The Rise of Girls’ Sports
Girls at SI began competing in sports as early as fall 1989 in volleyball, cross country and tennis. The winter season saw the rise of girls’ basketball and soccer, and in the spring of 1990, competition began in softball and track. In later years, girls participated in swimming, lacrosse, crew, golf, water polo, diving and field hockey. Three of those sports were new to SI: field hockey, water polo and softball.
Mrs. Trish Intemann, mother of Fergus ’93 and Conor ’96, helped form the first SI field hockey team as a club sport in 1993. Intemann, a veteran of the sport, played in high school in Dublin and in nursing school in London. She gained her coaching experience at two Marin County grammar schools and in 1982 started a women’s league for the Marin Field Hockey Club. In 1992, while watching her son Conor play lacrosse, she was approached by students who had heard of her enthusiasm for the sport and who asked her to coach an SI team. In 1993, 22 girls formed an unofficial “hackers team,” as Intemann called them for their tendency to hit their opponents’ sticks rather than the ball. That team won two of its three games and inspired more students to try out for the sport and to petition the school to make it an official team. That happened in 1995, and two first-year Spanish teachers, Shelley Tucker and Linda Neilan, took over coaching duties. In 1997, SI finished first in an informal four-school league. In 1998, the girls joined the Blossom Valley Athletic League in San Jose — the nearest league that offered the sport — winning the league championship that year.
Girls’ softball began in the spring of 1990 coached by English teacher Elizabeth (Sheehan) Swarthout. The team, made up entirely of freshmen, formed a varsity squad, playing against seniors and juniors in the Catholic Girls Athletic League, which only offered competition on the varsity level. Despite being younger than all their competitors, SI’s girls finished 9–5, taking second place.
The SI diving team made its debut in the spring of 1994 when coach David Bispiel took four boys to league competition. The following fall saw the start of the Girls’ Diving Team; those girls made a splash by winning their league and taking fourth in CCS competition. The team included Lisa Wilson, who placed first in the GPSL meet and fifth in CCS competition, Sabrina Soulis ’95 (who placed third in the league meet), Nicole Larramendi ’95 (who placed fourth), Megan Terheyden ’98 and Dawn Matsui ’97.
Water polo began first with a boys’ program in the fall of 1994 with 11 boys on the varsity and 11 on JVs, with both teams coached by Stephen Psomas. The spring of 1995 saw the start of the girls’ water polo team, also coached by Psomas. At the start of the season, 30 girls tried out for this new sport, with half joining the varsity and half the JV team. The varsity finished a surprising second in the Blossom Valley Athletic League after losing 13–12 in sudden death triple overtime to league champion Leland High School. Standouts on the girls’ squad included Kirsten Filak ’96, Jamie Chavez ’96, Christine Caurant ’96 and Kimiko Nakai ’96.
Cross Country & Track and Field
The 1990s proved a powerhouse decade for SI’s cross country and track and field teams. The boys’ cross country team won CCS championships four times in that decade and one state championship in 1996. Long before that state victory, Coach Brian Richter knew he had a talented squad early in the season when, at the Stanford Invitational, all five runners crossed the finish line within 12 seconds of each other to help SI take first at that event. The team went on to win the league and CCS and was ranked number one the entire season. Runners who led SI to that state title included seniors Brad Hansen, Brendan Fitzgibbon, Derek Drummond and Brian Mulry, juniors Brendan Wells and Matt Chen and frosh phenom Neil McDonagh, who finished fourth in the CCS. The victory marked the second time that SI won a state title in a California Interscholastic Federation sport. (The first victory occurred in basketball in 1926. SI did win the state title in crew in 1995, but crew was not administered by CIF at that time.)
The girls’ cross country team also made history by winning six straight CCS titles between 1993 and 1998, the first for any school in the section. Many of these runners crossed over into track and field in the spring where the girls took first place in their league between 1991 and 2002 and brought home two sectional championships.
Boys’ track took first in the WCAL five times in the 1990s and made history in 1991 by taking the CCS title. This victory, coupled with the cross country CCS title in the fall of 1990, marked the first time SI had captured two CCS crowns in the same year, a feat no other school had ever accomplished. Between 1994 and 1997, the boy’s track team finished four undefeated seasons, a first for the school. Much of the credit goes to a talented line-up of coaches that included Julius Yap ’74, Brian Richter, Aldo Congi ’72, Steve Bluford ’84, James Quanico ’86, Charles Taylor ’88, Martin Logue ’92 and Tom Fendyan ’83. Yap, who served as head coach for many of those teams over the decade, amassed 29 league and CCS titles in five sports (boys’ and girls’ track, boys’ and girls’ cross country and girls’ golf), more than any other coach in SI history. In 2005 the city of Pacifica inducted him into its Sports Hall of Fame.
SI senior Chris DeMartini ’94 achieved a status no other Wildcat had ever earned: individual honors as a state champion. Earlier in the season, he had been ranked first in the nation in discus, but he finished first in shot put at the California Track and Field State Championships at Cerritos College in Norwalk on June 4, 1994, with a throw of 58-feet, 11.5 inches on the last of his six throws. He also finished second in discus after having an “off day,” according to his coach, Brian Richter.
In 1992, Ray Calcagno ’64 left SI and Joe Vollert ’84 became one of the youngest men, at 26, ever to serve as varsity football coach. Vollert had played under Calcagno and at SCU under Pat Malley ’49 and his son Terry Malley. As a senior at SI, Vollert earned both the Brophy Award and the General Excellence Award. He made a name for himself early on as a new kind of coach, one who taught Ignatian values both indirectly, through example, and directly, by stressing them to his athletes. When he retired in 2004, he had earned the respect of hundreds of athletes and of all of his coaching staff who admired the calm attitude and healthy values he brought to each game.
One of Vollert’s early tests came in his first year as coach. SI and SH marked the 100th anniversary (albeit one year early due to a typographical error in one newspaper story) of the first time the two schools met back in 1893 for a St. Patrick’s Day rugby game. The Irish of Sacred Heart came decked out just for the event with special jerseys reading “Beat SI” on the fronts and “Mahoney” on the backs in memory of their deceased alumnus Jerry Mahoney of Bruce-Mahoney fame. SI may have lost that first match-up in 1893, but the special jerseys didn’t provide the Irish with luck this time around. SI beat SH 7–3 before a crowd of 7,000 at Kezar Stadium and kept the Bruce-Mahoney Trophy at SI that year.
Vollert’s favorite memories of that decade include Joe Dekker ’98 carrying 33 times against St. Francis when SI won 19–0, Joe Lourdeaux ’98 kicking four field goals in that game, Alex Buich ’98 playing a great game to beat Bellarmine at Kezar in 1996, Drew Virk ’99 and Tripp Jones ’99 stopping Bellarmine on the goal line to seal a 21–14 win, Anthony Devora ’99 returning a punt to ignite SI against San Lorenzo Valley, and Sean Pailhe ’97 catching a fake punt for a key play against Del Mar in the CCS playoffs.
“I’m also very proud of some of the teams that struggled,” Vollert said in aGenesis IV interview. “One of the best teams had guys who stuck together despite a 1–8–1 season. No one wants to lose games, but I was proud of how those players took care of one another and of how hard they practiced and played. I was just as proud of them as teams that went 8–4.”
Vollert also took pride in how well his players combined scholarship with athletics. With the exception of one year, he had one or more players named as scholar athletes by the National Football Hall of Fame in each year he coached. “We preach all the time about integrity: If you’re going to work hard on the field, it’s a matter of integrity to work hard in the classroom. Our scholar-athletes represented that success.”
In 2004 Joe Vollert retired from the varsity coaching job after a dozen years as head coach, the longest anyone has ever held that job in the school’s history. Steve Bluford ’84, who served with Vollert as co-captain in his senior year at SI, took over the job. When Vollert received the head-coaching job, the first call he made was to Bluford to convince him to leave a career in physical therapy to teach and coach at his alma mater.
Bluford, the school’s first African-American varsity coach, also ran track at SI and played football at UC Santa Barbara where he received his Bachelor’s degree in psychology. A longtime psychology teacher, PE teacher and department chairman — as well as moderator of the Association of African American Students — Bluford also served as head JV coach from 1994 to 2001, leading his team to the WCAL championship in 1995. He proved his ability to lead the varsity Wildcats in 2004 by beating Sacred Heart 34–0 at the September Bruce-Mahoney game and finishing the league 4–2, including a 61–26 drubbing of St. Francis, setting a school record for the most points scored in a varsity football game.
“Steve cares deeply for his players because he blends teaching, motivation and discipline better than any coach I’ve ever worked with,” said Vollert. “He demands the most out of the kids, and they really respond. I’ve seen over the years that he has a way of getting their hearts. They really love him.”
Baseball between 1990 and 2005 had its share of magic moments. In 1991, senior Tony Rhein pitched the Bruce-Mahoney game with rain threatening throughout the day. Earlier that day, Tony had attended his grandfather’s funeral, and he was determined to pitch the game in his honor. SI went on to beat SH 5–2 on a 3-run homer by Joe Donnelly ’91 before a crowd of thousands at West Sunset Field.
Jim Dekker retired as head varsity baseball coach in 1993 after 16 years leading the Wildcats to more than 200 victories, including a second-place finish in CCS that year and a 25–7 season. No team from San Francisco ever went as far in the CCS as the Wildcats of 1993. John Grealish ’79, who played for Dekker in his senior year, would follow in his stead until 1998, when he was appointed assistant principal for student activities. Veteran English teacher Jim Bjorkquist ’65, who coached alongside Dekker and Grealish, then took over the team for two years.
In 2000, Bjorkquist’s team won the league, the first championship since 1967 and SI’s first WCAL baseball championship ever. That team also went on to the final game of the CCS championships, losing 6–5 to Leigh of San Jose to take second in the section. The victory came despite several setbacks, including the loss of several key players due to injuries. “We had to regroup time and time again to rebuild the team,” said Bjorkquist. Standouts included Joe Jacobitz ’00, who went on to play at USF and be drafted by the Seattle Mariners; Dave McMonigle ’00, who hit .395; Brent Sullivan ’00, who had 4 homeruns and 17 RBIs; Paolo Lucchesi ’00; Jim Goethals ’00; Chris Watters ’01; and Michael Tursi ’00. As well as the team did in the league, Bjorkquist was just as proud of the team earning CCS Scholastic Championship honors with the highest collective GPA (3.35) of any team in the region.
In the 1990s, SI boys’ and girls’ lacrosse became the dominant program in the Bay Area and in the state. Between 1990 and 2004, the boys’ varsity won nine league titles and three state championships, with the girls’ program, under Coach Colleen Niklaus, winning eight league championships and becoming the top team in Northern California between 1997 and 2004. Much of the credit belongs to boys’ head coach David Giarrusso, who came to SI in 1996 to teach history and who became a local legend for his passion for the sport and prowess as a coach. Thanks to his regional leadership, the number of lacrosse teams in the Bay Area rose from eight to 40 in his six years as varsity lacrosse coach between 1996 and 2002, with many of those players learning the game at one of his summer SI lacrosse camps.
Over a six-year period, Giarrusso’s teams won 90 games and lost 9. His program became so strong that in his last year coaching, SI’s four teams — the varsity and JV girls’ and boys’ teams — each won the Northern California championship. U.S. Lacrosse named Giarrusso Coach of the Year in Northern California in 1997, 1999 and 2000 and as Man of the Year in 2002. Giarrusso also served as president of the California Junior Lacrosse Association from 1999 to 2001. When he and his wife, Suzanne Abell (who also coached field hockey and lacrosse at SI) moved to the East Coast to be closer to their families, the SI lacrosse community mourned, but honored Giarrusso’s legacy by continuing to excel. In 2004, for example, the boys’ team finished 8–0 in the league under the able leadership of head coach Greg Angilly. Niklaus led the varsity girls to a 25–4–1 season in 2003 and helped junior Katie McGovern earn All American First Team honors.
SI lacrosse players excelled in college athletics in both the boys’ and girls’ programs. In 2002 and 2003, Bridget Mulhern ’00, a Cal Poly San Luis Obispo student, was named the U.S. Lacrosse Intercollegiate Associates’ Player of the Year and was featured in Sports Illustrated. In 2004 she led her team to its fourth national championship, earning first team All-American honors and MVP status of the national championship tournament. Elsa Beyer ’01, who played for UCLA, earned second team All American honors in 2004.
SI grads on UC Santa Barbara’s lacrosse team helped that school win the U.S. Lacrosse Men’s Division Intercollegiate Associates National Championships in 2004. Players included team co-captain Tycho Suter ’00 (first team All-American defenseman) Luke Wilson ’01 (first team All-American attack honors), Hank Caulkins ’00, Ryan Brittain ’01, Damon Conklin-Moragne ’02 (each an All American), Matt Wagner ’00, and Alex Wilson ’99. Other college standouts include Chris Bauman ’01, Matt Selig ’99, Eric Dahm ’00, Peter Langkammerer ’01, Brian Bianchi ’00, Kevin Clifford ’02 and Ben Horn ’01, a star on the Naval Academy’s lacrosse team.
Both Jan Mullen and Rob Hickox ’72, the coaches for the girls’ and boys’ varsity soccer teams, earned more than mere victories for their teams. Each earned the distinction of being named Honor Coach by the Central Coast Section, Hickox in 1994 and Mullen in 1996. The award recognizes coaches “who have made contributions to the growth and development of their sport and their athletes within the school, community and section.” Both Hickox and Mullen have dedicated themselves not only to SI soccer but also to a host of community soccer programs, and that dedication has earned them the respect of their peers throughout the state. Mullen’s teams did remarkably well, taking league championships in 1992–1996 and 1998–1999. In the past five years, the boys’ varsity soccer team made it to CCS competition four times, to the semifinals twice and to the finals once in 2000 after a 16–5–4 season. Then, on February 10, 2005, the Varsity Boys’ Soccer Team became WCAL co-champions for the first since 1981 by beating Bellarmine 2–1 in San Jose.
John Stiegeler ’74, a talented history teacher at SI, is a 20-year veteran of the soccer program and Hickox’s assistant varsity coach. Hickox praised Stiegeler both for his talented defensive coaching and for helping to support alumni who played soccer at SI and who gather once a year for an alumni soccer game on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Stiegeler also sends an e-mail report of each game to all alumni soccer players. (Other alumni sporting events include the alumni basketball game the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, the alumni baseball game in April and the alumni lacrosse game in May.)
The volleyball program was the first sport to include SI’s girls. Coached by Teresa (Mullin) Garrett, the team grew in ability over its first four years. By the fall of 1992, the team faced its greatest moment when it took on the girls of Mitty, beating them in four games. Playing for the Monarchs was sophomore Kerry Walsh, who, in 2004 in Athens, went on to win an Olympic gold medal in beach volleyball with her partner, Misty May. “We were an unknown team, and Mitty was a powerhouse,” said Garrett. “Our victory shocked everyone and put us on the map. Stars of that team included Chrissy Drucker ’93 and Robin Harvey ’93, who helped their team finish second in the league and make it to the quarterfinals of CCS play. In 1998, under head coaches Karen Cota and Louie Valiao, the team won its first league championship. The girls came in second place in 1999 and recaptured the crown in 2000.
Cota praised Valiao as being one of the most respected coaches in the league and Aimee Castro and Chris Goethals for developing players, leading the JV program since the 1990s, and taking their team to the championship in 2001. Many players have gone on to compete at the collegiate level, including Julie Guevara ’94, Karen Chen ’96, Allison Cota ’99, Lindsey Cope ’01, Monica Charlton ’01 and Kelly Kramer ’02.
Chris Goethals, who joined the program in 1999 as JV coach and who led her team to a league championship in 2001 along with Aimee Castro, noted that the team has come “a long way over the years under Karen Cota’s helm, and the girls now play a high-powered, specialized game.” Goethals also praised coach Valiao, who joined the team in 1998 and whose “extensive background in volleyball helped SI compete at a higher level, taking its first league championship in 1999 against the Gators of Sacred Heart Prep.” Goethals praised outside hitters Natalie Charlton and Gina Sigillo and setter Allison Cota for leading that team to victory.
In 2000, SI joined the WCAL and found itself against Mitty, St. Francis, Presentation of San Jose and Valley Christian. “We were now competing against nationally-ranked teams,” said Goethals. “At first it was a shock to be up against the likes of these schools, but our program hung tough and continued to improve. Through it all, Karen Cota’s leadership encouraged a Christian spirit among players and coaches. Trying to go to new heights as a competitive volleyball program was not going to be done at the expense of losing our Ignatian values.” In 2004 Cota stepped down as varsity girls’ coach but continued to head the program, and Teresa Garrett, the first girls’ volleyball coach, returned to lead the team.
The boys’ volleyball team had its genesis in 1976 when English teacher Bob Grady, while refereeing a girls’ volleyball game at University High School, spoke with the coach there about forming a boys’ league for the city. Grady called the coach at Lick Wilmerding and at Athenian High School in Danville to form the first unofficial league, borrowing uniforms from the JV basketball team. Grady paid for all the volleyballs himself, started practicing in February 1977, and held competitions March through May. The next year Washington High School joined the league. Star players over the years have included Steve McFeely ’87 and John DeBenedetti ’83. In 1990, SI joined the SERVE league (Secondary Education Radical Volleyball Experiment), comprising five teams. Standouts Tom Kovats ’90, Jeff Spaulding ’91 and Sam Yen ’91 helped SI to finish first that year.
In the 1990s, SI’s crew reached unparalleled heights due, in large measure, to SI teacher and coach John Pescatore, who won the Olympic bronze medal in 1988 as a member of the U.S. 8-man boat. SI’s varsity 8 boys also won the state championship in 1994, 1995 and 1997.
In 1997, the boys’ varsity 8 went on to compete in the U.S. Rowing Junior Invitational Regatta in Cincinnati, Ohio, beating out the best crews from around the country and giving SI its only national championship. The boat featured Kevin Schmidt ’97, Alex Bea ’97, John Paul Sekulich ’97, Eric Tiret ’97, David Reynolds ’97, Patrick Reid ’98 and Greg Chiarella ’98, John Cranston ’99 and coxswain Franco Arieta ’97. Alternates were A.J. Hubner ’97, Chris Murphy ’98 and Joshua Stamer ’98. In 2004, the boy’s varsity 8 returned to Cincinnati where they finished third in the nation after a second-place state finish. That boat, coached by Tom O’Connell, featured senior coxswain Jesse Burdick and rowers Joe Dudley ’04, Mike Snyder ’05, Mike Gilson ’06, Derek Johnson ’06, Jim Terheyden ’04, Noel Castro ’04, Ryan McQuaid ’04 and Mike Tate ’05.
The girls’ varsity 8 brought home gold in 1995, 1999 and 2000, led by Coach Jen Hayden. In those last two years, they also traveled to Cincinnati to compete in the National Invitational Championships where they placed third in the nation both times. Star rowers on those boats included Betsy Dimalanta ’99, Patsy McGuire ’99, Katie Waller ’99, Giselle Talkoff ’99, Becky O’Neill ’00, Lauren Labagh ’00, Jenny Draxl ’00, Ellen Mulvanny ’01, Katie Yrazabal ’01, Mary Kate Sullivan ’01, Dinah Dimalanta ’01, Laura Terheyden ’01 and Mithu Tharayil ’00 with coxswains Marie Mahoney ’00 and Sheila Clifford ’99. Many of the women in the program went on to excel in college crews and have staged mini SI reunions at the various regattas.
Basketball fever seemed to grip the school in the 1990s with nationally-ranked players and teams taking SI to five league and two CCS championships between 1992 and 2004 for the boys’ program and one league and three CCS championships for the girls’ program. Don Lippi, who started coaching at St. Joseph’s High School in Alameda in 1978, came to SI in 1991 and developed an “in-your-face” philosophy, according to Tim Reardon ’86, who took over the program when Lippi left SI for St. Joseph’s in 2003. “Don forced other schools to make mistakes by having his team play harder than the opposition.” Thanks to Lippi, SI became one of the premiere high schools for basketball in the Bay Area. “Before Don took over the program, the team had a few tough seasons,” said Reardon. “After his first year, we were back to being one of the most respected programs in the Bay Area. For four years, I coached the varsity girls while he coached the varsity boys. In each of those years, the Chronicle ranked both SI teams in the top 10 in the Bay Area. SI was the place to go to play basketball.”
Lippi earned local and national news in 1999 when SI, with a 28–1 record and undefeated in league play, was ranked in the top 10 of all the high schools in the U.S. and number one in Northern California. Players such as Luke Whitehead (a star at University of Louisville and slated for the NBA draft at the time of this writing), Joe Skiffer, Robert Sayle, Anthony Devora and Nick Errico led the team to a second place CCS finish and to NorCal competition. In 2000, Lippi received the Boys’ Basketball Coach of the Year Award from the California Coaches Association for his “coaching excellence and professional contributions of time, service and dedication to the profession and athletics.”
Reardon stepped in as varsity boys’ coach after Lippi left, and led his team in 2004 to both the league and CCS championship — the first time that had happened since 1984. He finished second in NorCal play in a remarkable first year as the boys’ coach. He credits the team’s success to the combined efforts of the players. “Someone pointed out to me that The San Francisco Chronicle ran six stories on our team, highlighting a different player each time. This is a testament to how the athletes needed each other to be successful.” The Wildcats finished 11–6 in league play and 23–11 overall that year before going on to beat Mitty for the league championship; Evergreen Valley, North Monterey County, Pioneer and Burlingame for the CCS championship; and Northgate and Foothill in NorCal play before being stopped by Bishop O’Dowd for the NorCal crown. Jesse Lopez-Low ’04, a 6-7 senior, Max Mizono ’04, Brian Wilhelm ’04, Matt Jones ’06, Danny Zatkin ’04 and Tim Szarnicki ’04 were among the standouts on that team.
SI’s girls did not win a league championship until 2002, but because the top two teams go on to sectional competition, they did win the CCS championship both in 1996 and 1998. Their first CCS championship came with coach Steve Phelps and players Juliann Busch ’96, Kimiko Nakai ’96, Liz Lee ’97, Kristy Cahill ’98 and Maya Fok ’98. Tim Reardon, who coached in 1998, won another CCS crown despite having five players sidelined with injuries. Frosh Jacquelyn Hontalas ’01, who scored 17 points in her first game, Fok, Cahill, Julie Yap ’99, Kirsten Maciejewski ’00 and Jessica Libien ’99 helped establish the Wildcats as a dominant force in the GPSL with a 25–6 record.
In 2002, under head coach Jim Dekker, the ’Cats had their best season ever, taking both the league, with an 8–0 record, and the CCS championship. That year was the first that all three teams in the program (frosh, JV and varsity) won league championships, the first time league coaches voted unanimously on who should be the MVP (senior Katie Meinhardt), the first time an SI student (Meinhardt) received a full scholarship to a Division I college and the first time the San Jose Mercury News chose someone from SI as its girls’ basketball coach of the year. Dekker stepped down in favor of Julie Guevara ’94, a veteran SI player, who finished her third year as head coach in 2005.
Fifteen years since its inception, the girls’ program now has a strong base of alumnae players, many of whom return for the homecoming game the day before Thanksgiving each year to take on the varsity girls’ team. The alumnae women played their first game against the Wildcats in 2001, losing 56–23 against the varsity.
Both boys’ and girls’ tennis excelled in the 1990s and beyond, with the boys winning the WCAL in 1992, 1994, 1996, and 1998, and the girls’ taking first in 1993 and 2003. The boys won their first league meet in 1992 coached by Art Cecchin ’63 after an 18–3 season thanks to Elwyn Cababe ’92, Aaron White ’92, Derek Bertelsen ’92, Chris Zonnas ’93, Trevor Hewitt ’94, Martin Burke ’92, Aric Zurek ’92, Jon Weinstein ’94 and Chris Jew ’94.
The next year, Cecchin, now the girls’ head coach, led SI to its first GPSL tennis championship with Lisa Monfredini ’96, Sarah Warren ’96, Anne Warren ’94, Francesca Crisera ’95, Mimi Dang ’95, Jocelyn Sideco ’95 and Kacey Callinan ’94.
In 1994 Mike Thomas ’71 led the boys to another league title after a 12–0 league finish and a 21–2 overall finish with Jon Weinstein ’94, Trevor Hewitt ’94, Jason Horn ’94, Chris Jew ’94, Opara Green ’96, Adrian Gonzales ’96, Tomo Tom ’97, Wesley Chu ’96, Mark Kasprowicz ’96, Elliot Chun ’96, Riley Hurd ’95 and several of the players from the ’92 championship team. Thomas repeated that trick two years later, going 12–0 in league play and 18–2 overall with number one and two players Adrian Gonzales and Brad White ’97 along with doubles’ teams of Rob Estrella ’96 and Mark Kasprowicz and Elliot Chun and Mike Duffy ’97. He also praised Tomo Tom, Wesley Chu and Brandon Chu ’98 for helping SI finish among the top eight in CCS play.
In 1998 Thomas’ team once again took first in the league with Brandon Chu, Daniel Ho ’00, Jeff Curtiss ’98, Omid Talai ’98, Jeff Duerson ’99, Jason Buick ’98, Victor Santore ’99, James Shinbori ’98 and Scott Li ’00.
The girls won the WCAL championship in 2003 with Coach Hillary McKinney helping the ’Cats to a 13–1 season thanks to the power play of Stefanie Ordoveza ’04, Donna Verdiano ’05, Katy Kilgore ’05 and Maggie McAteer ’04. Bill Haardt, currently the boys’ head coach, led his team to a third-place WCAL finish in 2004 after an 11–3 season. Craig Law ’84 (who coaches JV girls and boys) and Br. Artie Lee, SJ, have also been instrumental to the success of the program.
The boys’ golf program enjoyed its last league championship in 1979, but continued to excel with star golfers such as Peter Andersen ’87, Tim O’Riordan ’88, Josh Levin ’94 and Mike Sica ’99 under coaches Fr. Roland Dodd, SJ, Bob Drucker ’58 and Julius Yap ’74.
A few girls, such as Judette Tobes ’98 and Annie Donnelly ’95, played on a coed golf team until 2001 when SI formed a separate girls’ team. Elaine Harris ’04 and her father, an All-American golfer at Stanford, along with Carolyn Thamkul ’03 encouraged Yap to start a girls’ team. On the first day of tryouts, 35 girls came out for the team and 24 stuck with it. That year, SI took second in the GPSL. Harris, then a sophomore, took first at the league championship and fourth in CCS play.
In 2002, SI left the GPSL for the WCAL and finished as co-champions with Notre Dame High School, Belmont, before taking third in CCS play and ninth in NorCal competition. The following year, the girls outdid themselves, taking first in league, first in CCS and first in Northern California competition before winding down a remarkable season with a fourth-place finish in the state thanks to the talented play of Harris, Ai Chen ’04, Katie Cavallero ’04, Dana Fisco ’04, Colleen McHugh ’05, Katie Moran ’05, Patti Pang ’05, Keiko Fukuda ’06 and frosh phenom Rosalie Tolentino ’07.
The Wall of Champions
After the homecoming football game of October 21, 1995, SI dedicated the Wall of Champions in the Martin D. Murphy Pavilion. The series of plaques honor each varsity team that won a league, sectional, state or national championship. Block Club Moderator Robert Vergara ’76 did the research for the wall and gave a stirring speech in which he noted that “in recognizing these champions, we honorall those who have worn the Red and Blue, whether their team finished in first place or last. For if winning championships were our only goal, our athletic program would be a richly decorated but empty shell. What we celebrate today, along with our championships, is the hard work, the self-sacrifice and the commitment to Ignatian values that are the mark of all truly great St. Ignatius teams.”
A Change of Leadership
Robert Vergara ’76, Leo La Rocca’s assistant AD, took over the job in June 1999 as SI’s fifth athletic director. As a student, Vergara served as manager for the baseball and football teams and as a basketball statistician. That began his long love with the SI sports tradition. “I used to go into Leo’s office before he knew who I was and look at all the great stuff in his room. I’d look up Dan Fouts in the 1969 yearbook and read about the 1926 basketball team that won the state championship. I loved learning about the great teams from the 1950s and ’60s.” Vergara returned to SI in 1982 after graduating with his bachelor’s degree in history from USF, and, since then, he has taught English, history and public speaking and served as scheduling director for 14 years and as associate athletic director since 1997. As AD, he now works with 96 coaches, 62 teams, 25 sports and 870 students — nearly 60 percent of the student body who play at least one sport. Perhaps Vergara’s greatest strength lies in his belief that coaches need to do more than win games. They need to instill Ignatian values in their students, extending the lessons of the classrooms onto the playing field. Helping him in this mission is John Mulkerrins ’89, who stepped into Vergara’s old job as assistant AD.
Several SI students and faculty members have competed in the Olympics over the years. John Pescatore, who taught math and coached crew at SI in the 1990s, won a bronze medal in 1988 in Seoul as part of the U.S. team’s 8-man boat. Four years later, in Barcelona, he finished sixth in the pairs event. Before the start of the 1996 games in Atlanta, Pescatore carried the Olympic torch 1 kilometer, down Haight Street from Masonic to Divisadero.
In Atlanta, Tom McGuirk ’89 raced in the 400-meter hurdles for Ireland — he holds dual citizenship — and he also competed four years later in the 2000 games in Sydney. He was not the only Wildcat there. Sebastian Bea ’95 won a silver medal in the pairs rowing event. His victory was all the more remarkable given how much pain he had suffered just three weeks prior. As his plane landed in Sydney, he was stretched out on the floor of the jet, all 6-foot, 6-inches of him, his face contorted in agony and his back on fire with muscle spasms. “The pain almost broke me in half. Passengers had to step over me to exit.” Thanks to muscle relaxants and a back brace, Bea healed enough to compete and bring home the only medal won by the U.S. men’s rowing team at those games. Bea’s coach, incidentally, was John Pescatore, who was part of the Olympic Training Center in Princeton, New Jersey. Both McGuirk and Bea have returned to SI often — Bea spoke at a Father-Son Dinner and McGuirk has helped out coaching track and field.
Past Olympians also include
- Dick Hyland (1918), who won gold with the U.S. Rugby Team in Paris in 1924;
- Jim Delaney, a math teacher at SI from 1946 to 1948, won silver in the 1948 London Olympics in shot put;
- Louie Nady ’59, who served as an alternate to the U.S. sailing team during the 1972 Olympic games,
- and Jackie Lee ’03 who was an alternate in table tennis in Beijing in 2008.
Other SI athletes made various Olympic teams. The Salvemini brothers — Len ’71 and Dan ’75 — both made the U.S. Olympic Soccer Team, though, for different reasons, neither competed in the Olympics. Only the best 25 soccer teams in the world make it to the Olympics. Len’s team was eliminated from the 1976 Montreal games when Mexico beat the U.S. in 1975, and Dan’s 1980 team boycotted the Moscow games along with all the other U.S. teams that year.
Also, Mike Gravelle ’83 became the U.S. national discus champion in 1994 at the USA-Mobil Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Knoxville, Tennessee, with a throw of 201 feet, 4 inches. Gravelle returned to SI to serve as the girls’ weight coach, offering his expertise in discus and shot to both boys and girls.