State School of the Year: Mater Dei

Karlie Samuelson, Andee Velasco and Katie Lou Samuelson were all top players for Mater Dei's nationally ranked girls basketball team. Photo by Harold Abend.

Karlie Samuelson, Andee Velasco and Katie Lou Samuelson were all top players for Mater Dei’s nationally ranked girls basketball team. Photo by Harold Abend.

Serra of Gardena led with three CIF state titles, but this time Mater Dei’s overall excellence beats the Cavaliers and every other school in California. It’s the Monarchs’ fourth State School of the Year honor.

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Going into the process to select this year’s Cal-Hi Sports State School of the Year, the school to beat at first glance was Serra of Gardena.

It turned out that this time Mater Dei of Santa Ana had the stronger overall resume and the Monarchs have indeed topped the Cavaliers.

Serra tied a state record by winning three CIF state titles during the school year – in football (Division II), girls basketball (Division IV) and boys track (overall) – and also won four CIF Southern Section crowns, including a ground-breaking one in baseball.

Mater Dei, however, was No. 1 in the state overall in more sports than Serra – boys basketball and boys water polo compared to Serra for just boys track – and the Monarchs were judged top 10 in the state overall in a remarkable nine sports (which seems to be their most ever).

In addition to boys water polo and boys basketball, the Santa Ana school was that high in baseball, girls basketball, football, girls volleyball, girls golf, boys swimming and girls swimming.

One of the leading players for Mater Dei's nationally ranked baseball team was all-state catcher Jeremy Martinez. Photo: Paul Muyskens.

One of the leading players for Mater Dei’s nationally ranked baseball team was all-state catcher Jeremy Martinez. Photo: Paul Muyskens.

That doesn’t even include boys and girls track teams that placed second in their divisions in the CIF Southern Section, a softball team that was top five in the state for much of the season, a boys volleyball team that knocked off nationally-ranked Palos Verdes in the second-round of the CIFSS Division I playoffs and a girls lacrosse team that won twice in the U.S. Lacrosse Southern Section playoffs before losing to Los Alamitos.

All in all, it was just too much depth and too much of everything for Mater Dei.

Two years ago, Serra and Mater Dei basically were the final two schools as well and in that selection it went to Serra.

In gaining the 2012-13 State School of the Year honor, Mater Dei gets back on the list for the first time since the 1996-97 school year. The Monarchs also finished first in the state for overall athletic excellence for 1991-92 and 1994-95.

In those years, legendary boys basketball coach Gary McKnight also was the athletic director. Those duties are now being handled by Phil Bellomo.

McKnight’s basketball team was once again a mainstay of the program and made history of its own in March by defeating Archbishop Mitty of San Jose 50-45 in the first CIF Open Division championship.

That squad was led by Stanley Johnson, one of the top juniors in the nation, but even with all that it accomplished the water polo team was even more dominant. That group won its third straight CIFSS Division I title and was likely the best team in the nation with four players on the U.S. National Junior Team – McQuin Baron, Kent Inoue, James Walters and Jon Walters.

And despite neither team winning a CIFSS or CIF state title, Mater Dei also was No. 1 in the nation during the regular season in both baseball and girls basketball. Katie Lou Samuelson, a senior-to-be on the basketball team, just went 8-for-8 shooting 3-pointers in a gold medal match for a U.S. junior national team in an international competition. Ryan McMahon of the baseball team was recently chosen in the second round of the MLB Draft and has signed with the Colorado Rockies.

McMahon also was a member of Mater Dei’s football team that saw a resurgence during the 2012 season after a couple of “down” years. The Monarchs won playoff games in the prestigious CIFSS Pac-Five Division against Lakewood, Alemany of Mission Hills and St. Bonaventure of Ventura before losing in the final to Long Beach Poly. They also had a win over Santa Margarita of Rancho SM in the regular season when some national polls had the Eagles in the No. 1 position.

Cal-Hi Sports State Schools of the Year
All-Time List

2012-13 – Mater Dei (Santa Ana)
2011-12 – De La Salle (Concord)
2010-11 – Long Beach Poly (Long Beach)
2009-10 – Junipero Serra (Gardena)
2008-09 – Archbishop Mitty (San Jose)
2007-08 – Long Beach Poly (Long Beach)
2006-07 – Archbishop Mitty (San Jose)
2005-06 – Buchanan (Clovis)
2004-05 – Clovis West (Fresno)
2003-04 – De La Salle (Concord)
2002-03 – Torrey Pines (San Diego)
2001-02 – Long Beach Poly (Long Beach)
2000-01 – Long Beach Poly (Long Beach)
1999-00 – De La Salle (Concord)
1998-99 – Clovis West (Fresno)
1997-98 – Santa Margarita (Rancho SM)
1996-97 – Mater Dei (Santa Ana)
1995-96 – De La Salle (Concord)
1994-95 – Mater Dei (Santa Ana)
1993-94 – Clovis West (Fresno)
1992-93 – Esperanza (Anaheim)
1991-92 – Mater Dei (Santa Ana)
1990-91 – Poway
1989-90 – Bakersfield
1988-89 – Corona del Mar (Newport Beach)
1987-88 – Capistrano Valley (Mission Viejo)
1986-87 – Mission Viejo
1985-86 – Bellarmine (San Jose)
1984-85 – Bellarmine (San Jose)
1983-84 – Cordova (Rancho Cordova)
1982-83 – St. Francis (Mountain View)
1981-82 – Mission Viejo
1980-81 – Long Beach Poly (Long Beach)
1979-80 – Berkeley
1978-79 – Mt. Whitney (Visalia)
1977-78 – Andrew Hill (San Jose)
1976-77 – Pasadena
1975-76 – San Fernando
1974-75 – Clovis
1973-74 – Kearny (San Diego)
1972-73 – Monte Vista (Spring Valley)
1971-72 – Ygnacio Valley (Concord)
1970-71 – Lompoc
1969-70 – Blair (Pasadena)
1968-69 – Compton
1967-68 – Homestead (Cupertino)
1966-67 – El Rancho (Pico Rivera)
1965-66 – El Segundo
1964-65 – Long Beach Poly (Long Beach)
1963-64 – Long Beach Poly (Long Beach)
1962-63 – Santa Clara
1961-62 – McClymonds (Oakland)
1960-61 – Compton
1959-60 – Long Beach Poly (Long Beach)
1958-59 – Long Beach Poly (Long Beach)
1957-58 – Berkeley
1956-57 – Fresno
1955-56 – Jefferson (Los Angeles)
1954-55 – Centennial (Compton)
1953-54 – St. Ignatius (San Francisco)
1952-53 – Santa Monica
1951-52 – Compton
1950-51 – Compton
1949-50 – Jefferson (Los Angeles)

Note: All-time list extends back to 1890-91 in the Cal-Hi Sports State Record Book and Almanac. All selections prior to 1980 made retroactively through research by the late Nelson Tennis, founder of Cal-Hi Sports.

Mark Tennis is the co-founder and publisher of He can be reached at Don’t forget to follow him on Twitter: @CalHiSports

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  1. Kmoore332003
    Posted July 20, 2013 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    I read this article thinking WOW how nice that the same private schools rank top all the time when the entire world knows that private schools ALL recruit their players as the NBA, NFL, MLB and all other professional sports organizations. Well should they be ranked #1 for that? Why doesnt CalHi sports for on the Public schools that these great athletes actually came from? Thats where the talent and skill came from. As far as these Great Coaches? If I gave you 5 NBA players to play on your high school team every year then I would see why you had a good team that made you a good coach. The FACT of the matter is Majority of the athletes that are produced out of California come from great inner City programs and are afforded the opportunity to play in a private school because of their skill, just a Labron James did. CalHi Sports should make it a point to ALSO feature the programs, athletes and schools that produced these great talents! Iʻd be more interested in that then hearing about hand fed programs. Thats just my opinion but I do believe in giving back to the Communities that afforded these great athletes the opportunity to learn and perfect their skill before being selected to a recruiting High School Team.

  2. Kmoore332003
    Posted July 20, 2013 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    Sorry for mispellings, and the quest ? Why does CalHi Sports not Feature inner city programs or small town programs such as Turlock who produced Kaepernick the #1 QB in the Nation who was not picked to attend a private school? Iʻm just saying Iʻd like to hear of those 1st Class programs as well.

  3. Kmoore332003
    Posted July 20, 2013 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    This list should read CALHI Top ranked California State Private Schools of the Year. That would be more appropriate however probably not politically correct.

    • Mark Tennis
      Posted July 23, 2013 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

      I would love it if more public schools made the School of the Year lists and maybe one day we’ll go back through the years and choose a public school of the year. We’re just going off the facts, though, and have just never split the two. Serra of Gardena is a great example of a private school just taking advantage of the decline in athletics at large, public high schools in the inner city (in Serra’s case the L.A. Unified School District). A school like Long Beach Poly can more than hang with any private school and so do those at Torrey Pines, Clovis Unified, Corona Unified, but it’s getting harder. By the way, I wouldn’t call Pitman of Turlock (where Kaepernick went) a “small town” program. Pitman is most definitely Division I and Turlock hasn’t been a “small town” for many years.

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