The Hilltop Lancers took it on the chin in a pair of high school roller hockey prize fights to open the season, dropping non-league match-ups against West Hills and Poway by respective scores of 21-0 and 12-3. But since then, the Lancers — braced by a generous turnout of 21 student-athletes this season — appear to have found a rhythm.
Hilltop rolled to its fifth consecutive victory after defeating Southwest, 9-1, in a non-league game Tuesday at Skate San Diego in National City.
“If we went 12-8 for the season, I would be very happy,” HHS head coach Dan Vaccaro said.
The Lancers rolled into the winter break with a 4-2 record on the strength of consecutive victories against St. Augustine (4-2 on Dec. 7), Mar Vista (14-1 on Dec. 9), Castle Park (16-1 on Dec. 13) and Cathedral Catholic (9-4 on Dec. 16).
The win over a Cathedral Catholic squad, though depleted because of the pending holiday break, was nonetheless a feather in Hilltop’s cap as the Lancers became the first South County-based team in the 17-team CIF/Metro Conference to defeat a North County-based team this season.
The Dons finished runner-up in last year’s club-based San Diego County High School Roller Hockey Conference championship playoffs before joining the conference this season.
“It is the same as it’s always been — the North County teams are far ahead,” Vaccaro said succinctly. “The good news is that we’re working on getting a JV program in place. With a little time, maybe we can work our way up.”
Vaccaro admitted both surprise and delight at the sizable turnout this season.
“We’ve got a great future,” he said. “We only have two seniors out of this current group (Tylor Spracklin and Kyle Heiskala). The core of the team is young. Our goalie (Josh Evangelist) is a sophomore. We’re trying to do the best with what we have. We have a lot of raw talent and a lot of ambition this year.”
In the win over St. Augustine, the Lancers received two goals from George Godinez, a goal and three assists from Jeremiah Schultz, a goal from Spracklin and one assist from Alphonso Arreguim.
Those four players comprise the team’s premier line. Schultz and Spracklin are serving as captains this season.
“We got a couple of studs (Schultz and Spracklin) and a couple of other kids who can play,” Vaccaro said.
The Lancers face off Mesa League play Jan. 10 with a game against longtime rival Bonita Vista. The two teams have been playing one another since 1998.
Hilltop finished third in last year’s league standings behind Eastlake and Otay Ranch after winning the 2008-09 league title. Those three teams remain the South County’s premier squads.
Otay Ranch faced off the 2010-11 season with a 24-2 victory against Mar Vista before dropping hotly contested non-league match-ups against both Scripps Ranch (8-7) and Poway (7-5). The Mustangs improved to 5-3 following Wednesday’s heroic 7-3 victory against Eastlake.
“I think we can do well enough to win our division,” Vaccaro said. “But it looks like Otay Ranch has one darn good team.”
Eastlake does, too.
Now in its 11th season within the Sweetwater Union High School District, the sport of roller hockey has become an attractive alternative to traditional winter sports such as soccer, basketball and wrestling for an increasing number of student-athletes.
Three members of the school’s girls field hockey team tried out, as well as three members of the school’s boys water polo team. Shannon Malone, Michelle Manibusan and April Burnett are all first-time hockey players from the Lancers field hockey team, while Kevin Moran and Luis Ontiveros join Schultz on wheels this season.
The newcomers aren’t just anyone, either. Malone serves as the president of the school’s Associated Student Body, while Manibusan serves as the school’s ASB vice president.
“It’s a lot more physical — it’s rougher playing against boys,” Malone said.
“But we get to push back,” Manibusan interjected with a smile.
Malone has already recorded a hat trick this season while Manibusan and Burnett each scored their first goals of the season on Tuesday.
“I’m proud to have them with us,” Vaccaro said.
Moran is making the jump from playing goalie in water polo to bracing the net in a fast-paced sport played on wheels. He could be working on back-to-back league championships after helping the Lancers polo team capture last fall’s South Bay League title en route to a berth in the San Diego Section Division II playoffs.
Ontiveros earned first team all-league honors in water polo. Schultz, a roller hockey mainstay, played JV water polo.
“I had always wanted to roller-skate,” said Moran. “But playing goalie here is quite a bit different from water polo.”
Moran got his first chance to play between the pipes in the game against Castle Park. He faced about a dozen shots, allowing one goal in two periods of work. He played the full game on Tuesday, also allowing just one goal.
Evangelist got a rare chance to play in the field on Tuesday, scoring a goal.
Moran flashed the thumbs up sign when asked how challenging it was trying to stop shots while also sliding on wheels.
“It was great!” he exclaimed.
One might even say it was a moving experience.
(Through Dec. 16)
Johnathan Managbanag (Otay Ranch) 22 goals, 11 assists, 33 points
Ryan Trego (Otay Ranch) 16 goals, 14 assists, 30 points
Ryan Owsiany (La Jolla Country Day) 19 goals, 10 assists, 29 points
Jack Little (La Jolla Country Day) 17 goals, 10 assists, 27 points
Scott Ibsen (La Jolla Country Day) 12 goals, 10 assists, 22 points
Jeremiah Schultz (Hilltop) 10 goals, 12 assists, 22 points
Josh Feist (Cathedral Catholic) 8 goals, 13 assists, 21 points
Joe Swanson (West Hills) 13 goals, 7 assists, 20 points
Zach Peters (West Hills) 8 goals, 12 assists, 20 points
George Godinez (Hilltop) 8 goals, 12 assists, 20 points
Jonathan Gauthier (Scripps Ranch) 11 goals, 8 assists, 19 points
Cole Beatie (Otay Ranch) 14 goals, 4 assists, 18 points
Willy Morrison (Westview) 11 goals, 7 assists, 18 points
Kyle Shafer (Rancho Bernardo) 8 goals, 10 assists, 18 points
Jared Wiess (West Hills) 14 goals, 3 assists, 17 points
Cody Boyer (West Hills) 10 goals, 7 assists, 17 points
Peter Kuetzing (la Jolla Country Day) 9 goals, 7 assists, 16 points
Cruz Major (Rancho Bernardo) 10 goals, 5 assists, 15 points
Jusitn Cintas (Cathedral Catholic) 7 goals, 8 assists, 15 points
Spencer Galaas (West Hills) 11 goals, 3 assists, 14 points
Brian Gravelle (Rancho Bernardo) 8 goals, 6 assists, 14 points
Corey Demody (West Hills) 7 goals, 7 assists, 14 points
Joseph Sherman (Mar Vista) 10 goals, 3 assists, 13 points
Hunter Calef (Mar Vista) 9 goals, 4 assists, 13 points
Felix Garcia (Bonita Vista) 12 goals, 0 assists, 12 points
Nick Sciabarra (Cathedral Catholic) 10 goals, 2 assists, 12 points
Sam Brink (La Jolla Country Day) 7 goals, 4 assists, 11 points
Alphonso Arreguim (Hilltop) 4 goals, 7 assists, 11 points
Dominic Keiser (West Hills) 10 goals, 0 assists, 10 points
Luke Richard (Poway) 7 goals, 3 assists, 10 points
Ryan Hockett (Poway) 7 goals, 2 assists, 9 points
Alex Kaiser (Rancho Bernardo) 5 goals, 4 assists, 9 points
Zach Feldman (La Jolla Country Day) 5 goals, 4 assists, 9 points
David Melbourne (Cathedral Catholic) 3 goals, 6 assists, 9 points