No time to panic: Patient Naches Valley advances in district baseball playoffs

May 9, 2012 by  

NACHES, Wash. — After a league schedule that required them to rally on several occasions or just hang on in one-run games, the Naches Valley Rangers have honed their patient, no-panic approach.

Teammates line up to congratulate Naches player Jake Frazier during their game against Connell on Tuesday, May 8, 2012. (SARA GETTYS/Yakima Herald-Republic)

As the postseason arrived Tuesday, the Rangers once again applied that philosophy — first by pitcher Noel Gonzalez and later by the entire offense.

Gonzalez was initially rusty before settling in to throw a four-hitter with eight strikeouts, while the offense stayed patient after falling behind. And NV posted a walk-dominated nine-run third that propelled the Rangers to a 13-3 five-inning victory over Connell in a first-round SCAC district baseball game.

Naches Valley, 17-2, will host La Salle in a district semifinal at 4 p.m. Friday.

“We never take anything as a big deal,” said senior center fielder Cole Gilman, who drove in three runs. “We just battle through and take what we can get.”

“We’ve got seven seniors on this team and they’ve played a lot of baseball and know a lot about the game,” said Naches Valley coach Bill Walker, who faced his brother, Connell coach Tom, for the first time. “Nothing really fazes them.”

Naches Valley's Noel Gonzalez pitches against Connell on Tuesday, May 8, 2012. (SARA GETTYS/Yakima Herald-Republic)

Not their ace walking the first two batters of the game, leading to an early 1-0 deficit, or when he allowed four straight hits in a two-run third that gave the Eagles a 3-1 lead.

Having played catch-up plenty of times this season, the Rangers knew their scoring opportunities would come.

“That helps a lot,” Gonzalez said of his team’s ability to rally. “We have confidence in ourselves and guys just stick with it.”

That approach paid off big time in the bottom of the third as the first 10 Naches Valley hitters reached base safely despite getting just three hits — two of which should have been outs.

In all, two Connell pitchers issued five walks and hit two batters — five of which came with the bases loaded to force in runs.

Gilman had the lone legitimate hit in the frame, a ringing two-run, ground-rule double into the gap in left.

By the time the dust settled, Naches Valley led 10-3, and when the Rangers added three more in the fourth, highlighted by sophomore Corey Hill’s second hit and third RBI of the game, they had a 10-run lead and left it to Gonzalez to finish matters.

The right-hander did just that, working around a two-out walk in the fifth as he retired seven of the final eight batters he faced.

“I just had to get used to pitching again,” said Gonzalez (8-0), who was coming off a 10-day layoff. “I just stuck to it and tried to hit my spots.”

“That’s how Noe’s been for us all year,” Bill Walker said. “It just took him a while to find his rhythm … and his comfort zone.”

Just like all the Rangers.

Connell 102 00 — 3 4 1

Naches Valley 019 3x — 13 7 0

Van Hollebeke, Hawk (3), L. Bermudez (4) and Ochoa; Gonzalez and Wells.

Highlights: Brandon Holst (C) 1-2, 2 runs; Steve Bermudez (C) 1-3, 3 RBI; Noel Gonzalez (NV) 8 Ks, run, 2 RBI; Cole Gilman (NV) 1-2, run, 3 RBI; Koleman Johns (NV) 2-3, 2 runs; Corey Hill (NV) 2-2, 2 runs, 3 RBI; Ben Wells (NV) 2 runs; Austin Cleem (NV) 2 runs.

Defense is top topic as Sarkisian, Romar visit Yakima

May 8, 2012 by  

YAKIMA, Wash. — Neither Steve Sarkisian nor Lorenzo Romar were defensive when discussing the primary shortcoming of their respective teams last season.

But defense was prominent on their minds when talking about their upcoming seasons prior to an appearance with University of Washington boosters Monday at the Yakima Country Club.

“Play defense, plain and simple,” Romar said of the focus for his basketball team. “We’ll only be as good as our defense.”

University of Washington football coach Steve Sarkisian visits with Husky fans at the Yakima Country Club May 7, 2012. (Gordon King/Yakima Herald-Republic)

“I don’t know if a problem ever gets completely solved,” Sarkisian said of his football team’s porous defense that led to wholesale coaching changes on that side of the ball.

“We had to make a tough decision but one that was for the betterment of the program,” he continued. “They (the fired coaches) recruited well. We’ve just changed the philosophy as the program moves forward. I’m excited.”

While both are paying plenty of attention to defense, Sarkisian and that new defensive staff have a much bigger task in front of them than Romar does.

The football team has been picking through the rubble of an historically awful defensive effort that saw the Huskies allow a school-record 453.3 yards per game, punctuated by the 777 yards it gave up in a 67-56 loss to Baylor in the Alamo Bowl.

That led to the firing of defensive coordinator Nick Holt, with Justin Wilcox taking over.

Having just wrapped up spring practice, Sarkisian said he was impressed by that unit’s progress.

“Justin Wilcox and his staff have brought in a scheme that fits our players,” he said. “They bring energy and have the ability to fix the problems we had on defense.

“Ultimately, they’ve re-energized our guys. They (the players) are confident, playing fast and playing physical.”

That energy and any improvement will be put to the test quickly as Washington faces a daunting challenge in the first half of the season.

University of Washington basketball coach Lorenzo Romar chats with 11-year-olds Jackson Finley, left, and Braden Van Wyk during his visit with Husky fans at the Yakima Country Club May, 7, 2012. (Gordon King/Yakima Herald-Republic)

After opening with San Diego State, the Huskies travel to BCS title-game runner-up LSU. Following a contest with Portland State, Washington enters Pac-12 play with games against Stanford, at Oregon and against Southern Cal.

“It’s definitely a challenge,” Sarkisian said of those first six games. “We’ve got big hurdles left but we have student-athletes who can compete at that top-10 level. We just have to be able to do it consistently.”

Romar, who has always stressed defense at Washington, acknowledged that was the main reason Washington missed out on a fourth-straight trip to the NCAA Tournament, despite winning the Pac-12 regular-season title.

Part of that was due to injuries, particularly to Scott Suggs and C.J. Wilcox, and partly because of Washington’s youth.

“We couldn’t attack on the defensive end as much,” he said, noting that the Huskies struggles came despite the presence of 7-foot Aziz N’Diaye, one of the best defensive centers in the country. “Aziz wasn’t our (defensive) problem. Our problem was on the perimeter.

“If we stay healthy and with better depth, we can be more aggressive (this season).”

One thing that will help Washington develop that depth and gain crucial experience is the additional practices (10) and playing time thanks to seven exhibition games it will play in Spain, France and Senegal before the season opens.

“Some guys like (forwards) Martin Breunig and Shawn Kemp Jr., who played sparingly last season, will get some added experience,” Romar said. “Hopefully our chemistry will improve and maybe we’ll bond before the season even starts.”

And then the coaches won’t have to defend their team quite as much next spring.

Sounders’ Russell, Pulse motivated by competition

May 6, 2012 by  

Former Valley players making their case with Sounders Women ||

YAKIMA, Wash. — When an athlete has put in their time and paid their dues, there can be more than a little disappointment when new players arrive, potentially sending them to the bench.

Beth Russell and Tafara Pulse find themselves in such a situation with the Seattle Sounders Women’s soccer team, but instead of feeling threatened, they’re thrilled.

That’s because the new players in case are some of the best players in the world.

Elizabeth Russell dribbles the ball in an exhibition match against Seattle Pacific last month. (Photo courtesy of Seattle Sounders Women)

“It’s a little intimidating but it’s also really fun,” said Russell, whose maiden name was Drollinger while playing at Naches Valley and later at Gonzaga University. “This year is particularly special given the high level of talent.”

“For lack of a better word, it’s been electric. Being an athlete, I never want to say I’m star struck, but at first, I couldn’t stop smiling,” Pulse said of the addition of six members of the United States national team, including Hope Solo, Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe.

“It’s a great opportunity to have them out here, not that they’re taking anyone’s spot,” continued Pulse, who played at Davis and Eisenhower, graduating from the latter, and also Seattle University. “I don’t know who can say it’s not a privilege to train with them ahead of the Olympics.”

Both players, who have spent several seasons with the Sounders, said they’ve benefited greatly from the presence of such high-level talent, which also includes Team USA players Stephanie Cox, Sydney Leroux and Keelin Winters, all of whom were looking for a place to play after the Women’s Professional Soccer league suspended operations.

“It’s a lot more intense,” said Russell, a defender. “Here I am 27 and learning so much that I hadn’t known.

“You realize the gap (between us and them) is in the small things that they do. They’re so much more consistent. It’s exciting and I’m growing (as a player) from them.”

“I definitely think it raises the level of play and raises the level of competition,” said Pulse, a midfielder. “They bring a different way of looking at the game. They really expect us to be out there playing with intent.”

All six have been supportive and exceptional teammates since joining the Sounders, Pulse added.

“There’s no ego that comes with them and that’s really remarkable,” Pulse said. “They really bring a passion for the game and they just want to help us play as well as we can.

“I appreciate them for the skill they have but also the humility and passion they bring to the game.”

That said, the influx of talent has left Russell and Pulse now battling for spots on the 26-player roster (there are 18 active players on game days) when the 14-game season begins on May 27.

Tafara Pulse warms up before an exhibition match against Seattle Pacific last month. (Photo courtesy of Seattle Sounders Women)

But neither is backing down from the challenge, even though they have ample reasons to hang up the spikes.

You see, neither needs to still be playing soccer.

Both have successful careers — Russell as an engineer for HNTB, where her current project is Seattle’s Alaskan Way tunnel, and Pulse, with a masters in public administration, handles marketing and sales for The Alford Group, a national company that works with nonprofits.

They want to keep playing.

In part because the sport is so ingrained in their respective lives, having played since their earliest years, but primarily because they want to help continue building the sport so young women will have something they didn’t.

“When I was in college, there was no women’s pro soccer. I didn’t think I would play after college,” said Russell, adding that the national team players have dramatically increased interest in the Sounders and women’s soccer in the area.

“There’ll be more than 5,000 people at our match,” she said, referring to the team’s final exhibition game this past Friday. “I’ve never seen that many people at a women’s game. It’s really, really exciting.

“That’s what’s been so great (about this). It’s exciting that women’s soccer is taking off. There’s been so much exposure for the (Sounders) women’s team. That’s what the national players have done.”

“For the majority of my playing career, I didn’t know what was ahead of me,” Pulse said. “(Growing up) there weren’t any women’s soccer players to look up to. It’s really amazing to have the opportunity to keep playing and help grow the sport.

“For me, the larger end goal is about all the girls playing youth soccer right now who want to have a higher level to play. I want to contribute to that and also help empower them as people.”

Despite their busy lives, both plan to keep playing — with this opportunity reminding them just how much they love the sport.

“There’s incentive every year. This year, there’s some added incentive,” Pulse said. “It feels like a reward every time we go out there.”

“Soccer has been part of my life forever,” Russell said. “I love the sport. I don’t have to play. I play because I love it.”

Even more so now that they can play alongside some of the best in the world.

Soccer: Last-gasp win for Davis

May 6, 2012 by  

YAKIMA, Wash. — Daniel Guzman and Cesar Rodriguez had worked on this play time and time again in practice, knowing they’d eventually get a chance to execute it in a match.

The latest opportunity came in the waning seconds of overtime Saturday, and the stunning strike between the two was the difference in Davis’ 1-0 victory over Eisenhower in the CBBN 4A district title match.

Davis High School's Cesar Rodriguez reacts after scoring in overtime to beat Eisenhower 1-0 in overtime on Davis field in Yakima, Wash. Saturday May 5, 2012. (Andy Sawyer/Yakima Herald-Republic)


Click here for more photos from this event. SPACER

Click here for information on purchasing photos.

“Danny and I combine to work on that play all the time,” said Rodriguez, who got his head on the ball after Guzman’s long free kick to settle what was a hard-fought match between the crosstown rivals.

“He (Guzman) sends the ball in hard, so I just waited a few extra milliseconds before moving in and was able to get my head on it.”

Davis (11-4-1), which won its second district title in three years, will now host Spokane’s No. 3 team in the regional tournament. Ike (10-4-2) will host Spokane’s No. 2 team.

That could’ve just as easily been reversed with the Cadets just missing on several good scoring chances in the second half.

“That was one of our most competitive matches of the season,” Rodriguez said. “I was surprised they didn’t finish a couple of those chances. I guess it was meant to be this way.”

“I felt the guys did very well today,” Ike coach Tyler Suhm said. “We were just unlucky not to get one in.”

On an afternoon when both teams stood their ground, it was something out of the norm that ultimately decided matters.

That break came on an inadvertent hand ball near midfield in the waning seconds of overtime.

As a player from each team went for the ball, it bounced up and hit the Ike player on the arm, with the referee calling a hand ball and the Pirates earning a free kick.

Guzman stepped up and from just inside the Ike side of the field, boomed a long ball toward the goal. Rodriguez, tracking the ball, managed to get open right in front of the goal and got just enough of the ball, directing it into the net and setting off a wild celebration.

“We practice those and practice those,” Davis coach Armando Garcia said. “Get the ball in the air and hope you can get to it. They (Ike) had stopped like three of those earlier (in the match).”

Although both teams had already secured first-round regional home matches, each played Saturday like their season was hanging in the balance.

“It went back and forth — neither team was going to back down,” Garcia said. “For practically 90 minutes, it was even. This was two even teams; two disciplined teams going head to head.

“This one just happened to go our way.”

First half: No scoring.

Second half: No scoring.

First overtime: No scoring.

Second overtime: 1, Davis, Cesar Rodriguez (Daniel Guzman), 90:00.

Saves: Cesar Aparicio (E) 5, Carlos Ordaz (D) 6.


Semipro football: Lobbestael doing the job

April 29, 2012 by  

Though he’d rather play wide receiver, Lobbestael gives Mavs a lift at QB ||

YAKIMA, Wash. — Last year at this time, John Lobbestael was playing wide receiver and quite happy doing so, thank you.

But a sluggish start with a sputtering offense forced the Yakima Mavericks to turn back to their former quarterback, who led them to the playoffs.

This year, coach Steve Davis wasn’t going to mess around — Lobbestael was given the reins to the offense from the get-go and that was that.

Quarterback John Lobbestael of the Yakima Mavericks runs the ball against Oregon Outlaws at Marquette Stadium in Yakima, Wash. Saturday April 28, 2012. (Andy Sawyer/Yakima Herald-Republic)


Click here for more photos from this event. SPACER

Click here for information on purchasing photos.

After a second straight strong outing Saturday, there’s little doubt the Mavericks made the correct decision.

The signal caller completed an efficient 15 of 22 passes for 228 yards and three touchdowns in leading the Mavericks to a 37-9 victory over the Oregon Outlaws in a Pacific Football League game at Marquette Stadium.

“He did this for the team. If he had his druthers, he’d play wide receiver,” Davis said. “This year, I told him, ‘We’re not looking for a quarterback, you’re it. Now let’s go out and win a championship.’”

So far, Lobbestael is doing his part.

In Yakima’s first two games, both wins, he’s completed 29 of 40 passes (72.5 percent) for 385 yards with seven touchdowns to two interceptions.

“He’s comfortable back there,” Davis said of the 6-foot-1, 225-pounder from Oak Harbor. “He made some (really) awesome plays back there tonight. He’s only going to get better.”

Although not his first choice, Lobbestael is certainly comfortable running the show.

“I like playing wide receiver better but I like playing quarterback,” he said, adding that having so many familiar faces back has made his job easier.

“The offense is more comfortable,” he said. “I knew this would happen. This is the best group of guys we’ve had since I’ve been here.”

That comfort level was on display in the first half Saturday as Lobbestael completed 9 of 13 passes for 179 yards and two scores. He found four different receivers in the half, including touchdown passes to Alex Mahre for 48 yards in the first quarter to open the scoring and Jake Zeutenhorst on a 16-yarder in the second period.

In the second half, the quarterback found Ryan Wright, who outworked the defender in the end zone to collect a 19-yard scoring pass.

“We knew they’d give us the deep ball,” said Lobbestael, who had seven completions of at least 10 yards and three of at least 34.

He is the brother of former Washington State quarterback Marshall Lobbestael.

“John’s got a lot of weapons to throw to,” Davis said, adding that the offense knows it doesn’t have to be perfect because the Mavericks’ defense has been even more impressive so far this season.

“They rocked it tonight,” Davis said, raving about Saturday’s effort, which was led by linebacker Jesse Cardenas, who had 15 tackles, a forced fumble and 1 1/2 sacks.

A third-quarter sequence summed up Yakima’s dominance.

Oregon failed to gain one yard on two straight running plays from their own 34, turning it over on downs, leading to a Mahre field goal. On their next possession, the Outlaws were forced to punt and the snap sailed into the end zone where Yakima recovered for a touchdown.

Yakima then forced a fumble on the ensuing possession that set up Lobbestael’s TD pass to Wright on the next play.

In all, Yakima had 14 tackles for losses, including six sacks, and 22 of Oregon’s 40 running plays going for two yards or less.

“The defense came to play,” Davis said. “There were a couple of series where they just took over.”

Much like their quarterback has done.

Oregon 0 3 0 6 — 9
Yakima 7 14 16 0 — 37

Yak — Alex Mahre 48 pass from John Lobbestael (Mahre kick)

Yak — Jake Zeutenhorst 16 pass from Lobbestael (Mahre kick)

Yak — Jake Valenzuela 12 run (Mahre kick)

Ore — FG 38 Ian Maloney

Yak — FG 26 Mahre

Yak — Jeremy Frank fumble recovery in end zone (kick failed)

Yak — Ryan Wright 19 pass from Lobbestael (Mahre kick)

Ore — FG 42 Maloney

Ore — FG 32 Maloney


RUSHING — Kenny Peterson 13-36, Nick Muir 4-29.

PASSING — Lobbestael 15-22-1-228.

RECEIVING — Wright 6-90, Mahre 5-69, Zeutenhorst 2-61.

Kellen Moore plays waiting game

April 26, 2012 by  

Prosser grad has done all he can do, now it’s time to see which NFL team will take a chance on him ||

YAKIMA, Wash. — Ask Kellen Moore about his NFL draft prospects and you quickly get a sense of a key trait that should make him one of the quarterbacks selected at some point during the three-day event.

His thoughtful, measured response shows an analytical mind; one that allows him to keep a calm demeanor in the pocket amid the surrounding chaos, making the most of his precious seconds to survey the field and hit an open target with pinpoint precision.

But his uncertainty about when or where he may be selected between now and Saturday afternoon is a reminder that despite his smarts, savvy and success at Boise State, some teams are wary of him because of perceived physical limitations — he’s not tall enough; not fast enough.

Boise State's Kellen Moore talks with a pro coach during the Boise State football Pro Day on Thursday, March 22, 2012 in Boise, Idaho. (AP Photo/Matt Cilley)

All Moore really knows at this point is that he’s done everything he can to show NFL teams he deserves a shot — and no matter what happens this week, he’s going to relish the moment.

“It’s all out your control now, so there’s no sense worrying about it,” the former Prosser High standout said in a telephone interview last week from his Boise home. “Whatever happens, happens and I’ll move on.

“For now, I’m going to go hang out with my family and we’ll enjoy it.”

Questions swirl around Moore because he’s that classic college player NFL teams can struggle to accurately evaluate.

From a purely statistical standpoint, Moore would be an NFL no-brainer. At Boise State, his production (142 TDs, 14,667 passing yards, 69.8 completion percentage) and success (a 50-3 record, including 6-0 vs. BCS schools) is unprecedented. Also, his work ethic and knowledge of the game are off the charts.

But NFL teams have concerns, legitimate or not, about Moore’s physical numbers — he measured an even 6 feet at the NFL combine, small for an pro quarterback — and also his quickness and arm strength.

Moore has heard all that before and refuses to get caught up debating or debunking his detractors. Instead, he’s taken it all in stride and, while he knows he can’t make himself taller, has worked hard on things he can control.

“If there are teams that have major concerns with my height, that’s fine. We can move on,” he said. “I’m just working in general on getting stronger and faster. I’m trying to work on having great movement in the pocket and good core strength.”

One way he did that was spending time in California with former NFL quarterback Ken O’Brien, working out with Nick Foles, the former Arizona quarterback and another draft prospect last week.

Moore also said he was pleased with how things went at the NFL combine and at Boise State’s pro day, with his latter effort particularly strong and potentially boosting his draft stock.

“A couple scouts there who are very much anti-Kellen Moore guys, who don’t see any way his body type can last in the NFL, even those guys said, ‘Wow, that was a good workout,’” an unidentified scout told Chadd Cripe of The Idaho Statesman following Moore’s March 22 performance.

Now, having done everything possible to make his case, Moore will sit and wait out the seven-round draft, knowing little more now than when this evaluation process began.

“They could run the draft 100 times and I would probably go to all 32 teams at some point,” he said, adding that he’s confident his name will eventually be called.

“It’ll happen. I’m excited about it and feel good about it,” said Moore, adding that, ultimately, when he goes is not nearly as important as where.

“I can make guesses like any fan,” he said, “but the bottom line is that you want to go where there’s a great fit. Where the offense fits you.

“You want to go where you can learn. Learn from one of the great quarterbacks in the league or learn from one of the great coaches in the league.”

And also have a chance to prove he belongs.

“Whatever situation I end up in, I want to be able to go in and compete,” he said. “Compete against another quarterback or compete against myself to get better.”

Stability gives Mavericks a leg up

April 20, 2012 by  

YAKIMA, Wash. — Stability is not a word commonly uttered in the world of semi-pro sports.

Players come and go, coaches as well, with great frequency, wiping rosters clean nearly every season.

That’s what makes this year’s version of the Yakima Mavericks somewhat remarkable.

Yakima Mavericks' Ryan Wright runs the ball near Clark County Vipers' Donnie W. Vercher, Jr. during the first quarter Saturday, April 23, 2011. (Andy Sawyer/Yakima Herald-Republic file)

The football team begins its season against Tacoma at 6 p.m. tonight at Marquette Stadium with a roster that features virtually every offensive skill position player and its key defensive players back from a team that overcame a slow start to finish 7-3 and make the playoffs.

“I think we’ll be pretty good this year,” Mavericks general manager Nathan Soptich said. “We have every key member from last year’s team back.”

Coach Steve Davis said much of the stability has to do with Yakima’s reliance on local players and the cohesion they’ve built over the years.

“It’s pretty unusual,” he said of the veteran-ladden squad. “But we’re like a family. These guys want to keep playing together.”

A lack of stability hurt Yakima out of the gate last season, with Davis making a quarterback change after an 0-2 start, going back to John Lobbestael, which triggered a turnaround that saw the Mavericks win seven of their final eight games before an overtime loss in the first round of the playoffs.

With Lobbestael back at the helm this season, the Mavericks are confident they can pick up right where it left off last season.

“I think the offense will score a lot of points,” Soptich said, adding that Lobbestael has really assumed a strong leadership role.

He’ll have plenty of familiar targets to throw to, starting with Ryan Wright and Alex Mahre.

“Any time you have those (two) guys to throw to, you’re in good shape,” Davis said.

The offensive line is young but has good depth, with newcomer Adam Peters from Sunnyside, making an immediate impression. The only significant change is at running back, where converted linebacker Kenny Petterson takes over as the starter.

“He’s a tough kid,” Davis said. “He won’t dazzle you with speed, but he’ll be tough to bring down.”

While the offense seems ready to roll, Yakima’s experience could have an even bigger impact with the defense.

Anchoring that side are defensive backs Jon Devolve (8th year with team) and Jeremy Frank (4th), linebackers Jesse Cardenas (8th) and B.J. Quinn (8th), and lineman Mick Gause (4th).

Complementing that experience is an influx of new players, including defensive end Darius Benitez from Davis, linebacker Alex Couette from Eisenhower, and cornerback Quincy Davis from Selah.

“The defense has those grizzly veterans and we have some young kids to mix in,” Davis said, adding that the teams’ veterans have set a standard for the younger players to follow.

“Any time you play semi-pro, if you don’t put in the time, you won’t be that good,” Davis said. “These guys work hard. In two months, we’ve had maybe two bad practices.

“They want to win and they want to put in the time.”

NOTES: The Mavericks have lowered ticket prices this season to $5 for everyone age 12 and older, with those 11 and under getting in for free. … All home games will be played at Marquette Stadium, at 5400 W. Chestnut Ave. … Yakima will again play in the Pacific Football League. Yakima has just three road games this season.

Goldendale’s Wanderscheid building on a successful freshman season

April 20, 2012 by  

YAKIMA, Wash. — Sophomore slump?

Not a chance.

A sophomore surge is more like it.

On the heels of her stellar freshman campaign at Goldendale High School, Bree Wanderscheid continues to elevate her golf game as she seeks to finish what she came oh-so-close to accomplishing last spring — win a state title.

Goldendale's Bree Wanderscheid makes a putt on the green of the 18th hole during a tournament at Sun Tides Golf Course in Yakima on Thursday, April 19, 2012. (Sara Gettys/Yakima Herald-Republic)

“It’s kind of all happened so fast,” said Wanderscheid, who called her runner-up finish in the Class 1A state tournament last year a pivotal moment in her young career.

“That boosted my confidence so that I know I can play with all these upperclassmen at state,” she continued. “That’s motivated me. I want to win state this year so I know I have to keep practicing.”

All that work has paid off so far with Wanderscheid turning in one strong round after another, including a remarkable 58 in the Othello Invitational. Although that score is somewhat misleading because, Wanderscheid said, the tee boxes were moved up about 40 yards, it’s still indicative of her precise shot-making abilities as the round featured just three pars and 15 birdies, including the entire back nine.

“I don’t really think about it,” she said of her game. “I just go out and play and hope I do good.

 “I guess I’m doing better than I expected.”

And not just in the high school ranks.

Last weekend, Wanderscheid won the Central Washington Junior Open (see inset), and in February, she took second at the Portland Junior Open, which features some of Oregon’s best prep players.

Last summer, she won her age division in the Washington State Junior Golf district tournament, and finished 13th in the U.S. Girls Junior Amateur qualifying tournament.

“It seems like my entire game has changed a lot,” she said. “I’ve just started putting better. I’ve started chipping better. I’ve worked on different kinds of shots so that I’m ready for anything in a tournament.”

While her entire game has improved, Wanderscheid has been able to pinpoint a couple specific things that have spurred these improvements.

First of all, she’s enjoyed a growth spurt and is now about 5-foot-4.

More importantly, she’s made changes on the tee and is hitting the ball significantly farther than a year ago, her father Ken Wanderscheid said.

“She’s always had a natural golf swing, she just wasn’t long enough off the tee blocks,” he said. “She’s grown and worked on different drills, like swinging the club through the ball not just to the ball.

Now, Wanderscheid is driving the ball about 240 yards, as opposed to 210 last year, and she’s also added about 10 to 20 yards with her irons, Ken said.

That added length has made all the difference.

“Last year, the other girls were hitting 20 yards past me,” she said. “They hit wedges into greens and I had to hit a wood.

“Just hitting the ball farther has changed my game.”

“That’s kind of why she didn’t win state last year,” Ken said. “The girl who won was just hitting it farther. Bree was hitting 6 irons into greens and it’s hard to get it close (to the hole). Now, she’s hitting short irons.

“Now she can attack par 5s because she can get there in two.”

This recent progress is just latest phase in her development since she began playing at age 8, after the family wanted older brother Zach to find a safer activity that BMX racing.

“My brother was getting way too fast and jumping too high and my mom worried he was going to break a bone,” she said. “He took up golf and when he got into it, my dad got me into it.

“I think I’ve always been a natural at it, but I didn’t practice a lot early on. When my brother got better, I started to practice more.”

Like her older brother, who went on to win back-to-back 1A state titles in 2009 and ’10 and now is at the University of Idaho, Bree has proven to be a quick study in the technical aspects of the game and backs those skills up with an intense desire to succeed.

“When she was eight, she went to a junior golf district, missed the cut and that kind of broke her heart,” Ken said. “That’s maybe even made her practice a little more because she doesn’t like to lose.”

And she hasn’t lost too often in the meantime — since age 9, Wanderscheid has not lost a district event in either junior golf or high school, winning eight times — and is showing every indication that many more victories are in her future as she continues to blend her natural abilities with a calm-under-pressure demeanor.

“The pressure part has never gotten to her,” Ken said. “It seems like the more pressure there is, the better she plays. She focusses more.

“Now, she’s building off that (state showing last spring). She’s ready to move to the next level.”

And she’s heading there quickly.

Yakima ABA team owners starting small

April 19, 2012 by  

Their plan is simple — return pro basketball to Yakima.

Simple in idea, but not in execution.

A myriad of challenges must be overcome before Tim Spradlin and Mike Crenshaw can successfully achieve their goal, but, like their plan, they’re going to use a simple approach to get things started.

Spradlin, 32, and Crenshaw, 36, have formed the Yakima Vipers, a team that is scheduled to play in the Pacific Northwest Division of the American Basketball Association starting this fall.

“We’re doing everything we can this first year to make sure we’re here for a second year — that we’re here for the long haul,” said Spradlin, a Valley native who will handle the basketball operations and be head coach.

Rather than attempting a big splash and creating unnecessary financial burdens, the duo have set what they view as more attainable standards.

“We have lower expectations (this first year),” said Crenshaw, who moved to Yakima two years ago from New York. “We want to build this. We don’t want to come in and try and fill the Sun Kings’ shoes immediately.”

First and foremost, they are utilizing an ABA rule that doesn’t require them to pay player salaries. Despite that decision, 10 players, all from the Yakima Valley, have committed to play for the team.

“We’re not paying the players the first year or two and they know that,” Crenshaw said. “Everyone is sacrificing at this time to build this. The players are all focussed on making this happen.”

Another cost savings will be to seek out a high school or college gym to play games, which they’ve yet to secure, rather than attempt to get into the far more expensive SunDome.

Those two decisions should keep their financial commitment below $25,000 for the first season, said Crenshaw, who is handling the business side of the franchise.

The pair also wants to make games affordable, targeting $5 ticket prices, although, nothing’s been decided on that front yet.

The Vipers will also stick to a previously agreed on 16-game schedule, eight home and eight away, as a way to contain costs, even though they found out later that teams must play at least 30 games to qualify for the playoffs.

Beyond the financial hurdles, the Vipers’ biggest challenge is clearly one of perception.

First, there is local skepticism in the wake of the most recent failures of the Yakima Reds soccer team and Yakima Valley Warriors indoor football team, and also the way things ended for the Sun Kings basketball team and now-defunct Continental Basketball Association.

“I’ve talked to a lot of people who were excited to have basketball back,” Spradlin said, “but I’ve also talked to fans who have their doubts and I understand that.”

More daunting, however, may be how the league they just joined is viewed.

The ABA has been notorious for failed teams and questionable ownership, and scheduled games not being played — or even getting a set schedule.

“I had people tell me to be careful with the ABA. I weighed the negatives and the positives and took a leap of faith,” said Spradlin, adding that they know they’ll face a far more critical eye than the division’s other new teams.

“We have higher standards than, say Lakewood, where it’s all new,” he continued. “The (basketball) fan here came to expect a quality of play. Our challenges are greater.”

For now, Spradlin and Crenshaw are taking each obstacle one at a time, with their next goal to show the community there is in fact a team and it’s preparing to play.

For that, they’re going to host a youth basketball camp Saturday afternoon, followed by an intrasquad game at OIC (see inset).

“Our main thing was the skepticism,” Crenshaw said. “We have to show that Yakima does have a team.”

A simple step that they hope will help build to their bigger goal.

Team sets intrasquad game||

Fans curious about the Yakima Vipers basketball team can get a first look at them Saturday when they play an intrasquad game at the Excel High School gym at OIC.

The game will start at 3 p.m., following a youth basketball clinic.

“We want to give fans a taste of what we are and that we’re here,” said co-owner Tim Spradlin, adding that the team also plans to have meet-the-player gatherings in the near future as well.

The camp, for boys and girls ages 8-14, will be from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and conducted by Vipers players. Cost is $25. For more information on the clinic, contact Mike at 509-406-3616.

OIC is located just north of Fruitvale Blvd. and 9th Avenue.

Vipers at a Glance

Team: Yakima Vipers.

Owners: Tim Spradlin, Mike Crenshaw.

Team colors: Black, red and white.

Home venue: To be determined.

Ticket prices: To be determined.

League: American Basketball Association.

Proposed division: Pacific Northwest.

Teams: Yakima, Seattle Mountaineers, Washington Rampage (Lake Stevens), Lakewood Panthers, Olympia Rise, Kitsap Admirals (Bremerton), Calgary Crush, Alaska Quake (Anchorage), Alaska 49ers (Anchorage).

Schedule: Most in division, including Yakima, will play 16 games — 8 home, 8 away. Both Alaska teams will play at least 30 games in an attempt to qualify for ABA playoffs.

Season: Expected to start in early November.

Vipers contact: [email protected] or [email protected].

League website:

Standish showing senior class at Gonzaga

March 25, 2012 by  

Ellensburg grad reflects on her time at Gonzaga ||

YAKIMA, Wash. — Arriving at Gonzaga four years ago, Kayla Standish wondered if she was, in fact, up to this new basketball challenge.

As a stellar career with the Bulldogs winds down four years later, Standish looks back and laughs at her early worries.

Gonzaga's Kayla Standish in action against Rutgers in the second half of an NCAA tournament first-round women's college basketball game Saturday, March 17, 2012, in Spokane, Wash. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

“I knew it would be a huge transition,” she said. “That first summer was a lot harder than what I expected. But I developed great friendships right away and that really helped. That freshman class grew really close those first weeks.

“The seniors (this season) have been through everything and it’s like going through it all with friends.”

Along the way, Standish has played a big part in Gonzaga’s transformation from a growing program to perennial winner, with her and the Bulldogs’ other four seniors playing in their fourth straight NCAA tournament, including a third straight Sweet 16 where Kentucky awaits at 4 p.m. today.

“I’m very honored to be part of changing the program,” Standish said. “I take pride in being a part of it.”

“I always knew she was a special player and a great young lady,” said Craig Faire, Standish’s basketball coach at Ellensburg High who has remained in contact with her. “To see what she’s accomplished at the college level is fantastic.”

Even so, for Standish, the team’s leading scorer and rebounder this season and all-time blocked shots leader, reaching this pinnacle came with some early growing pains.

A three-sport standout at Ellensburg High who was the Class 2A state basketball player of the year her junior and senior seasons — the last of which saw E-burg fall by a point to River Ridge in the state title game — Standish quickly realized that none of those accolades would help her succeed at Gonzaga.

“Coming in, I knew I wasn’t strong enough,” said Standish, who endured the added burden of being thrust into a new position, playing in the low post.

“I started as a guard and they discovered my dribbling skills weren’t up to par, so they wanted me in the post,” the 6-foot-3 Standish said. “I had never played with my back to the basket before.”

Learning from and playing behind Heather Bowman and Vivian Frieson, Standish began a bruising transition.

“Bowman and Vivian would kick my butt every day in practice,” she said. “I learned a lot from getting my butt kicked every day.”

For two years she labored in a reserve role, although she did average 8.1 points as a sophomore, honing her skills and knowing her opportunity was coming.

“Sitting on the bench, it took time for me to find my fit but I stayed motivated,” said Standish, who proved to be well-prepared when her time came, averaging 17.1 points and 8.4 rebounds last season and boasting team-best totals of 16.1 points and 7.7 rebounds this season.

“I knew I had a big role to fill (as a junior) but I had a lot of help on the court,” she said of her teammates, particularly point guard Courtney Vandersloot, helping her quickly feel comfortable and confident in her expanded role.

Standish’s eventual success is the result of her pure athletic abilities blending with a dynamic competitive drive and mental toughness, Faire said.

“She’s one of those kids who was confident in herself but also worked hard to keep getting better,” Faire said. “She was never arrogant. She’s one of the most coachable players I’ve ever worked with and was always willing to do what you asked.

“They needed her inside and that’s what she did. Give Kayla a lot of credit. It shows her drive that she was going to make this work. It shows how hard she has worked to have this type of career.”

That motivation is also evident in her efforts to help fill a leadership role this season.

Although admitting she’s never really been a vocal leader — hers is more by example — the soft-spoken Standish has emerged as a guiding force for coach Kelly Graves, although it didn’t come easily.

“You mean something besides the coaches yelling at me every day?” she said, laughing, when ask how she’s stepped up as a leader this season.

Noting her “humble” qualities, Faire understands the challenge she faced, but also knew she’d meet it head on.

“She still doesn’t like to talk much; she let’s it show on the floor,” said Faire, adding that he talked to her about this before the season. “(But) she’s figured it’s her time. It was one of the things she expected. Kelly told her she was going to have to step up as a leader; have to step up as a scorer, and she’s done that.”

In one way, the leadership displayed by Standish and her fellow seniors has been simply reminding the younger players what the Gonzaga program has evolved into — and not just in terms of wins and losses.

“We just try to ingrain what a special thing we’ve got going at Gonzaga,” Standish said. “We’ve been a growing program for years … and our team and coaches are very close.”

That bond was evident to Standish on her recruiting visit and the main reason she chose Gonzaga over, at the time, higher-profile schools California, Washington and Washington State.

“I went to coach Graves’ house and hung out with his family and the assistant coaches and players,” she said. “It was a big family. It’s close, like my family at home. There’s a lot of love on this team.

“The team has always had a strong bond and that’s shown on the floor.”

“Of the many reasons she went there, number one was the family atmosphere,” Faire said.

Now, an emotional Standish admits that it’s hard to think about this special run ending, but, true to her nature, she’s managed to turn it into a positive.

“It’s a scary feeling but I think it’s motivating,” said Standish, who does plan to pursue professional basketball opportunities. “It’s not a good feeling knowing the next loss will be my last game, but it brings out the drive in me to try putting it off as long as possible.”

Whenever that moment arrives — whether today against Kentucky, in the championship game April 3 or somewhere in between — Standish is certain of one thing — she did in fact make the right decision.

“I know why I came to Gonzaga and why I play basketball. I love it. It’s my passion,” she said. “Things have been way better than I expected. I’ve had the time of my life at Gonzaga. This has been the best four years of my life.”


• Gonzaga’s all-time leader in blocked shots (176 through today).

• As a junior, became just fifth Gonzaga player to top 600 points in a season (617).

• Had back-to-back 30-point games in ’11 NCAA tournament, the first Bulldog to score that many points in consecutive games, regular or postseason.

• Averaged team-best 21.2 in NCAA tournament last season.

• Played on U.S. Pan American Games team last summer.

High school

• Three-sport standout in volleyball, basketball and track and field at Ellensburg.

• Two-time Class 2A state basketball player of the year (’07, ’08).

• Led Ellensburg to 4 state basketball appearances and 3 trophies, including runner-up finish in ’08.

• Topped 2,000 points (2,076) in basketball.

• Helped Ellensburg to 3 straight state state volleyball trophies, capped by third-place finish in ’07.

• Won 9 state track and field medals, including 3 runner-up finishes.

• Yakima Sports Awards’ female athlete of the year in ’06 and ’08, and female basketball player of the year ’06, ’07 and ’08.

Next Page »