammates.”
Nunez said that Palmer has been blessed with the gift of building relationships with those around her and that UCSB will be lucky to have such a gifted player and person.
Palmer thanked all those who have supported her in her water polo journey.
“I would like to thank my family, friends, teammates and all coaches that have helped me throughout the years get to where I am today,” said Palmer. “Thank you for helping me become the person and athlete I have grown to become. Love you all, go Gauchos!”
Two players from the OLu girls soccer program have signed letters of intent to continue their playing careers at the next level.
Lancer goalkeeper Amaya Assal will be taking her skills to Florida Gulf Coast University. The four-year varsity player has what OLu girls soccer head coach Sarah Klinkenberg refers to as “one of the toughest jobs on the soccer pitch.”
“Amaya is an incredible athlete and young woman,” said Klinkenberg. “She often gets the chance to come up with the game-winning save, but also has to feel the pressure in the final minutes of a tough match. Amaya’s discipline, competitive spirit and leadership skills are just a few things that make her able to play at the college level. Amaya is technically sound in the goal, has dedicated time to get better, day in and day out, and has dedicated time to the process. I’m confident if she allows the Lord to lead her, she will do remarkable things in her collegiate career.”
Assal is also a member of National Honor Society (NHS) and is grateful to those around her who have supported her dream.
“From the bottom of my heart, I want thank my friends and family for helping me accomplish my goals of playing college soccer at FGCU,” said Assal. “I wouldn’t be the player and person I am today without you all. Thank you for the endless support and love. Go Eagles!”
Lancer soccer player Taylor Bloom has committed to play soccer for Pepperdine University. The centerback joined OLu’s program as a junior and has already made an impact.
“Taylor entered the program humbly as an upperclassman and willing to get to work to better her teammates around her,” said Klinkenberg. “I’m excited to see how far her career will take her. Taylor’s ambition and work rate are what set her apart. She is relentless to get better and maximizes her time on the field to ensure that she’s prepared and is preparing those around her. She’s compassionate towards her teammates and shines the light of Christ in all she does. She’s driven with a competitive spirit, but is also the ultimate team player.”
Bloom represented the U.S. as part of the U16 National Team when they competed in England in 2020, all while maintaining a 4.0 and High Honor Roll status.
“I would like to thank my family, coaches, teammates and friends for helping me get to the point I am today,” said Bloom. “Without you guys, my dream of playing D1 college soccer would not have been a reality. You guys have pushed me and inspired me to be my best self and work my absolute hardest so I could make my dreams come true. Thank you for the constant love and support and for seeing something in me that others didn’t. Without you guys, I wouldn’t be sitting here in the position I am today. I’m extremely grateful for this opportunity to become a Wave!”
Senior Annie Buda has committed to Columbia University and their women’s rowing program. Rowing out of Newport Aquatics Center, Buda has only been competing for one year, but has already won regional championships in California and Texas with her varsity 8 team. Buda also serves the OLu campus as ASB co-president and the publicity editor for the Humanities Academy.
“While the Lord has blessed Annie with unique talents in the water, he has also blessed Annie with a brilliant mind,” said OLu Assistant Principal of Activities & Programs, Jasmine Anderson. “Annie is a great young lady of Christian character, and her faith shines through everything that she does.
“Columbia is getting not just a great student athlete, but an exemplary person,” continued Anderson. “We wish you all the best at Columbia University in the water and also in the classroom. Let your light continue to shine for the Lord in everything that you do.”
Buda has maintained a 4.67 GPA and is a member of both National Honor Society (NHS) and California Scholarship Federation (CSF).
“I would like to thank my coaches for consistently investing time into developing my athletic ability, pushing me beyond what I thought was possible, and teaching me how to be a good athlete and person,” said Buda. “Specifically I would like to thank my coaches Garrett and Cody for giving me the opportunity to advance so quickly and believing in me. Thank you to my parents for providing the resources and support necessary for me to row on such an amazing team, and to my brother Andrew for always encouraging me to be the best athlete I can possibly be. Last, I would like to thank my teammates who have become my family and who I will love forever. I will always row for you girls! Thank you, and roar Lions!”
Anderson closed the ceremony with both gratitude and pride in all the Lancer seniors have accomplished.
“Thank you for coming today to support these amazing student athletes,” said Anderson. “We are so proud of all of you, and we know that the Lord is going to continue in and through every single one of you in your next journey. So continue to stay strong in your faith.”