Winter sports – a combination of boys and girls basketball, boys and girls soccer, and wrestling – are in full swing at Justin-Siena High School, a member of the CIF North Coast Section and Marin County Athletic League.
A team-by-team look at each of the sports:
“While the record doesn’t reflect it, we have had a very promising start to our season,” said coach Andy Bettencourt.
The Braves are 2-3 after losing to Healdsburg, 45-38, in the championship game of the Redwood Empire Invitational Basketball Tournament.
“The players have a great attitude and spirit and we have played well for the better part of our first few games,” said Bettencourt. “The Vintage game was a great high school basketball game, and they were able to just make a few more plays than we did. Our players are working hard and getting better every day and we are very excited to watch them keep getting better and better.”
Justin-Siena started the season with losses to Vintage (66-56) and St. Patrick-St. Vincent of Vallejo (68-44). The Braves then won two in a row, beating El Molino-Forestville (60-33) and Clear Lake-Lakeport (43-33).
“Our overall goal is the same every year – simply to try and get better every day,” said Bettencourt. “Tangible goals that we set for our team are to compete for an MCAL championship, an NCS championship, and qualify for the state playoffs. We feel that with health, and continuing to get better, we can definitely give ourselves an opportunity to compete for those things.
“The team has done a good job in the early season of working together, understanding their individual roles on the team, and playing as a unit. This team genuinely roots for each other and wants each other to succeed. They care deeply about getting better and want to be the best they can be. They are a joy to coach and we are having a blast.”
Kiran Monteverdi (guard), Ashlee Whittemore (guard), Mary Minigan (guard), Emmy Morrison (forward) and Ally Jackson (forward) are the top returners and also the starters.
Monteverdi has done a great job in a starting role, especially on the defensive end of the floor, said Bettencourt. “She brings energy, tenacity, and is a very key player for us this season,” the coach said.
Whittemore is one of the best players in the MCAL and this area, said Bettencourt. “She blends her unique talents with a work ethic that is just incredible. She wants to get better and works very hard every day towards that goal,” said Bettencourt.
Whittemore was named as a finalist for Player of the Year on last year’s All-Napa County team after being selected first-team All-Marin County Athletic League. In MCAL games, she was third in the league with 14.9 points per game, 10th with 4.9 rebounds, and second with 3.4 assists and 3.9 steals. She was also named to the San Francisco Chronicle’s All-Metro team.
Minigan “has been phenomenal for us so far this season,” said Bettencourt. “Her basketball IQ, shooting, and passing have been and will be vital to our team’s success. She does so many things well for us.”
Morrison is known for her shooting, “but does so much more for our team on the defensive and offensive ends of the floor,” said Bettencourt. “She is a valuable defender, rebounder, and passer and we look forward to a great season from her.”
Jackson has taken a major step forward in her scoring this year, said Bettencourt. “She has worked hard on her game and is a very tough matchup for the other team because of her ability to play inside and outside,” the coach said.
Ella Thatcher and Karlie Wells are top players as well for the Braves.
“Ella has done an incredible job for us off the bench so far this year. She brings energy, defensive intensity, and has knocked down some shots for us,” said Bettencourt.
“Karlie brings a physical presence and rebounding off the bench. She has made great strides as a player and continues to get better,” the coach said.
Mikhaela Cepeda, Lexi Rosenbrand and Michelle Lozano are also on the team.
Bettencourt is assisted by Josh DeBonis and Tim Malloy.
“We are really fortunate to have two incredible assistant coaches who have great knowledge, passion, and relate so well with our players. Adding coach Malloy to our staff has made a difference for sure,” said Bettencourt.
First-year coach Jason Rockwell said, “Overall, the team has been a pleasure to work with. They have been up and down, showing glimmers of what we can be, but also proving that no one escapes early season woes.”
Cole Cummings (forward), John Nessman (guard), Chris Vaziri (forward), Barrett Donohoe (guard), and Liam McDevitt (guard) are the starters for the Braves, who are off to a 3-2 start.
Donohoe and Cummings, a captain, are the top returners.
“I’m looking to get the boys believing that they can compete with anyone,” said Rockwell. “By putting in work and loving and trusting in one another, they are capable of accomplishing anything. This group has a lot of potential.”
Justin-Siena has wins over the Nueva School-San Mateo (46-29), El Molino (63-33), and Middletown (45-42).
The losses have come against Vacaville Christian (46-43) and Healdsburg (37-28).
Rockwell played basketball at St. Joseph-Notre Dame High School in Alameda and Chabot College-Hayward, and has coached at Chabot, St. Joe’s, Alameda High and De La Salle High-Concord.
Jacob Guiducci (106 pounds), Helen Neidhoefer (120), Wriley Sedgwick-Robles (126), Tommy Lopez (132), Mackenzie Gentry (138), Cole Kleis (145), Nico Minardos (152), Hung Tran (160), Syohei Harr (170), Joe Karch (182), JP Negueloua (195), and Erold Ramirez and Trace Cosgrove (heavyweight) are the starters for the Braves.
Victoria Su (170) is on the girls varsity.
“From a numbers standpoint, this is the largest group we’ve had since we took the program over in 2014-2015,” said coach Jason A. Guiducci. “We are still very deep in a youth movement as we have only three seniors on the squad. With that being said, there is definitely a youthful enthusiasm in the room, but as coaches we’re still in the developmental process when it comes to running practices. The kids are holding their own at the novice and JV level, but at some point they’ll be wrestling varsity when it comes to dual meets at the MCAL season.”
The Braves’ top returners are:
* Karch is a three-time NCS qualifier, “and his mat experience helped land him an important role in helping our Braves football team get back to the playoffs as a first-year varsity player,” said Guiducci. “A fourth NCS berth is well within his grasp.”
* Sedgwick-Robles is a returning MCAL champion and two-time NCS qualifier, “who will be one of our go-to guys this season,” said the coach.
* Su has previous experience at the NCS level.
“Our goal since taking over the program was to return it to where it once was,” said Guiducci. “Our hopes were to return it to the top of MCAL and to return to the NCS Small School Dual Championships.
“Our seniors are displaying amazing patience and helping us bring the younger wrestlers along. It obviously wasn’t that long ago when they were the new kids on the block and they definitely understand the importance of being a mentor.”
Caroline Melancon, the Braves’ captain, Sophie Dierking and Natalie Gulrajani are the key returners.
“We are very young still and will have many ups and downs as a program,” said coach Eric Branagan-Franco. “We need to get stronger and healthy for us to be able to compete.
“The strength of the team is their camaraderie and willingness to continue to grow as players. The goal for this year is for them to continue to improve, learn more about the game and enjoy the season.”
There is not a set starting line-up due to injuries.
Aidan Dolinar (goalkeeper), Jordan Bowman-Davis (wing back), Luis Quirarte (wing back), Will Melancon (center back), Eric Guzman (center back), Chris Gutierrez (midfield), Arturo Fernandez (midfield), Daniel Saucedo (midfield), Josiah Gutierrez (midfield), Phillip Gaertner (midfield) and Vincent Fuentes (striker) are the Braves’ starters.
“The team is looking great so far,” said coach Wayne Hardy. “We have a better turnout this year with numbers, so the depth will help. A lot of talented players that are confident, on and off the ball, mentally tactical in the game, and hard workers during practices and games.
“We had a good result against San Marin High School, which is always a tough competition.”
Justin-Siena and San Marin tied 3-3.
Melancon, Guzman and Gutierrez are the team leaders.
Hardy said the Braves “are working extremely hard in practices and games in order to be the stronger team. They want wins, the team is hungry for them, and their hard work is showing it. Confidence on the ball would be the second. We have a lot of players who are technically sound with their touches, able to take players on and are on point with their passes.
“As any team, we want to make it into the playoffs. Our goal this year is to make it into the top six teams. If we can do that, we have a great chance at playoffs. With this being our last year in MCAL, we are looking to make a lasting impression of our last season. We are looking to get more wins on the board and build chemistry so that we can compete with the high caliber of the MCAL.”