One year after the Diablos were upset in their final game and could not finish No. 1 in the state and nation, the results fall in their favor. They edge Mater Dei of Santa Ana and Grand Terrace in a three-way battle for this year’s final No. 1 ranking. Mission Viejo also has now been State Team of the Year in softball twice in the last three seasons.
For more on all five of our State Teams of the Year (by divisions), CLICK HERE.
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Historical precedence might not seem like a legitimate part of criteria for high school sports rankings, but when there is a 43-year list of No. 1 teams and more than 30 years of actual week-to-week rankings then it can’t be ignored, either.
That’s one of the reasons why the Mission Viejo softball team has been named this week as the 2016 State Team of the Year. The Diablos did their part on the field last weekend by winning the CIF Southern Section Division II title with a 9-6 triumph over Valley View of Moreno Valley.
The two primary other contenders for the final No. 1 ranking, Mater Dei of Santa Ana and Grand Terrace, also were both CIFSS champions with the Monarchs upsetting previous state No. 1 Orange Lutheran 8-2 in the Division I final while the Titans topped Redondo of Redondo Beach 5-2 in Division III.
Observers at the games played at Deanna Manning Stadium in Irvine probably favored Mater Dei if games between the three finalists were played this week. The Monarchs definitely ramped up their game in the postseason. Their problem is that they lost seven times before the playoffs and no team in state history has ever finished No. 1 with that many losses regardless of circumstances (such as player injuries).
Grand Terrace finished 28-1 and is actually ranked highest among California teams in two national polls, but no one along press row in Irvine seemed to think that the Titans should be No. 1 in the state, according to Cal-Hi Sports correspondent Harold Abend, who covered the games there.
The problem for Grand Terrace is strength of schedule with very few games even played against CIFSS D1 teams. There was one win over Corona Santiago, but the only loss was to Great Oak of Temecula.
There have been CIFSS D3 champions that have been No. 1 in the state, such as Pacifica of Garden Grove three times in 1997, 2003 and 2004. But those Pacifica teams played a bunch of CIFSS D1 and D2 teams. If Grand Terrace was placed at No. 1, in fact, it might be the weakest schedule any No. 1 team with one loss has ever played.
To be fair, the Titans did try to play CIFSS D2 finalist Valley View in a doubleheader, but the games were rained out and not rescheduled. If those games were played and if Grand Terrace had those two wins plus a win over Great Oak (instead of a loss) then at 31-0 it would have been no problem to rank the team at the top.
Which all brings us to Mission Viejo. The Diablos finished 27-4. They were better in 2014 when they were No. 1 in the state at 26-1 and they were better last year at 30-1 with their only loss coming in the CIFSS D2 final to a Yucaipa team they had beaten twice earlier in the season.
But each year is different and even though two of the greatest players in state history – pitcher Taylor McQuillin and infielder Alyssa Palomino – are now in college, Mission Viejo has returned to the top of the state.
Beating a 30-1-1 team from Oaks Christian of Westlake Village in last week’s CIFSS D2 semifinals and then outlasting Valley View in the final after the Eagles had knocked out 29-1 La Habra helped Mission’s cause. It also helps that they avenged an early-season 4-2 loss to Mater Dei at the Arizona Tournament of Champions with a 14-4 win at the Best of the West tourney two weeks later. In fact, other than a loss to Orange Lutheran at the Michelle Carew Classic, Mission Viejo posted wins over all of the teams it lost to during the season. One of Mater Dei’s losses also was to La Habra.
Kyra Snyder, a junior headed to Louisville, was Mission Viejo’s top pitcher and one of the team’s top hitters. Camryn Ybarra, another junior and committed to Oregon State, hit five home runs in the playoffs and had a .522 batting average in the regular season. Two others who frequently were mentioned among the best hitters and position players in Orange County were sophomore catcher Terra McGowan (committed to Arizona State) and junior infielder Bella Loza (committed to Illinois).
“A lot of people came out thinking, ‘They lost their two players, it’s going to be easier (to beat them) this year,’” Snyder told the Orange County Register prior to last Friday’s championship. “That was the fuel we needed to keep our energy up and play as a team in the field. I feel like we’ve all bonded over that.”
So when the girls get together 10 years from now or 20 years from now, they can perhaps bond over something else as well: 2016 State Team of the Year.
Congratulations to all of the players and coaches.
ALL-TIME CAL-HI SPORTS
SOFTBALL STATE TEAMS OF THE YEAR
(Selected by Cal-Hi Sports)
2016 – Mission Viejo (27-4)
2015 – Yucaipa (31-3)
2014 – Mission Viejo (26-1)
2013 – Corona Santiago (31-5)
2012 – Norco (31-2)
2011 – Corona Santiago (28-5)
2010 – Chino Hills Ayala (29-5)
2009 – San Jose Archbishop Mitty (32-0)
2008 – Sacramento Sheldon (32-2)
2007 – Valencia (32-1)
2006 – Oakley Freedom (25-0)
2005 – Simi Valley Royal (29-2)
2004 – Garden Grove Pacifica (31-2)
2003 – Garden Grove Pacifica (31-2)
2002 – San Diego Mira Mesa (31-1)
2001 – Fresno Bullard (36-1)
2000 – Tustin Foothill (33-2)
1999 – Fresno Bullard (38-1-1)
1998 – Clovis Buchanan (35-2)
1997 – Garden Grove Pacifica (31-1-1)
1996 – Santa Ana Mater Dei (30-1)
1995 – Huntington Beach Marina (24-5)
1994 – Clovis (31-3) (plus 2 wins by default)
1993 – Covina Charter Oak (29-0-1)
1992 – Stockton Lincoln (35-3)
1991 – Stockton Lincoln (29-3)
1990 – Roseville (37-2)
1989 – Lakewood St. Joseph (26-1)
1988 – Santa Fe Springs St. Paul (21-6)
1987 – Stockton Lincoln (30-0)
1986 – Woodland Hills El Camino Real (19-0)
1985 – Huntington Beach Ocean View (32-0)
1984 – Stockton Lincoln (37-1)
1983 – Lodi (27-2)
1982 – San Diego Madison (20-0)
1981 – Santa Maria Righetti (25-1)
1980 – Santa Maria Righetti (29-0)
1979 – Santa Rosa Montgomery (26-1)
1978 – Fairfield Armijo (23-0)
1977 – Huntington Beach Marina (17-0)
1976 – Chula Vista Hilltop (17-0)
1975 – Downey Warren (18-1)
1974 – El Segundo (undefeated)