On November 14, 2018, Orange Lutheran High School celebrated 18 student athletes as they signed their official scholarship letters of intent and announced their commitments to attend and play college athletics across six sports.
OLu Athletic Director, Paul Jones, opened the ceremony in prayer and thanked the students’ families for their unwavering support of their athletes and the Lancer athletic programs.
“First and foremost, I want to thank the parents,” said Jones. “Without your partnership, this would not be possible. So I want to thank you…for entrusting your students to us here at Orange Lutheran. We truly appreciate the partnership and teamwork, because it has resulted in this culminating moment.”
Jones recognized the impact this group of student athletes has had beyond their respective sports.
“All of our students up here have been model citizens on our campus,” said Jones. “Our kids have gotten it done in the classroom and on their respective athletics surfaces. They get to be the example for all of our incoming freshmen, sophomores and juniors who are looking up to them.”
This group of signees is led by Lancer football quarterback Ryan Hilinski, who is headed to the University of South Carolina. During his three varsity years at OLu, Hilinski garnered 1st Team All-Trinity League awards, 1st Team All-County awards, an All-American Bowl selection. The three-year captain threw for a total of 7,910 yards and 73 touchdowns.
“Ryan is a dynamic young man and has a tremendous desire to grow and be the best that he can be,” said OLu football head coach, JP Presley. “He is a reliable teammate and a great definition of a student athlete. Ryan has had a phenomenal high school career, and we are excited for how the Lord continues to work in his life. The University of South Carolina is not only welcoming a great football player, but a phenomenal leader.”
Hilinski acknowledged his family, including his mother and father, as well as his older brother Kelly and late brother Tyler, in shaping him into the man he is today.
“I’ve got to thank my parents, Mark and Kym,” said Hilinski. “They’ve done everything that they can for me. They’ve had it the roughest of the rough, but they go and go and go every single day for me and for everyone around them to make them happy and keep our world going.”
On the hardwood, boys basketball forward and guard Cade Potter will continue his hoops career at Utah State University. An All-Trinity League honoree and four-year varsity player, Potter is recognized by the Lancer coaching staff as a “tireless worker who has really matured both on and off the court,” during his time at OLu.
“As a coach…you want great players, and Cade’s one of them,” said OLu boys basketball head coach, Chris Nordstrom. “But what you really want to see is growth off the floor, in the classroom and in all the things he does in his life. Utah State is getting a great kid, a great player and probably most importantly, a great person.”
Potter thanked his family and coaches for helping him get to this point in his playing career.
“This program has done a ton for me,” said Potter. “I can’t wait to represent Orange Lutheran as I go off and play for Utah State.”
On the softball diamond, the Lancers are sending seven players to Division 1 programs, the most OLu softball head coach Steve Miklos has had in his 22-year tenure at the school.
Four-year varsity pitcher Mia Bagatourian will be taking her 20-2 high school record, 121 strikeouts and 1.49 ERA to the Ivy League and Dartmouth College. The 2nd Team All-Trinity League and All-Orange County player carries a 4.5 GPA and serves her campus as an Ignite Mentor.
“Mia is a competitor…and is continually striving to improve upon her craft,” said Miklos. “She has crazy ball movement and gets a lot of opposing players frustrated when they swing and miss at her pitches.”
Bagatourian was thankful for the effort of her parents and coaches, as well as a lifetime of memories created with her teammates.
“I want to thank my parents,” said Bagatourian. “I’m sure they never thought they’d be spending all of their weekends at softball fields. We’ve all had a great run, and I’m sure that will continue for our last season here and as we go off to our respective colleges.”
Behind the plate, Lancer catcher Jaeden Barajas will be joining the Wolverines at Utah Valley University. The four-year varsity player has a .357 batting average, 29 RBIs and 7 home runs to her name and is also an Ignite Mentor.
“Jaeden is a workhorse who caught every single inning of every game for us last year,” said Miklos. “She has a strong arm with a quick release and kept our opponents’ running game at bay by consistently throwing runners out on the bases. She is also a power hitter who can drive the ball in the alleys.”
Barajas was grateful to all of those who have come alongside her as she has pursued her dreams.
“I want to thank God, all my friends, my family and the coaches who have shaped me into the athlete that I am,” said Barajas. “And most importantly, my parents for making this all possible.”
It’s “Geaux Tigers” for centerfielder Ciara Briggs who is headed to Louisiana State University. With a long list of accolades that includes being named a three-year 1st Team All-Trinity League and 1st Team All-Orange County honoree, the highly skilled 5-tool player holds a .413 batting average with 79 RBIs and 22 stolen bases. Briggs is also a member of OLu’s Student Athlete Leadership Training Council.
“Ciara is without a doubt the most complete athlete I’ve ever been privileged to coach during my 22 years at Orange Lutheran,” said Miklos. “Ciara is the real deal…a great base runner who can bunt, slap and hit for power. Defensively, she gets the best reads off the bat and consistently makes great catches in the outfield look routine.”
Briggs recognized those who have played a part in preparing her for her the next step in her softball career.
“I would like to thank my family and friends who have supported me through this long, but very exciting journey,” said Briggs. “I would not be where I am today if it was not for all of your love and support. Thank you for pushing me daily.”
Lancer shortstop Mariah Rodriguez will continue her playing career with the Buckeyes at The Ohio State University. The four-year varsity player is a two-time 1st Team All-Trinity League and 1st Team All-Orange County recipient with a .398 batting average, 66 RBIs and 25 stolen bases.
“If I had to describe Mya with just one word, it would be clutch,” said Miklos. “She is a gamer whose hard work and dedication to the game makes our team better. Mya is the player you want up at the plate when the game is on the line.”
Mariah thanked her family and coaches, as well as OLu, for the experiences they’ve provided her during her high school career.
“I want to start by thanking God, because without Him, none of this would be possible,” said Rodriguez. “I want to say thank you to the Orange Lutheran teaching staff for helping me achieve my academic goals throughout these four years.”
Pitcher and first baseman Miranda Stoddard has committed to the University of Kentucky Wildcats. The senior transfer will be bringing her .331 batting average and 2.09 ERA, as well as her 4.5 GPA, to her first season as a Lancer.
“We are excited about the talent Miranda is bringing to our softball program,” said Miklos. “She is a dominant pitcher and brings a powerful bat to our offense.”
Stoddard recognized several family members, including her grandmother, parents and sisters.
“Thank you, mom and dad, for all the sacrifices you have made to allow me to pursue my dreams,” said Stoddard. “I would not be standing here today without you.”
Infielder Sarah Taylor is headed to Mercer University and the Bears softball program. The four-year varsity player is on the corners at first base and third base for the Lancers and has a career .317 batting average with 63 RBIs and 16 home runs.
“Sarah is the ultimate power hitter who consistently hits monster home runs…and has the distinction of hitting the farthest home run I’ve seen in my career (at Bishop Amat),” said Miklos. “If I were to describe Sarah in one word it would be strong.”
Taylor thanked several family members and coaches who have pushed her to be the best she can be.
“I would first like to give a huge thank you to God, first and foremost, because without Him, none of this would be possible,” said Taylor. “And to my parents for always supporting me and all the sacrifices it takes to put me through softball and school.”
Paloma Usquiano will be joining teammates Stoddard and Briggs in the SEC as she heads to the University of Arkansas. The infielder is in her second year playing for the Lancers and is a contact hitter who is known for her defensive play.
“Paloma is a defensive specialist whose versatility and slick fielding skills make her a standout in the infield at third, short and second base,” said Miklos. “She has the softest hands in fielding ground balls on our team.”
Usquiano was grateful to her family for supporting her through her journey.
“I would personally like to thank my parents for all the sacrifices they have made for me and for believing in me,” said Usquiano. “I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for their unconditional love and support.”
On the volleyball court, middle blocker Dani Bryant has committed to Biola University. A member of both the Lancers 2017 CIF Championship volleyball team and the 2015 CIF Championship girls basketball team, Bryant led her team in total kills, hitting percentage and blocks. The three-year varsity player was named All-Trinity League in both 2017 and 2018 and also serves as an OLu Ambassador.
“Dani is a special player and person...and is the best middle blocker I’ve ever coached,” said OLu girls volleyball head coach, Andrew Mabry. “She has been such an integral part of our program in her time here and has emerged as a personality that fills up the room with joy, passion and competitiveness. Dani is going to do great things in this world, and we are so proud of who she is.”
Bryant recognized her support system, specifically her mother, for the endless love and inspiration she has received.
“Attending OLu and being surrounded by such amazing coaches, trainers and teammates has taught me that hard work and dedication really do pay off,” said Bryant. “From the bottom of my heart, I want to thank every single person who has poured themselves into me and into my athletic journey. I’m incredibly blessed to live the life that I live.”
Switching from indoor volleyball to the sand court, twin sisters Nicole Anne Nourse and Audrey Nourse will be joining the beach volleyball program at the University of Southern California. Both girls carry a 4.7 GPA and have been multi-sport athletes at OLu, with Audrey as starting goalkeeper for the Lancers girls soccer team as a freshman and Nicole as a member of the Lancers 2015 CIF Championship girls basketball team as a freshman.
The two played indoor volleyball for OLu for three years, and in 2017 as juniors, helped lead their team to the program’s first CIF Championship. Both girls have been members of the USA Volleyball Beach A1 National Team for the past four years and have won a number of national and state championships, including Junior Olympics, Beach Volleyball Clubs of America (BVCA) and California Beach Volleyball Association (CBVA) Cal Cup. The twins are also two-time High Performance National/International Champions.
This fall, the two traveled to Montpellier, France, to represent the U.S. in the Federation Internationale de Volleyball (FIVB) tournament, where they qualified for the main draw. Beyond competing for the Trojans, Audrey and Nicole have a future goal of representing the U.S. in the Olympics.
“I’m so thankful to Orange Lutheran,” said Nicole. “It fosters a community of strong believers in Jesus Christ and athletes who are playing for something bigger than themselves, which has been very humbling and eye-opening for me over the past four years.”
“I am truly blessed to play the sport of beach volleyball and continue my academic and athletic career at USC with my sister,” said Audrey. “Being an athlete at Orange Lutheran, I’ve discovered the underlying importance in strengthening my faith and working hard in my classes, all the while exercising my athletic capabilities.”
On the baseball side of the diamond, six Lancers will be continuing their baseball careers at the collegiate level. Right-handed pitcher Jonathan Guzman is headed to San Diego State University to play for the Aztecs.
Continuing the tradition of dominant pitching at OLu, Guzman has a 3.40 ERA and logged a save in the 2018 National High School Invitational championship game. As both a starter and reliever, Guzman shows extreme command on the mound.
“Johnny has greatly matured in his time at Orange Lutheran,” said OLu baseball head coach, Eric Borba. “He is a leader both on and off the field, and his work ethic has helped him to become one of the better pitchers in Orange County.”
Guzman thanked his parents and recognized what being a part of OLu baseball has meant to him.
“I want to say thank you to the whole baseball program, the coaches and players in general,” said Guzman. “The family we have here is unreal.”
A rare two-way player in the Trinity League, Evan Adolphus has pitched and played outfield, first and third base for the Lancers. He will continue his education and playing career at Cal State Fullerton.
“Evan has the God-given ability to dominate both on the mound and at the plate,” said Borba. “He has one of the best change-ups I’ve seen at the high school level, and he has tremendous bat speed and strength at the plate. He will be a key to our success in 2019.”
Adolphus thanked both his current and future baseball families.
“I’d like to give a huge thank you to Orange Lutheran, my parents, my friends and teammates, and all my coaches,” said Adolphus. “And I’d like to give a huge thank you to all the coaches at Cal State Fullerton for giving me this opportunity to excel in baseball.”
Left-handed pitcher Jimmy Urban will continue his education and baseball career at California Baptist University. Tall in stature and with an even bigger personality, the 6’-8” two-year varsity player has a 1.50 ERA, 5 strikeouts and 1 walk in 4-2/3 innings pitched.
“Jimmy has proven the ability to come in the game in any situation and provide our team with quality innings out of the bullpen,” said Borba. “As he continues to pick up velocity and command of his pitches, he will become an elite performer.”
Urban thanked God for His many blessings and for family who has always believed in him.
“I’d like to thank my family…for believing in me, even though at times I did not necessarily believe in myself,” said Urban. “I’d like to thank my coaches—past, present and future—for developing me into the player I am today, and for the player I will continue to be in future.”
Catcher and senior transfer Jared Thomas will be heading to the east coast to play for University of Miami Hurricanes. The three-time all-league and one year All-CIF honoree has fit right into his new home with the Lancer baseball program.
“Jared has…immediately earned respect,” said Borba. “He works as hard as anyone, and his determination is unmatched. “We are excited to have him, and he will be an impact bat in the middle of our order.”
Thomas acknowledged the many sacrifices his family members have made in order for him to play the game he loves.
“I give a special thanks to my grandpa and my mom and dad,” said Thomas. “Honestly, without you guys, I wouldn’t be here today.”
Garrett Frechette will join teammate Guzman at San Diego State University. The senior transfer is a first baseman and outfielder and was named a 2018 Perfect Game All American Classic Player.
“Garrett has shown why professional scouts are drooling over him,” said Borba. “He is a left-handed hitter with power, and that is not common at the high school level. He will be an impact bat in the middle of our order.”
Frechette reflected on always having dreamt of the day he could play college baseball.
“I want to thank God, because I’m truly blessed to be here today,” said Frechette. “I also want to thank my teammates for always pushing me to get better.”
Outfielder and four-year starting varsity player Jasiah Dixon will be heading up the freeway to continue his baseball career at the University of Southern California. Over his career, Dixon has a .250 batting average and has logged 21 stolen bases and 25 RBIs.
“Jasiah is the most electric athlete I have ever coached,” said Borba. “He can do anything he wants on the field. He has a joy that can be seen through his body language while at the plate, in the outfield or running the bases. As a four-year starter, the other players look up to him, and he has really stepped into a leadership role.”
Dixon thanked his mother for her tireless efforts and his baseball family who has provided endless support.
“She’s my everything,” said Dixon of his mother. “I couldn’t be here without any of you guys.”
In closing, Jones reminded the student athletes of the opportunities that they have been given and that they will always be Lancers for life.
“God has placed each one of you here specifically because He knows you by name…and he’s put all of us in your lives to help and support you,” said Jones. “I want to congratulate you, but I also want you to know that you have a home here and that you’ll always be supported by your Orange Lutheran family.”by Jenelyn Cunningham Russo ‘88