February 6, 2019, marked National Signing Day for high school seniors across the country, and as part of the celebration, 17 Orange Lutheran High School student athletes made their college commitments official.
Friends and family members gathered in the Nechita Center as the athletes signed their letters of intent and their coaches spoke of their character and accomplishments. OLu Athletic Director Paul Jones began the ceremony with words of thanks to the parents, teachers and coaches who have been instrumental in the athletes’ success.
“I want to thank the parents for their partnership and for entrusting us with your students,” Jones said. “I also want to thank our teachers and coaches. [They] put in tireless hours to invest in our students to be successful. We relish the opportunity to pour into our Lancers.”
Jones also acknowledged the student athletes for their commitment to setting a positive example both on campus and in the community.
“You’ve blocked out the distractions, and you’ve gotten it done in the classroom, which is the most important, and then you got it done in your respective sports,” Jones said. “You are the prime example of what it means to be a Lancer Christian athlete.”
Girls Water Polo
The OLu girls water polo program saw five players make their college commitments. Head coach Steve Carrera reflected on the impact this group of players has had on the program.
“These five seniors represent a significant portion of not only of my coaching career and my brother’s coaching career, but also the innovation and progression of our program,” Carrera said. “All of these girls have played a role in our team being very successful this year.”
Lancer 2 meter defender Leslie Haynes has committed to continuing her water polo career at UC Davis. Haynes has represented the USA Water Polo Olympic Development Program (ODP) as a Cadet National Team selection in 2016, where she won a national championship. As a transfer student, Carrera acknowledged Haynes’ commitment to adapting to her new team.
“Over the last couple of years, through a lot of hard work, through a lot of different conversations and changing of roles, she was able to find her niche,” Carrera said. “I really appreciate everything Leslie has been able to do for us.”
Haynes expressed her gratitude for the ability to play water polo as a Lancer.
“I’m very fortunate to have had an opportunity to be able to come to a school with such a great athletic and academic program, which I wholeheartedly believe led to my ability to play at a great school like UC Davis,” Haynes said.
Another 2 meter defender for the Lancers, Karis Couch has committed to UC San Diego. Transferring to OLu as a senior, Couch desired an athletic environment that also strengthened her faith.
“She’s contributed tremendously, and she’s been all in since day one,” Carrera said. “Even though we’ve only had her for one year, we’re really going to miss Karis and her leadership abilities.”
Couch thanked the school and the coaching staff for helping her make a seamless transition into her new home.
“Transferring to Orange Lutheran, I was super nervous about finding friends and fitting in,” Couch said. “But from the moment I walked through the front doors, my worries were gone. I’m so grateful for the love and kindness everyone at this school has shown me. I’m so honored to be with the team and work with and for them in the water.”
Goalkeeper and four-year varsity starter Alyssa Barnuevo, who helped lead the Lancers to their 2016 CIF-SS Division 1 championship, is headed to UC Berkeley. Over her time at OLu, Barnuevo has been a 1st Team All-Trinity League and All-CIF honoree, as well as Defensive Player of the Year.
“When she got here (as a freshman), she was able to jump in and start right away,” Carrera said. “Throughout the course of her career, she’s never asked for any recognition. She’s just always…kept her head down and done the work.”
Barnuevo said that this time of closing out her high school career and preparing for her next steps is “bittersweet.”
“I’m so excited to embark on this new journey at Berkeley to learn and grow as a person, but I’m also super sad to leave what I have here,” Barnuevo said. “I have amazing teammates who have supported me through everything, and I have coaches here who have helped me through my ups and downs. Through this all, I know that God loves me, he’s led me to this path and this was his plan for me.”
Lancer attacker Hannah Palmer will be joining the Bruins at UCLA. Also a part of the OLu 2016 CIF-SS Division 1 championship team, Palmer is a four-year varsity starter and a 1st Team All-Trinity League and All-CIF player.
“She has been one of the rocks of this program,” Carrera said of Palmer. “Beyond the skills and all the stuff that happens in the pool…to be able to show leadership and mentor players coming up, it’s something that is difficult to replace.”
Palmer thanked her parents for all they have done for her water polo career.
“OLu is one of the best choices I’ve made,” Palmer said. “I’d like to give a special shout out to my parents for always supporting me and helping me to never give up on my dreams.”
Attacker Brooke Hourigan is headed to the Ivy League as she has committed to play water polo for Harvard University. A member of the OLu STEM Academy, Hourigan is also a team captain for the Lancers, a three-time All-Trinity League honoree and was recently named MVP at the 2019 Santa Barbara Tournament of Champions.
“Brooke is one of those players who shows leadership inside and outside of the water,” Carrera said. “She’s always encouraging. She’s always trying to lift up her teammates. She’s willing to do the work, and she constantly wants to learn and get better.”
Hourigan has had the desire to attend Harvard since she was young, and she thanked her support system for helping her see that dream come to fruition.
“Thank you to my parents for planting the Harvard seed in my head when I was a little fourth grader,” Hourigan said. “I want to thank the administration and all my coaches who have helped me achieve the dream. I’m excited to go to Harvard.”
Lancer golfer Mason Greene will be continuing his playing career at UCLA. A four-year varsity player, Greene was a 2018 1st Team All-Trinity League selection as well as the 2017 Toyota Tour Cup champion. He was the OLu team MVP his sophomore and junior years and serves on campus as ASB President.
“Mason has been a true blessing to the Orange Lutheran golf program, both with his incredible golf accomplishments and his Christian leadership on our campus,” said OLu boys golf head coach, Darren Kelso. “With his demeanor and perseverance, whether in the game of golf or whatever he chooses to pursue, Mason has a very bright future.”
Greene expressed gratitude to those who have inspired and mentored him on his golf journey.
“First and foremost, I thank God for the blessing and opportunity to pursue my passions in golf and academics,” Greene said. “I want to thank my parents for sticking by me through my ups and downs. They’ve been with me from day one and have been my number one supporters. And especially to Coach Kelso and Coach Nacho, who have not only been my incredible coaches for the past four years, but valuable supporters and role models for me and people I look up to. They have helped me realize what is truly important.”
One of eight Lancer football players to sign letters of intent at Wednesday’s ceremony, Ethan Rae made his college commitment to play for the Trojans of USC.
“Ethan is one of the top tight ends in the country, a nationally recognized prospect with a ‘never quit’ mentality whose efforts are always directed to the betterment of the team,” said OLu football head coach, JP Presley. “He is a resilient football player and a humble teammate who will do whatever is asked of him. His perseverance, resiliency and faith really set this young man apart.”
An All-Trinity League player and transfer to OLu his junior year, Rae thanked the coaching staff for welcoming him and his parents for their unending support.
“I have to thank my parents for sacrificing their countless hours of taking me to practices, driving me around, helping contact coaches and helping me be the man I am today,” Rae said. “I wouldn’t be here without them.”
With an extensive list of accolades, including 1st Team All-Trinity League, 1st Team All-CIF, 1st Team All-County and an All-American Bowl selection, wide receiver Kyle Ford will be joining Rae at USC.
“Anyone who has seen Kyle play knows he has the heart of a lion and is a fierce competitor with a great heart for people,” Presley said. “It is easy to talk about his fantastic qualities as a player, but the quality that stands out to me is his care for others. One thing I won’t forget is his ability to embrace people, not for what they do, but for who they are. Kyle will be a force to be reckoned with.”
Ford expressed his gratitude to God and his family for the moment he has dreamt of for several years.
“I want to thank God for giving me the abilities to get to where I am today and to go on to the next level,” Ford said. “I want to thank my family…for giving me whatever I needed to succeed. I’m just really thankful for this moment and being able to continue this journey at the University of Southern California.”
Tight end and three-year varsity player Elijah Mojarro has committed to play football for UC Berkeley.
“He is a dynamic tight end, a tremendous leader, a reliable teammate and one of the most humble and selfless players that has played within the program,” Presley said. “His leadership extends outside of football, and he has been a member of several leadership programs on our campus. Elijah is committed to always improving his game, his academics and the person God is shaping him to be.”
Mojarro had special thanks for his mother and brother who have been key motivators in his path to Cal.
“I’d like to thank my family, my mother especially, she’s been everything to me,” Mojarro said. “She’s been my rock. She’s been what I fall back on when I want to give up and want to quit. I’d like to thank my brother for being my best friend, for always being there for me and for always pushing me to be a better person.”
Playing on both sides of the ball for the Lancers at running back and strong safety, Reggie Strong will be continuing his football career at Fresno State University.
“A two-way player with every desire to win, Reggie did all that we expected,” Presley said. “And then when he was done doing that, he did whatever he felt was needed to make a difference. He is…a selfless player that worked in faith that this day would come. He did not worry about what he didn’t have, but only made what he had better. He is…an explosive playmaker who poured all of himself into his team. I’m so very proud of the man Reggie is growing into.”
Strong shared his gratitude to those who have helped him get to this memorable day.
“I want to first thank God for putting me in this position,” Strong said. “I want to thank my family and friends, OLu and the coaching staff for everything they’ve done.”
Jake Cossavella has had it on his heart to attend the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, since middle school. That goal became a reality as the two-way player and All-Trinity League honoree signed his letter of intent to play football for the Midshipmen.
“You have set goals, Jake, mapped out your plans and stuck to the blueprint to accomplish your goals,” Presley said. “You’ll always be remembered for not only what you accomplished as a football player, but the focused young man who recognized at an early age where God was calling him to be. It is a tremendous honor to have a front row seat to watch you mature as a person.”
Playing both defensive and offensive lineman for the Lancers, Cossavella credits his parents and his football family for helping him achieve his goal.
“I just want to thank my family, my mom and my dad…and all the coaches who have spent countless hours helping me mature and grow in my skill level as a football player and as a man,” Cossavella said.
Defensive lineman and 2nd Team All-Trinity League selection Josh Rodriguez has committed to Southern Oregon University.
“Josh is what every coach can only wish for in a player,” Presley said. “He embraced every snap and played like each down was his last. He looked at setbacks as opportunities to grow. He loves this school. He simply outworks his competitors and will look for every opportunity to win. He is a phenomenal young man with a tremendous heart for people.”
Rodriguez acknowledged his faith and his family for helping shape him into the person he is today.
“I’d like to thank…my father, who for many years has always pushed me to become a better player and to never quit,” Rodriguez said. “I also would like to thank my mother, who is my biggest supporter and my biggest fan. I’d also like to thank Orange Lutheran for setting a strong Christian foundation that has allowed me to strengthen my faith in God. We are more than a football team. We are a family and a brotherhood.”
Known as “an intense playmaker with an eye for the big picture,” 1st Team All-Trinity League wide receiver JoJo Hawkins will be taking his skills to the East Coast to play football for Princeton University.
“JoJo is a competitor,” Presley said. “He returned kicks, played defense and is one of the shiftiest, explosive wide receivers to come through our program. He’s a valued friend to his teammates, a solid leader on and off the field, and it is no surprise that JoJo has been recognized nationally as one of the top student athletes in the country.”
Hawkins thanked God for his blessings and his family who has always supported him.
“I’d like to thank God…for the ability to play this game,” Hawkins said. “I’d like to thank my family, my mother and my dad, for being there for me and pushing me through the hard times.”
Linebacker Jackson Cloyd is looking forward to playing against his fellow Lancers in Pac-12 action when he heads north to join the Beavers of Oregon State University.
“Jackson has proven since stepping on campus his freshman year that he was committed to the school, the football program and the student body,” Presley said. “His willingness to put the team first and his loyalty to the coaches and their direction is what sets him apart. He is one of the top players to come out of this program, not just by his skill alone, but by the character he demonstrates on and off the field.”
Cloyd had special thanks for his parents and step-parents who have guided him through the challenges of the recruiting process.
“Dad, mom, stepdad, stepmom, you’ve truly made me a different person,” Cloyd said. “I’m so thankful for every day, waking up and getting to hear what you say and getting see your smiles and your happiness, because that truly makes me happy.”
From the baseball diamond, the Lancers added three more signees to the six athletes who made college commitments last fall. OLu baseball head coach Eric Borba expressed pride in seeing these Lancers accomplish their goals.
“This is a huge day for them,” Borba said. “In a day and age where everybody’s chasing that dream and everyone wants to be the superstar from the beginning, they came to us as freshmen and they were never the biggest, the strongest or the fastest. But they have just grinded for four years. Every year they have dedicated their trade to become better and better. To see them here getting this honor today is…a sign of all the hard work they’ve put in to get to where they’re at. They are very special young men.”
Having only made the transition from shortstop to full time pitcher in the last year, Josiah Castillo will be taking his 1.1 ERA to Pepperdine University.
“His work ethic and the way he goes about himself on the field just made a huge impact on me right away,” Borba said. “He throws more strikes than probably anyone on our staff. He’s going to have a huge role on our team going into this year.”
Castillo expressed gratitude for having spent his high school career as a Lancer.
“I want to thank God for giving me my natural abilities,” Castillo said. “I want to thank my mom and my dad for all the sacrifices they made. I want to thank Orange Lutheran. It’s been an honor to spend four years here. I want to thank my coaches, just for developing me into the man I am today.”
An outfielder and catcher who has made some clutch hits for the Lancers, Carl Lawson has committed to play baseball for Cal Poly Pomona. “
“Carl is awesome to be around,” Borba said. “Although he is very quiet, his will to win and desire to be great come out in his play on the field. When he gets between the lines, he is an ultimate competitor. He has a true passion for baseball, and a true passion for his team. He has served a variety of roles with the varsity team, but he may be the best pinch hitter I have ever coached.”
Lawson thanked his family for instilling in him the confidence he needed on his journey.
“I want to thank God for blessing me with the opportunity to come here and be able to play a game I love,” Lawson said. “I want to say thank you to my parents for sacrificing so much for me to go here, for always dealing with me when I’m going through some tough times and letting me know that everything will be alright and giving me the confidence.”
A utility player who has logged time in at least seven different positions over his career, Gabe Huante recently made the commitment to play baseball for Biola University.
“Gabe is our team leader in a lot of different ways that he doesn’t even realize,” Borba said. “He leads our prayers and really demonstrates what a Christian athlete should be. He’s probably one of the most coachable kids I’ve ever been around. He’s the ultimate team guy that will sacrifice anything and everything for the person next to him.”
Huante credited his parents and their support for pushing him to be the best he could be.
“I’d like to thank God for the many blessings and opportunities he has given me.” Huante said. “I’d like to thank my family, specifically my parents, for everything they’ve done for me. Thank you for always believing in me, even when I didn’t believe in myself.”
Jones closed out the ceremony by thanking the student athletes and their families for all the sacrifices they’ve made to get to this point in their careers. He also acknowledged the athletes’ character and the legacy that will leave for the future.
“One of the biggest things I appreciate about these students is their character,” Jones said. “They are truly leaders on this campus and in their respective programs. And they’re just great people. It’s great for us to have the opportunity to see what dynamic people you are on and off of your respective playing surfaces. I want to thank you for the example you have set for our current students and all of the future Lancers.”by Jenelyn Cunningham Russo ‘88