Around the TRAC: Where trifectas, three-peats and triple crowns happen

By Paul Meadors, Sports Editor

May 27, 2017 will live in infamy in the annals of Central Section history. The stars aligned perfectly for Clovis High on that Saturday when the school had a chance to capture three different championships in three different sports at three different venues: the boys volleyball team for the SoCal D-II state title, the softball team at Margie Wright Diamond at Fresno State and the baseball team at Rawhide Park in Visalia for D-I Valley titles.

First of all, what were the odds the Mighty and Proud Cougars were playing in three high-profile games in the first place and more importantly what were the odds they’d win all three? 1-50, 1-100? Well, throw those long odds out the door and let’s plan that parade down Pollasky – Clovis pulled off a triple crown and accomplished the unthinkable in a span of about five hour, no less, by taking all three in dramatic fashion.

First, the volleyball team beat Notre Dame-Sherman Oaks in four sets 25-17, 25-19, 22-25, 26-24, withstanding game point in the fourth game to win the SoCal Championship.

Then word spread quickly throughout Rawhide at 8:45 p.m. that the softball came back down 0-1 to beat Central 2-1 for the D-I crown.

Finally, it was up to the baseball team to seal the deal against rival Buchanan – and guess what –  those boys in blue and gold rose to the occasion, toppling the Bears 2-1 (see ironic softball score) behind the Mad Dash of Connor Jorgensen (see story in this thrilling issue of the Clovis Roundup).

Twitter went ablaze with the accomplishments of the Cougars, likes and retweets lighting up the Twittersphere like fireworks on Independence Day – a virtual Fourth of July on May 27.

The Clovis North tennis team beat Clovis West 5-1 to capture its second consecutive team title. The team was led by senior Daly Meinert who also captured his third singles title. (Contributed Photo)

Clovis North tennis posts Valley trifecta

Clovis North pulled off the triple crown of  their own in winning Valley team, singles and doubles tennis titles in impressive fashion.

First, the Broncos defeated longtime power Clovis West 5-1 for their second straight team title. Then the doubles team of Michael Fourchy and Billy Schulz defeated Clovis West’s Cody Castro and Stephanos Sophocleous 6-3, 6-0. And finally, the crowning jewel was senior Daly Meinert  bringing home his third overall singles title beating Stockdale’s Brandon Park 6-4, 6-3.

“It was pretty remarkable,” said Broncos head coach Brad Fernandez. “I was happy for the team and real proud of Daly for winning his third individual Valley title and proud of Billy and Michael for winning the doubles title.”

Meinert capped off an amazing career with a record of 105-5 on May 20, a season after he was upset in the championship match. That loss ensured he would not become the section’s first four-time winner but this year Meinert was on a mission.

After the final point was won Meinert dropped to his knees.

“It was kind of a weird experience finally winning it in the end,” said Meinert, who’s attending Cal Poly next season. “I remember playing the scenario in my head a thousand times and how I’d react and how I’d feel but there’s really no simulation for how it feels to actually be in the moment when you win.

“I definitely knew that it would be the last point I get to play in the Clovis North uniform which sent emotions wild when I won and losing last year just makes it so much sweeter.”

Fernandez understands the emotions of Meinert, especially after the tough loss he suffered last year: “I know after being a runner up last year it was just the fuel he needed to get back in that final again and come out on top which he did. He played his best tennis of the season in that final.”

The Buchanan boys celebrate their upset win over No. 1 seeded Clovis, coming back from an 0-2 deficit to win in the fifth and deciding game for the school’s fourth straight Valley title. (Photo by Nick Baker/Rawsportz Media)

Buchanan Volleyball upset Clovis for Valley Title

The Grinders.

That’s what coach John Jay calls the 2017 Buchanan boys volleyball team – a bunch of dudes short on elite talent but big on heart.

And true to their name, down 0-2, the Bears grinded out a grueling five-game match 23-25, 21-25, 25-17, 25-20, 15-12 in the Central Section D-I boys volleyball title game against a Cougars team that had beat them three out of four times during the season, winning an unprecedented fourth-straight Valley title in dramatic fashion.

Facing a mighty Clovis team at its den in front of a rowdy and raucous crowd, a wild celebration was set off after Buchanan’s Spencer Heimerdinger’s kill ended the two-hour match in what Jay calls one of his most satisfying wins as a coach.

“We are an unorthodox team, we are undersized by far and our goal was to just grind matches out,” said Jay. “We felt like tonight if we can get them to five then we have a shot.

“This was one of the most satisfying wins – we were completely undersized, we didn’t have the big bombers, but we had passion and heart and desire. They just wanted to get after it.”

The title game turned in the third set with Buchanan down 9-6 behind the strong defensive play of Rece Contable (16 digs in game), the all-around play of setter Kyle Merchen (16 digs, 59 assists) and the hitting of the 6-foot-8 Heimerdinger (26 kills). The Bears rallied to tie it at 9-9 then outscored Clovis 16-8 the rest of the set.

The Cougars would never recover.

“Once they broke, we just kept going,” said Jay. “Our kids just kept fighting – they had a will to win and we were not going to quit.”

All the while Heimerdinger and his Bear teammates kept the faith.

“We told ourselves that we could still do it,” said the All-TRAC basketball player. “They’re good but they’re still human, we didn’t want them to sweep us 3-0 and we wouldn’t go down without a fight.”

Clovis (28-8, 10-0) came into the match as the No. 1 seed featuring a senior laden team with big hitters Zevan Williams (24 kills), Akash Dhothar (15 kills), Max Ogas (12 kills) and setter Trey Lake (58 assists). Williams was most impressive, the 6-foot-4 outside hitter and UC Irvine signee was a jumping jack all evening, thundering kills, his head well above the net, soliciting ooh and ahhs throughout the gym.

But Buchanan, who came in with a 23-10 record, at least on this night was the better team and perhaps their most surprising Valley champion yet. Former Bear standouts Patrick Gasman (University of Hawaii) and Donovan Mitchell (Wake Forest basketball) were in the stands watching their former school capture its 11th boys volleyball Valley title.

“This was the most fun as a coach because every single match going to be a back and forth, nail scratch and crawl and fight to get that win,” said Jay. “I told them if we can break them once then things will start rolling because they haven’t been tested. Once we got over that edge I knew good things would happen for us.”

The other four qualifiers for Buchanan were: Garrett Boe 75, Michael Vuicich 76, Hogi Selling 78 and Ryan Massicci 80.

Clovis’ Graham Hauss wins B’nai B’rith Award

Graham Hauss sat nervously at a table at the B’nai B’rith awards ceremony, surrounded by 20 friends and family and when his name was called as the winner he could not stop shaking –  literally.

“I just remember shaking their hand and saying ‘Thank you’ about 50 times,” Hauss said.

The standout swimmer from Clovis High was chosen among a who’s who of gifted and talented athletes and community members. The award was given at the Clovis Veterans Memorial District on May 17 at a dinner which included a $2,500 scholarship. He will attend Arizona State next fall.

“It’s more meaningful to me that I got recognized for what type of person I am, knowing that I just don’t have my athletics and that I can make an impact on people,” said Hauss. “That speaks volumes to me more than winning state medals and breaking school records.”

Hauss was a three-time state champion – in 2015 with the 200 free relay team and twice in 2016 in the 200 and 400 free relay teams. He also is a six-time Central Section champion and played on the water polo team.

His love of school,  friends and faith runs deep.

“Clovis High has provided me with amazing opportunities I’d never get anywhere else,” Hauss said. “I believe Clovis High is the best school and unrivaled and unmatched in Clovis Unified. It’s been amazing to be a part of that, the friendships on my team and the amazing people I’ve encountered throughout my career. They’ve all inspired me in so many different ways.”

Each CUSD high school nominated a student/athlete. They include: Danae Marquez, Clovis West; Brooke Tjerrild, Clovis North; Mia Castillo, Clovis East and Kyle McKinney, Buchanan.

The Buchanan boys golf team won the Valley team title with a total score of 372. Senior Tyler Ashman won the individual title in a 3-way playoff after shooting a round of 71. (Contributed Photo)

Buchanan golf win first Valley team title since 2006

The Buchanan boys golf team rose to the occasion in winning the school’s second Valley team title thanks in large part to the stellar play of Tyler Ashman and Ian Oehshlaeger.

Ashman won the individual championship after a three-way playoff with Brian Start of CVC and Lane Pulliam from Hanford. They all finished with a 71 with Oehshlaeger shooting a 72.

“Tyler is a very talented young golfer – I have always felt that he could be medalist any time he tees it up,” said Funk. “I’m not sure that he has had that self-belief until now. Hopefully this win will validate to him how good he really is.”

This year featured not only quality players but balanced teams. But, Buchanan saved its best performance in the championship that mattered most not surprising boys golf coach Greg Funk in the least.

“I believed and still believe that any of the top four teams in the TRAC could win any tournament at any time,” said Funk. “Our team was as good as any of the teams in the TRAC.  There was tremendous parity.  I was pleased but not surprised by our win at the Valley Championships.”

Clovis West won the TRAC title and the North Area Championship this year, but was outplayed by the Bears 372-376. Clovis North, last year’s champion, finished with a score of 388.

Clovis North’s Jack Sperling shot a 73 and Chase Foster and Jackson Lake, both of Clovis, shot 74.

Paul Meadors
Paul Meadors is a man of many talents. He is a elementary school teacher, Junior High athletic director, and basketball coach in Traver, CA, in addition to serving as the Sports Editor for the Clovis Roundup. He is also the author of the humorous book “Letters to eBay,” and he has recorded a piano album of his own compositions titled “Surviving the Storm.” He lives in Fresno with wife Lori and daughters Georgie, Alex and Ruthie.