It didn’t matter the time of year. Spring, summer, fall or winter. Day or night. Weekdays, weekends or holidays.
It was a non-stop, action-packed, memorable 2011 sports year around the Napa Valley.
The book on 2011 featured newsmakers on every level – youth, high school, college and professional — throughout Napa County.
As the curtain closes on 2011, it’s time to look back on one of the best years of sports in Napa County history.
Here are the Napa Valley Register’s Top 10 sports stories of 2011, in no particular order:
Coaching greats pass
• Burl Autry, who brought pride, glory and a winning tradition to Vintage High as its first head football coach, died Sept 25. Autry, who had pancreatic cancer, was 78.
Autry, known as “Mr. Football” in Napa, was the founder of Vintage’s program starting in 1972 and compiled an impressive 110-48-2 record with eight Monticello Empire League titles in 14 years while leading the Crushers to a perfect 13-0 record and their first CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division I championship in 1980. He was one of the game’s gurus in Northern California who always surrounded himself with highly respected and experienced assistant coaches.
Autry’s No. 1 jersey was retired by Vintage at a function during the fall honoring the Crushers’ 1980 and 1986 Sac-Joaquin Section title-winning teams at the Elks Lodge of Napa. He was not able to be there, but the crowd recognized Autry with a standing ovation.
Autry was Vintage’s athletic director, started the Vintage Sports Booster Club, and organized volunteer work groups to put in irrigation lines and grass fields at Vintage when the school opened. Over a period of 10 years, he was a major force in three separate renovation projects for Napa Memorial Stadium by raising funds and coordinating volunteer labor.
In 1980, he was awarded the Joe Verducci Memorial Award as the Northern California High School Coach of the Year. In 1994, he received the Contribution to Amateur Football Award from the Northern California chapter of the National Football Foundation and Hall of Fame. Seven times he was named as MEL Coach of the Year.
• Julian Szmidt, Vintage High School’s girls water polo coach and the executive director of Napa Valley Water Polo, died Oct. 31 of a heart attack at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Santa Rosa. Szmidt was 60.
Szmidt’s background in swimming and water polo dates back over the last 42 years. Under Szmidt’s direction, Vintage has made CIF Sac-Joaquin Section tournament appearances since 2001.
He was also an assistant swim coach at Vintage and was a prominent, respected member of the athletic department.
Szmidt was named head coach of the Central California Youth Girls All-Star team for national competitions from 2004-2008.
College athletes shine
• In March, Vicky Deely, a sophomore wing for the UC Davis women’s basketball team, was named honorable mention All-Big West Conference. Additionally, the 6-foot Deely received the Big West’s “Sixth Woman of the Year” award, one of three specialty awards in the league. A three-time Napa County Player of the Year selection who was twice named as the All-Marin County Athletic League MVP, Deely returned to Justin-Siena, her alma mater, joining the Braves as an assistant coach and electing to leave the UC Davis women’s program after three years.
• Tatum Souza, a freshman and former Napa High multi-sport star, finished sixth in the heptathlon with 4,906 points for the UCLA women’s track and field team at the Pacific-10 Conference Championships in May.
• Dominic Giovannoni, a Napa resident, placed fifth with a score of 7,117 points in the men’s decathlon for UCLA at the Pac-10 Multi-Event Championships in May. Giovannoni, a sophomore for the Bruins last year, broke the meet’s decathlon record, winning with a score of 7,192 points, during the Rafer Johnson/Jackie Joyner Kersee Invitational in Los Angeles in April.
• Napa’s Melissa Loper and Jessica Loper were among 10 players from the University of the Pacific who were awarded spots on the Association of Collegiate Water Polo Coaches 2011 Women’s All-Academic Team. Melissa Loper, a senior, and Jessica Loper, a redshirt junior, each received “Excellent” recognition for GPAs between 3.20 and 3.40.
• Emily Talley, a senior at the University of Colorado, played for the U.S. at the XXVI Summer World University Games in Shenzhen, China in August. Talley, who is from Napa, was one of five players from the U.S. in the women’s golf event. She played individually for the U.S., which won the bronze medal. She finished 16th in the field of 75. She was the third-best player from the U.S. in the final rankings.
• Mike Santora received National Gold Glove honors from the American Baseball Coaches Association and Rawlings for his play at shortstop as a junior for Cal Poly Pomona. He also earned a spot on the ABCA/Rawlings All-West Region Second Team as well as the All-California Collegiate Athletic Association Second Team. The Napa High graduate appeared in 53 games with 51 starts last year.
• In her final collegiate volleyball match for Bucknell, Kyleigh McAhren of Napa had five kills and two defensive digs, but the Bison lost 3-0 to Army at Gillis Field House in November in West Point, N.Y. McAhren is a Justin-Siena graduate who played right-side hitter.
• Marlee Davis, a 5-foot-9 freshman defensive specialist from Napa, made her collegiate volleyball debut for UC Berkeley as the host Bears opened their 2011 season with a 3-0 win over UC Riverside during the Cal Molten Classic at Haas Pavilion in August. Davis is a Vintage High graduate and four-time All-Monticello Empire League first-team selection who also played for the Golden Bear Volleyball Club.
• Sacramento State honored senior running back Jake Croxdale, a Napa High graduate, with the Ray Clemons Award in November at the football team’s 2011 awards ceremony. The Ray Clemons Award is given to the player who best exemplified the former coach’s hard-working philosophy. Croxdale, who is from Napa, leaves Sac State with 940 career rushing yards and was also a key member of nearly every special teams unit.
• Max Alvarez, a junior forward, was named second-team All-Mountain Pacific Sports Federation for the Sacramento State men’s soccer team, which ended the season with a 9-8-2 record. Alvarez, a Napa High graduate and the 2008 Napa County Player of the Year, scored four goals and led Sacramento State with five assists.
• Michel Arroyo, a freshman midfielder for the Sonoma State men’s soccer team, was named to the Daktronics NCAA Division II All-West Region team in November. Arroyo, a Calistoga High graduate, was a First Team All-California Collegiate Athletic Association selection and the conference’s Freshman of the Year. He scored six goals and assisted on another to finish third on the Seawolves with 13 points.
• Napa’s Devin Caldwell, who plays second base for Sacramento State, was named as the freshman of the year on the Pacific Coast Softball Conference’s All-Coastal Division team in May. Caldwell, a 2010 Napa High graduate, was also chosen first-team all-conference, capping a first year of major college softball in which she hit a team-high .328 while starting all but one game at second base.
• Presley Bard of Napa earned All-America honors for USC in the 100-yard back, 200-yard back, 200-yard medley relay and 400-yard medley relay at the 2011 NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships at Texas’ Jamail Swim Center in Austin in March. Bard, a senior who was making her third consecutive appearance in the NCAA 100 back final, finished in third place. She was sixth in the final of the 200 back. She was on USC’s third-place 200 medley relay team, swimming the first leg. She swam the opening leg on the Trojans’ second-place 400 medley relay.
• Lea Wallace was honored by the Sacramento State athletics department as the Senior Female Athlete of the Year. Wallace, a Vintage High graduate and former Napa County Female Athlete of the Year, earned All-America honors in both the 800 and 1,500 at the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa in June. She left Sac State as the school-record holder in the indoor 800 and mile and the outdoor 800 and 1,500. Wallace ended a spectacular senior season and put an exclamation point on an outstanding collegiate career as a middle distance runner by being selected in June as Sacramento State’s recipient of the Big Sky Conference Scholar-Athlete Award for 2010-11.
• Ben Ballantine of Napa was 3-1 with a 4.91 earned run average in 18 appearances, three of which were starts, as a sophomore pitcher for the University of Michigan.
• Becki Heimbigner of Napa started 51 games and batted .235 with 39 hits, including two home runs, and drove in 13 runs as a sophomore middle infielder for the University of Toledo softball team.
• Ted LeMasters, who batted .245 in 47 games, was the recipient of the University of San Francisco’s Con Dempsey Jr. Late Bloomer Award. LeMasters, a 2007 Napa High graduate, started 13 of the Dons’ final 17 games in left field, including all three games at Gonzaga and two of the three NCAA Tournament games. He made 30 starts and hit four home runs, seven doubles and drove in 13 runs.
• Janelle Travis became the first freshman point guard to start in her first collegiate game for the Army women’s basketball team since 1986, and scored five points on 2-of-4 shooting as the Black Knights won their season opener, 70-46 over Wagner in November at Christl Arena at West Point, N.Y. Travis is a Justin-Siena graduate and a former Napa County Player of the Year.
• Napa’s Alex Robben started 14 games and played in 23 as a freshman first baseman-outfielder for the UC Berkeley softball team, which made its 11th all-time appearance in the Women's College World Series in Oklahoma City.
• JJ Wagoner of Napa played in 49 games and started 46 as a catcher and outfielder for the UC Davis softball team. The Napa High graduate had 39 hits and batted .300. She was second on the team with 21 runs scored.
• Charles Boyett played his first season of college football, making 22 tackles with one forced fumble for UC Davis. The Napa High graduate plays free safety.
Pro athletes continue to do well
• Brett Wallace batted .259 with five home runs, 22 doubles and 29 RBIs for the Houston Astros. He won the starting first base job for Houston during spring training in Florida in March and was in the starting lineup to open the regular season at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia. The 2005 Justin-Siena graduate batted .379 during spring training.
• Mike Gibson of Napa played in his second consecutive game for the Seattle Seahawks on Dec. 24. The back-up offensive lineman played against the San Francisco 49ers at CenturyLink Field. Gibson, a fourth-year player out of UC Berkeley, is a back-up guard-center. Gibson, a Napa High graduate, was signed to a one-year contract by the Seahawks on Dec. 6. He was in training camp with the club over the summer and played in the four preseason games, but was released in early September.
• Riding for Team Spider-Tech powered by C10, Napa’s Lucas Euser finished the Tour of Utah in ninth place overall in August. Euser finished 15th in the Greenville Hospital Systems USA Cycling Pro Road Race Championships in May in Greenville, S.C. Euser completed the eight-day Amgen Tour of California, the most prestigious stage race in the U.S., in 39th place overall in May.
• By finishing 145th on the 2011 money list, Scott McCarron has conditional status next year, allowing him to play in 20 to 25 events on the PGA Tour. McCarron, a Vintage High graduate and former Napa resident, will be starting his 18th year on the PGA Tour in 2012.
• Matt Yourkin ended the 2011 Pacific Coast League season on a bright note for Fresno in September as he started and got the win in the Grizzlies’ 12-9 victory over the host Tacoma (Wash.) Rainiers. Yourkin (10-8), a left-hander from Napa, led the PCL in strikeouts, finishing with 145. He was selected as the Pitcher of the Year for Fresno, which is the San Francisco Giants’ Triple-A affiliate. He tied for the team lead in wins. He made 29 starts and compiled a 4.69 earned run average during the year.
Championship season for Napa Legion 17’s
The Napa Legion 17’s, representing the Napa Valley Baseball Club, won the inaugural Tri-State American Legion Regional title in August at the Veterans Home of California in Yountville, defeating Mid Pacific Baseball of Oahu, Hawaii, 7-1. The win for Napa (29-11 overall) capped a 4-0 run in the six-team, three-state tournament. The team, managed by Rich Anderson, was a combination of players from Napa, Vintage and Justin-Siena.
Napa was in the championship round of the State American Legion “B” Tournament, losing 3-0 to Pacifica of Garden Grove (northern Orange County). Napa completed the six-team Junior American Legion tournament for players ages 17 and younger going 3-2.
Hall of Fame inductees
• Napa Valley College inducted its inaugural Athletic Hall of Fame class this past fall during a dinner and awards program at the Embassy Suites Hotel, with each honoree receiving a medal with a green and gold ribbon.
The class consists of Jim Hard, a wide receiver, who set six single-season school records for football, catching 120 passes in two years (1976-77); Frank Humpert, who played football and basketball; Warren Brusstar, who played baseball and today is the Storm’s pitching coach; Scott Buss, a tennis player who was the 1981 NVC Athlete of the Year; Todd Pridy, a baseball player, who was a JC All-American, the Bay Valley Conference Player of the Year, and the recipient of the Northern California Big Stick award who was chosen All-Northern California; the late Glenn “Pop” DuBose, a member of the founding faculty of NVC in 1942; and the late Bob Steen, who during his 35-year career at the college was athletic director, coach and teacher.
• The Napa High Athletic Hall of Fame enshrined its newest class this past fall, honoring Keri Starr (Nelson) Hamby, Katie (Fontana) Abbott, Brooke Dunton and Derek Stephens from the Class of 1996, and Dave Jones from the Class of 1967. The 15th annual awards dinner was held at Embassy Suites Hotel.
Big year for Napa High grad Boyett at Oregon
It’s been a big year for John Boyett, the University of Oregon’s starting free safety who is from Napa.
He was credited with nine total stops in January’s BCS National Championship Game, a 22-19 loss to Auburn at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.
In December, Boyett, who was fifth in the Pac-12 Conference with an average of 7.6 tackles per game, was named honorable mention All-America by Pro Football Weekly.
Boyett, a junior, leads Oregon in stops (91) going into Monday’s Rose Bowl game against Wisconsin in Pasadena. The game will be carried by ESPN.
The Ducks won the inaugural Pac-12 championship, beating UCLA 49-31. It was Oregon’s third straight conference title. Boyett had 12 total tackles, including seven unassisted stops against UCLA.
The Napa High graduate was named Second-Team All-Pac-12 at defensive back. He was also named First-Team Defense on Phil Steele’s 2011 Postseason All-Pac-12 Team.
Boyett was named to the 2011 Jim Thorpe Award Preseason Watch List and the Lott IMPACT Trophy Watch List.
NVC fall teams excel
It was some kind of a fall season for Napa Valley College, as the Storm finished undefeated in Bay Valley Conference play in all three sports.
The volleyball and men’s soccer teams won BVC titles. The women’s soccer team, playing its inaugural season, took third place in the BVC because of its six ties and also advanced to the playoffs.
The women’s soccer team (10-4-8 overall, 6-0-6 BVC) lost in the first round of the Northern California playoffs to Modesto Junior College, 2-0, in November.
The NVC men’s team (11-2-8 overall, 10-0-2 BVC) lost in the first round of the NorCal playoffs, 5-0 to City College of San Francisco.
The NVC volleyball team (19-4 overall, 14-0 BVC) won its fifth straight Bay Valley title. The Storm lost 3-2 to Feather River College-Quincy in the first round of NorCals.
Justin-Siena golfer Scavo fifth at state
Kathleen Scavo, a Justin-Siena freshman, was fifth at the CIF/California Golf Association/Northern California Golf Association Girls High School State Championship, shooting a 2-over-par 74 in November at Poppy Hills Golf Course on the Monterey Peninsula. Scavo’s round of three birdies, 11 pars, three bogeys and one double bogey on the par-72, 6,066-yard course left her just three shots behind Sarah Cho of Torrey Pines-San Diego and Cha Cha Willhoite of Palm Desert, each of whom had 71s.
Scavo received a fifth-place medal, ending her first season of high school golf on the biggest stage of the 2011 season.
Previously, Scavo tied for second place in the Northern California Championship, shooting 72 at the Stanford University Golf Course, and was second with a round of 71 at the North Coast Section Division I Championship at Los Positas Golf Course in Livermore. As a team, Justin-Siena won the North Coast Section Div. II title at the Chuck Corica Golf Course in Alameda.
A new-look North Course at Silverado
Silverado Resort and Spa’s North Course, a championship layout that was redesigned by World Golf Hall of Fame member Johnny Miller, made Golfweek’s Top 100 Resort Courses for 2012. The par-72 North Course, which plays 7,226 yards from the new back tees, is listed 49th by Golfweek. The course opened in 1957 and was originally designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr.
Miller lengthened the course, which features water crossings, elevation changes, and routing through oak, pine, and redwood trees. Enhancing the makeover was a complete bunker renovation and the addition of brilliant white sand from Idaho in the traps, creating holes that have stunning definition and superb character.
The removal of kikuyu grass has also returned the course to its original rye-Kentucky bluegrass condition, making for better all-around playability while adding to the aesthetic beauty of the course.
Instead of mostly long, flat and straight, the North Course now has movement and angles to its par-4 holes, creating even more of a test when it comes to shaping shots.
In October, the Junior Golf Association of Northern California played its annual Tournament of Champions event on the North Course.
Key coaching changes
• Dave Shipp took over as Vintage High’s head football coach in January, returning to the sidelines for his second stint of leading the program.
Shipp first served as a football coach at Vintage in 1978 when he was an assistant coach for receivers and defensive backs on a Crusher team that won the MEL title and went on as semi-finalists in the Sac-Joaquin Section AAA playoffs. He was an assistant to former head coach Les Franco, coaching the defensive line on Vintage’s 2005 Monticello Empire League championship team.
Shipp served as the Crushers’ head coach from 1989 to 1993.
This past fall Vintage was 3-7 and finished third in the Monticello Empire League.
• During the summer, Allen Rossi accepted Justin-Siena’s offer to return as the Braves’ head baseball coach. He left Justin-Siena following the 2006 season, compiling a 172-38 overall record and leading the Braves to four CIF section titles, five league championships and a 42-game winning streak in eight years as the Braves’ coach.
There was so much that Justin-Siena achieved under Rossi.
The Braves won two Superior California Athletic League titles and the 2000 CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division III championship under Rossi, who was named the Small Schools State Coach of the Year by Cal-Hi Sports. He was the Coach of the Year on All-Napa County teams from 2000 to 2006.
Justin-Siena won CIF North Coast Section Class A titles in 2003, 2004 and 2005. The Braves went a perfect 27-0 in 2005 and also won three Marin County Athletic League championships.
They appeared in five straight section title games and six total under Rossi.