With the 2019-2020 school year in our rear-view mirror, The Register sports staff has turned its attention to the Napa County student-athletes that are returning to play sports in 2020-21.
Per announcements from the California Interscholastic Federation and North Coast Section in late July, the fall season for high school sports in the 2020-21 school year is now scheduled to begin in December and January with the rest of the sports slated to start in February and March to help stop the community spread of the coronavirus.
With that in mind, we continue our Up & Comers series, which highlights rising stars and players to watch for when their long waits are finally over.
Our 29th edition features Shayla Hoang of American Canyon, Lucas Bollinger of Vintage, and Fawad Muhammad of St. Helena.
Class of: 2022
Sports: Tennis, basketball
Bollinger and Co. dominated their only three matches this spring, winning each 7-0. None of the Crushers were seniors, so the Vine Valley Athletic League gets to look forward to facing the same group next year.
Bollinger dominated Sonoma Valley sophomore Carlos Rubio, 6-0, 6-1, to win the VVAL singles title in spring 2019 at the Napa Valley Tennis Association courts after leading the Crushers to their first league title in recent memory.
“I first heard about Lucas when my son, Jack, had a class with him,” Cole recalled of his No. 2 player in 2019. “Jack asked me if I had seen this kid Lucas Bollinger play tennis yet. ‘Dad, you’re not going to believe this guy,’ he told me.” Several months later, Cole dropped by Bollinger’s gym class and asked the instructor to point him out. I see this little dude, kind of scrawny, looks like your classic freshman. I said to him: ‘You’re the future of Vintage tennis?’”
After watching Bollinger play the first time, Coach Cole told Athletic Director Cam Neal, “Cam, we’re winning the league title this year. Guaranteed.”
Bollinger led Vintage through an undefeated dual meet season without losing and made winning the league singles title look easy.
“Luke has a super high tennis IQ and he’s fun to watch,” Cole said. ”Plus he’s a nice kid and he never gets rattled. We could be paying to watch him play some day.”
School: American Canyon
Class of: 2021
Sports: Badminton, wrestling, cheer
After participating in cheer during football season, Hoang capped a solid wrestling season in February. She finished second at 137 pounds in the Vine Valley Athletic League Championships at American Canyon High, and 1-2 at the North Coast Section Girls Wrestling Championships at Albany High.
She then competed in badminton, which saw her school host the VVAL Championships in 2019. She said it was her favorite badminton memory so far.
“School was in session, everyone came to watch the tournament or to get food, and everyone was wearing Star Wars things and all dressed up,” Hoang recalled. “Playing badminton was very fun with Brianna (Saavedra, also in the class of 2021).”
Look for Hoang to cheer for the football team again, starting in January, before she returns to the badminton team. She may have to forego another season of wrestling, since it will be held at the same time as badminton this spring.
“I am most excited for the team bonding, improving, and just being able to hit the birdie again,” she said. “Badminton has made a positive impact on my life by creating many friends from the sport, gaining skill in my technique, being able to visit schools and create bonds with them, too. The competitiveness of the support goes crazy and I love that.”
Badminton head coach Dorothy Gail Ramos said Hoang is very much a team player.
“Shayla is a force on and off the court,” the coach said. “She plays both wrestling and badminton, and she has never wavered in either sport. Last year she even conditioned with football to prep for wrestling and badminton season.
“She volunteered to be head of the Team Bonding Committee because she knew team community and culture is key in having a successful team, along with cultivating that championship mindset. She was ready to play in singles and girls doubles varsity last year. I am hoping we can still get on the court and get her to the same level, because her grit and laser focus are very motivating to see live.”
School: St. Helena
Class of: 2021
The 6-foot-2 forward started the 2019-20 season on fire, scoring 30, 23 and 30 points at the Saints’ Sutter Home Tournament, where he was named All-Tournament, before earning the same award at the Cloverdale tournament.
He missed five early league games but still ended up leading St. Helena with 14.1 points, 6.85 rebounds, 2.0 steals and 43% shooting from 2-point range, earning the Saints’ Most Inspirational Player honors. He was also one of five finalists for Napa County Player of the Year, and a Newcomer of the Year finalist as a sophomore.
“Fawad has an uncanny ability to get past his defender to create an opening for his shot,” head coach Jim Gamble said after the season. “He was also a tenacious man defender, leading the team in steals and using his length to contest shots, deflect passes and create havoc for the other team.”
Muhammad averaged about 18 points and 7 rebounds per game in the preseason last winter.
“He’s just relentless out there,” Gamble said in December. “He’s not a ballhog. When the shots are there, he’s taking them and going hard to the basket. He’s also grabbing a bunch of offensive rebounds and is really aggressive in transition. There’s always a hand in his face, but he has this uncanny ability to create just enough separation to get his shot off.”
Get in the game with our Prep Sports Newsletter
Sent weekly directly to your inbox!