Around the TRAC: Going beyond the surface to find the story within the story

The Clovis North girls tennis team finished an undefeated 10-0 in league and looks to capture a second straight D-I Valley title this season (Contributed Photo)

Last issue in this section of Around the TRAC, I went all sentimental, writing about the joys and the innocence of youth sports and all the sacrifices that parents make for their kids. It’s not uncommon for parents’ allergies to act up reflecting on the journeys they have taken, and all the hours poured into their kids’ lives (FYI: “allergies acting up” is code for crying). I received great feedback from the 494 words that flowed out of my mind to the keyboard, and it made my own heart all warm and fuzzy. I could have written 1,500 more. 

I’m going to go semi-warm and fuzzy here again.

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of all sports and all of the players I have the pleasure of covering. It’s a win-win situation for me, but what I love the most is seeing the power of community and togetherness, whether it’s a team within a team, a basketball team supporting a volleyball team or a football player helping up the opposition after a hard-nosed tackle. I’ve seen that multiple times over the three-plus years I’ve covered Clovis Unified sports, and, at least to me, that’s what it’s all about. That’s truly pursuing victory with honor.

A few weeks ago I was able to sit and have a great discussion with senior Buchanan football and wrestling star Trevor Ervin. I love to find out what makes athletes tick, what’s behind the mask or underneath the jersey, and when I do these candid talks I’m always impressed, and Ervin was no different. Hopefully you’ll take the time to read my piece of him in this issue and discover what matters most to him.

Another example is the photo shoot we did for the TRAC preview and How to Build the Ultimate Football Player. We brought together one player from each of the six TRAC schools and you should have heard the great conversations these rivals were having. No egos, no trash talk, just six great dudes coming together and enjoying the company. In fact, it was the Monday after Central played at De La Salle and they were asking Jacob Torrez all about the game. I love that stuff.

In the long run, aren’t we are all in this together? In this journey revolving around sports what we will certainly remember most are the friendships built and the people we impacted.


Junior standout Kaleb Archer is a key fixture for the Buchanan boys water polo team, who is currently 17-2 and 8-0 in league. Their two losses are to out-of-section opponents. (Photo by Eye For It All Photography)

Buchanan boys water polo right on TRAC

The Buchanan boys water polo team keeps churning out the wins in dominating fashion, sitting atop the TRAC standings at 8-0 and 17-2 overall. The goal differential of 130-26  tells a part of the story, but let’s dig a little deeper on the inner workings of this year’s squad.First of all, for the defending CIF Central Section champs, the team’s mindset is the standard.

“Our mindset is consistent with past years – we want to be consistent and continue improving over the course of the season while competing to capture TRAC and CIF Valley Championships,” said Buchanan co-head coach Nic Maes. “We also schedule a very challenging tournament schedule against some of the best teams in the state and nation.” 

There’s junior All-American Gabe Putnam who was the starting center defender for the U.S. Men’s National Team that won the gold at the UANA Youth Pan American Championships, held July 1-8 in Lima Peru. Putnam was the 2016 TRAC Defensive Player of the Year. Putnam has scored 39 goals with 19 assists.

And to have an elite team you need a premier goalie, and this year is no different as senior Anthony Tolbert has stepped up tremendously, replacing Kyle McKinney who is now at Pepperdine. Then there’s junior Kaleb Archer, the returning TRAC Co-Offensive Player of the Year who has scored a team-leading 63 goals and junior Zach Zetz has scored 35. Rounding out the starters are three experienced seniors in Luke Richards, Zack Keysaw and Dayne Ruth.

The closest challenger in the Valley and league is Clovis North (7-1, 17-4), who the Bears beat 12-5 on Oct. 3 and will play once more on Oct. 25, most likely for the outright TRAC title. Another interesting note is that the Buchanan pool is currently being renovated, and all practices and games are held at Clovis North.

Also, this year has the addition of the Northern California Regional Championships.  The two finalists from Division I in our section will advance to the Division I Regional.


The Clovis North girls water polo team as of Oct. 17 is in first place in the TRAC at 7-1. Their only defeat is an 8-7 loss to Clovis. (Contributed Photo)

Clovis North girls polo rising to top

Clovis West and Clovis High have long been the perennial girls water polo teams in the Central Section, the two combining for every D-I Valley title the past eight years, but lookie here, Clovis North is 7-1 and atop the TRAC standings.

Clovis West is only a game behind at 6-2, the final league game on Oct. 18 at Clovis North. Their only league loss was an 8-7 setback against Clovis, which they avenged on Oct. 4 in a 5-4 overtime thriller in a showcase of our defensive ability. Georgia Phillips had 28 saves, and the team recorded 11 steals, 14 forced turnovers, and forced Clovis to set up their front court versus their lethal transition offense.

Second year head coach Mike Nichols says the program is moving along as expected with a few growth spurts from the young players.

However, it’s been the excellent play of Mattie Herzog (Jr.), Georgia Phillips (Sr.), Amy Zaninovich (Sr.), and Hannah Kharazi (Sr.) that have been keys to their success. Herzog has 36 goals and Zaninovich leads with 57, but the play of goalie Phillips has been mighty impressive.

“The opportunity for an outright TRAC title will come from our team trusting their instincts during their next two TRAC games,” said Nichols, who came from Fountain Valley High School in 2016. “There’s a buzz in the air at the games, it’s been great to hear how loud the fans cheer.”


Clovis North girls wrap up TRAC tennis title

Clovis North polished off a perfect 10-0 record in the TRAC with an 8-1 win over Buchanan on Oct. 10. While not totally unexpected this season, after all the Broncos are the defending D-I champs, the rise of Broncos girls tennis has been a process.

“We’ve won a CMAC and D-II title when our program was in it’s infancy, and transitioning to winning an always-competitive TRAC conference for the first time was a top-to-bottom culmination of support from our administration, student-athletes, and the Clovis North community,” said head coach Brian Juinio. “To win a TRAC title for the first time with an unbeaten record was just icing on the cake.”

Top players are Mercedes Garcia (a sophomore transfer from Texas), three-year starter Jordan Pickett and freshman Ashley Cardot – all powerful and experienced players who play year-round. And they all have aspirations to play at the next level in college.

To get to the top this season, the Broncos knew they had to get past Buchanan and Clovis West, as both schools have multiple TRAC and Valley championships. In fact, Buchanan won Valley titles in 2009, ‘12, ‘14 and ‘15.

But this year it seems the tide has changed, for quite possibly the foreseeable future.

“I think we had a great chance of winning league by beating the standard-bearer for tennis in the Valley, Buchanan, the first time earlier in the season,” said Juinio about two 8-1 wins over the Bears during league. “The moment that clicked for us was defeating Clovis West and Buchanan back-to-back in a three-day span.”


Central and Buchanan 1-2 in girls volleyball

Central continued its amazing season and leading the pack in the TRAC at 6-0 and 33-2 overall – and ranked No. 8 in in the state, according to Cal-Hi Sports. In the match of the year so far this season, the Grizzlies beat No. 19 state-ranked Buchanan on the road in five, 25-17, 19-25, 25-16, 18-25, 15-11. For Central, Makayla Lewis had 16 kills and for Buchanan, Kennedy Rice had 23 kills and Mikayla Weiss registered 44 assists.

The rematch between Central and Buchanan is Oct. 19 and playoffs begin Oct. 31.

Standings as of Oct. 17

Central 6-0, 33-2     

Buchanan 5-1, 28-5

Clovis East 3-3, 15-11

Clovis North 2-4, 20-15

Clovis West 1-4, 20-16

Clovis 0-5, 13-16


Buchanan girls XC places third in Clovis Invitational

The Buchanan girls cross country team, recently ranked No. 1 in the nation, placed third at the 39th Clovis Invitational at Woodward Park behind Great Oak-Temecula and Claremont.

Buchanan sophomore sensation Corie Smith, who won at Woodbridge, finished second Saturday in 17:05.3 and junior Meagen Lowe placed eighth in 17:31.1.

The course and distance (5,000 meters) is the same used at the CIF State Cross Country Championships, held Saturday, Nov. 25.


High School Football Roundup

October 6

Clovis West 34 Clovis North 13

The Golden Eagles (5-1) bolted to a 31-7 halftime lead and cruised the rest of the way in the TRAC opener for both teams. Junior quarterback Dante Chachere ran for two touchdown of three yards each and passed for another of 55 yards to Tykee Woods. Jeremiah Ellison also ran for another touchdown and Eli Riofrio kicked two field goals of 44 and 42 yards.

For Clovis North (1-5), Towasin Akindele had a 1-yard touchdown run and Trey Patton caught a 23-yard pass from D.J. Frampton.

Clovis 28 Clovis East 14

The Cougars and Timberwolves were knotted up at 14 at halftime but a 49-yard touchdown run by Reef Dove and an 18-yard touchdown pass from Jake Sanders to Michael Machado pushed Clovis to victory. Jason Hunt also had a rushing touchdown and Bubba Byrd caught a touchdown pass from Sanders, who passed for 140 yards in 13-of-15 attempts.

For Clovis East (0-6), Lang Taho passed for two touchdowns.

October 14

Central 33 Clovis 0

Central moved to 2-0 in TRAC and 6-1 overall in a shutout win over Clovis at Lamonica Stadium on a Saturday. Grizzly quarterback Trent Tompkins threw for 242 yards and touchdown passes to Jacob Torrez and Jeremiah Hunter and Jevon Bigalow ran for 147 yards with one touchdown. Tre Walker and Diotry Brewer also scored on the ground.