By Diego Marquez and Dan Lovi
Over the years, College of the Canyons has been known for being fierce competitors and for pumping out high-level athletes across all 17 of its sports programs. After winning two team state titles, an individual state title, one state player of the year and four conference coach of the year awards, among many other accolades, Canyons continued with the tradition this past year.
The Canyons’ football team completed an undefeated 10-0 regular season for just the fifth time in the program’s history on the way to its first conference championship. Earning a No. 1 ranking in the California Community College Sports Information Association polls, the Cougars earned a playoff match against Ventura, but were upset in the first round of the regional playoffs.
Head coach Ted Iacenda and freshman linebacker Tariq Speights were named Coach of the Year and the Southern California Football Association National Division, Northern League Defensive Player of the Year along with 14 other award winners.
Speights led a defense that allowed 10.5 points per game while allowing 121.5 yards rushing per game and 128.6 yards passing per game.
“I’m just so proud of this team. Our defense was insane, they kept us in every game. Our offense did what we had to do,” quarterback Wyatt Eget said after the first round playoff game. “Each one of them means a ton to me. I love the family aspect here. They are my brothers and I am definitely going to keep pushing them.”
The men’s and women’s golf teams coached by Men’s and Women’s Western State Conference Coach of the Year Gary Peterson both won state titles, the ninth for the men’s team, and third for the women’s team. Women’s golfer Haruka Koda took home the WSC individual title.
Breezing through the regular season slate, the women’s team finished first in every single meet on their way to a CCCAA State Championship led by Koda and the CCCAA Southern California individual regional champion Jessie Lin.
The men’s golf team was led by a talented group of freshmen including Nobuhiko Wakaari (WSC Player of the Year), Anguerrand Voisin and Jules Lavigne.
At the CCCAA State Team and Individual Championships, Canyons put forth on its best performances of the year, winning by 18 strokes with a total team score of 734 (371/363). Santa Barbara Community College was runner-up with 752 (381/371).
Waakari took home the individual state crown while Lavigne and Voisin finished in third and fourth place, respectively.
“This is the most coachable team I’ve ever had,” Peterson said after winning the state championships. “They bought into our program, they bought into what we did from the very beginning, they bought into our qualifying system, bought into our stress of the short game, showed up every time when I told them to go play ‘chica.’ They never gave me any grief and were a very coachable team who bought into our philosophy and into our program.”
Both the men’s and women’s soccer teams experienced the postseason as nine women’s players earned first and second team All-Western State Conference selections while the WSC, South Division Men’s Player of the Year, Cesar Dominguez, topped the 12 men’s All-Conference selections.
Going 7-2-1 in conference play, the Cougars captured their first-ever conference championship with the WSC Coach of the Year Philip Marcellin at the helm.
“He is very close to all his players and I appreciate him and the whole coaching staff that helped us out this year,” Dominguez said after winning the WSC Player of the Year award. “It was a complete team effort and he is more proud of us getting these awards over his own personal award and I think that speaks about his character and how much he cares about the team over personal accolades.”
Canyons’ softball team reached the playoffs for the seventh consecutive season with eight different players getting All-WSC, East Division honors, including the co-Western State Conference, East Division Player of the Year and All-State Team selection Sierra Boyajian.
Five most memorable male athletes
Rowdy Feather – The Canyon High School alumnus capped off a productive career at COC with a second-place finish at the CCCAA Swim and Dive State Championships in the men’s 400-yard individual medley with a time of 4:06.09. It’s the best individual finish at the State Championships in program history. Additionally, Feather placed third in the 200-yard backstroke at 1:54.21 and ninth in the 200-yard individual medley with a 1:57.41 mark. The 6-foot-5 sophomore also claimed an individual Western State Conference title in the 200-yard backstroke with a winning time of 1:54.58.
The sophomore catcher led the Cougars in several offensive categories including home runs with seven, a .671 slugging percentage and a .419 batting average, which was the third-best mark in the state. Also seeing time as the Cougars’ designated hitter, Henry tied for the team lead with 65 hits, 41 RBIs and 40 runs. He was named to the Southern California All-Region First Team and the All-WSC First Team.
The 6-foot-2 thrower had a breakout freshman campaign that culminated with a WSC co-Field Athlete of the Year award. Palmer finished in first place in the shot put event at all three WSC meets this year and won the WSC shot put crown with a mark of 14.94m (49-1/4). He claimed the top spot at the CCAA Southern California Regional Championships with a personal best of 16.02m (52-6 3/4), which is also a College of the Canyons record. Palmer finished as the runner-up at the CCCAA State Championships. He was also an offensive lineman on the football team and earned a spot on the All-Southern California Football Association Second Team.
The heart and soul of the football team’s defense, Speights left it all on the field every time he was out there. The Cougars’ starting middle linebacker could do it all, from rushing the passer to disrupting the running game to dropping back in coverage. Speights led the team in tackles with 76, eight of which were for a loss, and sacks with four. He also added two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. For his efforts, the Valencia alumnus was named the SCFA National Division, Northern League Defensive Player of the Year and also earned CCCFCA All-American honors. He will be continuing his academic and athletic career at Eastern Michigan University.
On a men’s golf team loaded with freshmen talent, Wakaari stood out from the crowd with his impressive play. He won the WSC Player of the Year award and led the charge at the CCCAA Southern California Regional Championship, helping the Cougars capture the title. Wakaari paced the team at the state championship, too. COC won the state championship, the program’s ninth overall, and Wakaari finished as the individual state champion after finishing two-under par.
Five most memorable female athletes
The sophomore outfielder was a machine for the softball team, putting up impressive numbers throughout the season. Boyajian was second on the team with 41 hits and a .369 batting average. She led the Cougars with 32 RBIs and added 13 doubles, four triples, two home runs, 31 runs scored and 10 stolen bases to go along with a .482 on base percentage. The Hart grad was named a co-WSC, East Division Player of the Year and made the All-State team.
Ferguson had a stellar freshman year, finishing second on the volleyball team with 218 kills and first in total blocks with 129. The freshman middle blocker added 59 aces and 57 digs, helping lead the Cougars to an 18-9 overall record and the postseason. The Saugus alumna was named an American Volleyball Coaches Association All-American and was also named to the CCCAA All-State Team and All-WSC First Team.
The freshman from Japan helped lead the women’s golf team to a state title, posting a two-day total of 1-under 143 in the tournament. Koda was the state individual runner-up, finishing just one stroke behind the state champion. She also finished in second place behind teammate Jessie Lin at the CCCAA Southern California Regional Championship. Koda won the WSC individual title and also earned medalist honors at four events earlier in the season.
The sophomore guard led the Cougars in scoring and assists averaging 18.8 points and five assists per game. She also averaged 4.7 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game. Orellana was adept at getting in the paint with her speed and superb ball handling skills and could also hit from the perimeter. The veteran floor general also excelled at dictating the tempo of the game and finding her teammates for open looks.
The West Ranch alumna made history this year, becoming the first All- Conference selection for the second-year tennis program. The freshman helped the tennis team make a big jump from its inaugural season, going 9-7 this year compared to 4-12 the year prior. Stanisavljevic teamed up with Seleste Sakato at the WSC Doubles Championships, where they finished in second place. At the CCCAA Singles and Doubles Southern California Regional Championships in Ojai, the pair won its opening match before falling in the round of 64.
Five most memorable teams
The Cougars had a remarkable 2018 campaign, going an undefeated 10-0 in the regular season before falling in the opening game of the CCCAA Southern California Regional Playoffs to Ventura College 21-13. Canyons’ defense was unstoppable, ranking No. 1 in the state in points allowed per game at 10.5. They gave up just 116 points all season and also ranked No. 1 in fewest passing yards allowed per game at 128.6. The offense wasn’t too shabby either, putting up a total of 3,271 yards in 11 contests and converted 42 of 60 attempts in the red zone. The Cougars averaged 33.6 points per game, including a 63-0 victory against Santa Barbara City College in the third game of the season. More than a dozen Cougars have signed on to play at the four-year level, including a handful who will play at Division 1 schools.
The Cougars captured their first-ever WSC, South Division title after defeating Bakersfield College 1-0 in the championship game. After going 10-7-3 overall and 7-2-1 in conference play, the Cougars made their first trip to the postseason since 2010, but fell 3-0 in the first round to Mt. San Antonio College. Five of their victories, including the WSC title game, were shutouts.
In only its second year, the women’s tennis team made huge strides, going from a 4-12 overall record in its first year to 9-7 this season. The seven-person team featured six freshmen including Una Stanisavljevic, a West Ranch grad, who was an All-Conference selection. Stanisavljevic and teammate Seleste Sakato finished in second place at the WSC Doubles Championships and reached the round of 64 at the CCCAA Doubles Southern California Regional Championships. Nicole Villarta, a Valencia grad, and Marisa Wambolt, a Hart grad, also reached the round of 64.
The Cougars claimed their ninth state championship in program history, and fourth title in seven years. Their 2019 crown was won handily, defeating runner-up Santa Barbara City College by 18 strokes. COC was led by a group of talented freshmen that include Nobuhiko Wakaari, Jules Lavigne and Anguerrand Voisin, who finished first, third and fourth, respectively, at the state tournament.
Like their counterparts on the men’s team, the women’s golf team also won the state title by 18 strokes over second-place finisher College of the Desert. The win marked the program’s third title, having won previously in 2001 and 2007. Haruka Koda led the way for College of the Canyons all season and finished as the state runner-up. Jessie Lin and Paige Heuer finished tied for seventh place at state. The Cougars finished in first in every competition they played this year.
The men’s team finished in 26th place at the SoCal Championships as Jacob Acosta had the best finish coming in 88th while Donmiguel White-Carrington finished 161st.
The football team went undefeated through the regular season playing tough hard-nosed football. The defense was formidable allowing just 10.5 points per game on the year while the offense forced a whopping 33.6 points per game. The Cougars advanced to the CCCAA SoCal Regional Playoffs, but fell in the first round to Ventura 21-13.
The men’s golf team was crowned the Western State Conference champions for the 10th straight year earning a spot in the CCCAA State Championships where they came away with the program’s ninth title and first since 2017.
The Cougars made history, winning their first-ever WSC, South Division title and reached the playoffs for the first time since 2019. The season came to an end in the first round, losing to Mt. San Antonio College 3-0.
Winning its first-ever WSC meet in the program’s history in 2019, the men’s swim team finished in sixth place at the WSC Championships. At the CCCAA State Championships, the men’s team finished in 19th place.
Men’s track and field
The Cougars finished in seventh place at the SoCal Regional Championships and were led by shot put and discus thrower Jordan Palmer, who placed fourth in the discus. Long jumper and javelin specialist Delon Buncio placed sixth in both events while the 4×100 men’s relay team placed seventh.
The Cougars basketball team had some ups and down throughout the season putting together two separate winning streaks of three games, finishing with an overall record of 17-14 going 4-2 in conference play to advance to the CCCAA SoCal Regional Playoffs where they fell by one-point to Mira Costa.
The women’s team finished 15th at SoCal Championships with sophomores Amanda Finn, Celeste Gonzalez and Samantha Bell all qualifying for State Championships. At State, the trio finished 76th, 92nd and 98th place to cap their amazing Canyons careers.
The Cougars won the state title, the third in program history after winning in 2001 and 2007. The team was led by talented freshman Haruka Koda, who finished as the state individual runner-up. Freshmen Jessie Lin and Paige Heuer finished tied for seventh place at state.
After finishing the season 8-7-3, the Cougars made the playoffs where they faced off against Antelope Valley College in the first round, falling 2-1.
Finishing the regular season as the WSC, East Division runner-up the Cougars drew a No. 12 seed in the playoffs and headed out on the road to face Fullerton College. In the best-of-three-series, the Cougars fell in two games.
Women’s track and field
At CCCAA SoCal Championships, the women’s team finished 20th after Celeste Gonzalez placed seventh in the 1,500-meter and the 4×400 relay team finished with an eighth-place finish.
Winning four out of the final five regular-season games, the Canyons women’s volleyball team entered the playoffs with an overall record of 18-8, going 6-2 in conference play. The Cougars fell in the first round of the South Regional to San Diego Mesa in five sets.