State School of Year: Mater Dei

Two Mater Dei teams celebrating after winning CIF Southern Section titles are shown in girls volleyball and boys water polo. Photos: @MaterDeiVB / &

The Monarchs built up a huge lead with their success in fall sports, led by football going 15-0 and ending No. 1 in the nation, and they did more than enough for the rest of the year to hold off Buchanan of Clovis and the school that earned this honor for two of the previous three years, Torrey Pines of San Diego. This is the Santa Ana school’s third time earning this honor in the last seven years and the sixth in its history.

For State Schools of the Year by division plus writeups of the next seven that would be in our top 10 for 2017-18, CLICK HERE.

For honorable mention State Schools of the Year, CLICK HERE.


If the race to be Cal-Hi Sports State School of the Year for 2017-18 was viewed as cars going around a track, Mater Dei of Santa Ana would have practically lapped the field after what happened in the fall with its football, girls volleyball and boys water polo teams.

Mater Dei head coach Bruce Rollinson hoists first CIF state football title won by the Santa Ana school. Photo: Willie Eashman.

The rest of the school year wasn’t a bunch of teams running out of gas, either. The Monarchs were among the best in the state in girls water polo, boys basketball, girls basketball, softball and girls golf and won a CIF Southern Section title in girls track. For all it did, Mater Dei has been honored this week as the State School of the Year by Cal-Hi Sports, an honor that has been handed out for nearly 30 years and also has schools placed on an all-time state list that extends back more than 100 years.

This is the third time that the Monarchs have been State School of the Year in the last seven years. They repeated for 2013 and 2014 and also have received the top all-sports ranking in the state for 1992, 1995 and 1997.

Not all three of those dominant fall teams were able to win CIF state titles, but one of them competed in a sport that doesn’t have state finals while one of them was knocked off in the CIF Open Division state final.

Head coach Bruce Rollinson’s football team, of course, was the one that got it done and wasn’t close to getting knocked off all season. The Monarchs completed their 15-0 season with a 56-27 win in the CIF Open Division state final over perennial power De La Salle of Concord, outlasted league rival St. John Bosco twice and ended a long win streak held by national power Bishop Gorman of Las Vegas. Mater Dei was the consensus national ranking champion and is believed to be the first team to land five players on first team all-state, led by Mr. Football State Player of the Year JT Daniels. He passed for 4,123 yards and 52 TDS and set a CIF Southern Section record with 152 career TD passes. Daniels (now at USC) was joined as a first team all-state pick by receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown (72 catches for 1,320 yards and 20 TDs), offensive tackle Tommy Brown (now at Alabama), linebacker Solomon Tuliaupupu (national Dick Butkus Award winner) and defensive end Nathan Logoleo (school record 17 sacks).

In boys water polo, a program directed by head coach Chris Segesman that had three players on the USA 2016 Olympic team won the CIFSS D1 and CIF SoCal D1 titles. The Monarchs arguably could have been considered the No. 1 team in the state despite two one-goal losses to Campolindo of Moraga since Campolindo didn’t win the NorCal D1 title and lost twice to an Orange Lutheran squad that the Monarchs beat twice. CIFSS D1 Player of the Year Jackson Seybold (now at Stanford) and goalie Billy Motherway were among that team’s standouts.

The girls volleyball team was No. 1 in the nation at the same time as football due to posting a win early in the season over Walton of Georgia at the Nike TOC in Arizona. That was Walton’s only loss of the season and some national polls still ranked that team No. 1 at the end of the season. The Monarchs also recorded a head-to-head win over defending CIF Open Division state champ Archbishop Mitty of San Jose, but in the CIF Open Division final it was Mitty that got revenge and repeated. Mater Dei’s win in the CIF SoCal Open Division title game was huge since it was against Torrey Pines of San Diego and Torrey Pines was going to be another school of the year contender. UCLA-bound libero Kelsey Campeau and CIFSS kills leader Siena Secrist were among that team’s leading players.

Graduating senior Spencer Freedman was named the CIFSS Division I Player of the Year. Photo: Andrew Drennan.

Segesman announced his resignation after the boys water polo season concluded to pursue business interests but still coached the Mater Dei girls during its winter season and that team wound up winning the CIF SoCal D1 crown as well. The Monarchs, who beat Foothill of Tustin 9-2 in their final game, also snapped the 44-game win streak held by Laguna Beach during the regular season. They featured UCLA-bound attacker Bella Baia.

The winter season at Mater Dei also means basketball with the winningest coach in California history for the boys (Gary McKnight) and the soon to be winningest for the girls (Kevin Kiernan). McKnight’s boys had to regroup following the transfer loss of 7-foot-2 Bol Bol, but still won the CIFSS Open Division title with a victory over eventual CIF Open Division state champ Sierra Canyon of Chatsworth. The Monarchs were upset in their CIF SoCal regional opener by Fairfax of Los Angeles and were No. 6 in the final state rankings. They were led by Harvard-bound point guard Spencer Freedman. The girls had a mix of young and old with senior Emma Torbert (now at Nevada) along with freshmen Brooke Demetre and Khylee Pepe. They went to the CIFSS Open Division semis before losing to eventual CIF state champ Windward. They ended No. 12 in the final state rankings.

There were no additional No. 1 teams or CIF regional or state titles in the spring for Mater Dei, but there were more teams that could be added to the resume as being among the best in the state.

In softball, the highlights of a 23-6 season included winning the Trinity League title over preseason favorite Orange Lutheran, winning a game against San Marcos (the eventual State Team of the Year) and getting to the CIFSS D1 quarterfinals (tough loss to Gahr of Cerritos). It was a squad noted for its top-of-the-lineup speed with all-state first team Kelli Godin and all-state underclass Nyomi Jones along with Orange County pitcher of the year Mackensie Kohl. The Monarchs were No. 6 in the final state rankings.

The girls golf team in the spring also went to the SoCal championships and finished fourth with Khameryn Utu shooting a 74 to lead the way. Mater Dei just missed going to the CIF state championships, but fourth in SoCal is more than respectable.

Also in the spring, with Kelli Godin doing some double duty as a sprinter, Mater Dei won the team title at the CIFSS divisional track meet. The Monarchs won it in Division 2 with 60 points to top Calabasas, which was second with 54.

Congratulations to athletic director Tia Meza (a former all-state softball player of ours as Tia Bollinger) plus associate athletic directors Greg Vandermade and Jessica Perry and to all of the school’s coaches and athletes for a year of accomplishments that was without doubt one of the school’s best ever.

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

Winning a CIF state football title also was crucial for Cathedral Catholic of San Diego in winning the top honor last year. Photo: Paul Muyskens.

2017-18 – Mater Dei (Santa Ana)
2016-17 – Cathedral Catholic (San Diego)
2015-16 – Torrey Pines (San Diego)
2014-15 – Torrey Pines (San Diego)
2013-14 – Mater Dei (Santa Ana)
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 Mark on the Cal-Hi Sports Twitter handle: @CalHiSports

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