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Daily Pilot Athlete of the Week: Hannah Sanders

Athlete of the Week: Sanders stayed strong for Sailors

By Matt Szabo | Contact Reporter

April 27, 2013. A partially torn left anterior cruciate ligament while playing soccer for an AYSO team.

March 3, 2014. A fully torn left ACL and partially torn meniscus during the first game of the Newport Harbor lacrosse season.

Newport Harbor High senior Hannah Sanders remembers the dates well. As a freshman, the first injury was hard enough to overcome. Then, about 10 months later, the second injury came.

“My cleats planted into the ground, and my knee turned without my body,” she said. “I heard it pop, so I kind of knew in the back of my head that it was torn.”

Sanders is a tough kid. She could handle the pain. Harder to stomach was knowing that her high school career could be in jeopardy.

“I wasn’t really thinking about the actual injury itself, I was just thinking about the upcoming seasons that I had,” she said. “I definitely knew I was going to be out the rest of the season, but I was also concerned about the rest of high school.”

She stayed involved with the lacrosse team, taking stats that season while having surgery a month later on another date that she isn’t soon to forget, April 7.

Sanders went to ProSport Physical Therapy in Costa Mesa for about 10 months, two to three times a week. The following winter, she wasn’t cleared for practice yet but she could run. So she did, running laps around the field at Back Bay High while her teammates practiced.

Six times around was a mile. Whenever Sanders would get close to her teammates, they would cheer her on.

“Hannah has been one of the greatest friends I’ve ever known,” said Newport Harbor senior defender and co-captain Jordan Rausch, who has also played field hockey and soccer with Sanders. “She’s definitely one of the hardest working people I know. I’m honestly really proud of her, that she came back from such a big injury. Most people definitely would have given up.”

Sanders never did, returning as the Sailors’ junior varsity goalie as a junior and the varsity goalie this season. Last summer, she put in work playing club with OC United and Coach Dan Kirkpatrick, and that paid dividends.

Oh what a season did Sanders, the Daily Pilot Athlete of the Week, helped Harbor produce.

The Sailors went undefeated in league to capture their first outright Century-Empire-Sunset League title. They then pulled off two upsets in the playoffs to advance to the U.S. Lacrosse Southern Section South Division semifinals, another program first.

Sanders was in the midst of it all. Newport Harbor Coach Matt Armstrong saw her potential as a junior, when she came up big in a shootout to lift the Sailors’ JV team to a semifinal win over Tesoro in the “Laxapalooza” tournament at Laguna Hills High.

“When it counts the most, she’s the strongest, and that’s what you want out of a goalie,” Armstrong said. “She lives like she plays, with a lot of heart. The girls want to fight for her. They know that she’ll fight for them. She never backs down. Even when she takes a shot that’s painful, she’ll never back down from it.”

The Sailors were seeded No. 10 in the South Division playoffs. A team goal for the season was to record the program’s first playoff victory in six years, but they exceeded that goal. Sanders tied a season-high with 10 saves as they won at No. 7 San Juan Hills, 9-7, in the first round. Then she had seven saves as they stunned No. 2 St. Margaret’s, 13-12 in overtime, in the quarterfinals. Sophomore Adena Rothbard had the game-winning sudden death goal, part of her career-high six scores on the night.

When it went into overtime, pressure mounted on the goalies for each team. But Sanders responded.

May 5, 2016. The day that the Newport Harbor girls’ lacrosse program told the Orange County lacrosse community, ‘Hey, we’re here.”

“The first three minutes [of overtime], they had a couple of good shots,” Sanders said. “We just wanted to win so badly. It was definitely nerve-wracking, but my adrenaline was going. The bruises were worth it in that game.”

The surprise run ended two days later, when the Sailors lost to defending South Division champion Foothill, 5-1, in the semifinals at Irvine High. But Sanders held tough with nine saves. Even in that game, the Sailors showcased a tough defense that also included Rausch, senior Maxine Aiello and juniors Jillian Rosten and Hayden Allen. Sanders and Aiello, who live five houses apart, have known each other since they were little.

The Newport defense had to adjust when senior Sophia Riggan hyperextended her knee in practice in April, but the Sailors held strong.

“She’s definitely still a part of our defense group,” Sanders said. “We’d still talk right before the game started in our huddle, so she was just as big of a part on defense when she wasn’t playing.”

Sanders knows how hard that can be, watching from the sidelines. In terms of her individual development, Armstrong, who himself played goalie at the University of Michigan from 1994-97, pointed to her save percentage being much higher in the later part of the season. She earned Most Valuable Goalie honors in the Century-Empire-Sunset League and made 113 saves for the season.

In six of the Sailors’ last seven games, she had more saves than goals allowed.

“Even when her save percentage wasn’t where we wanted it, she would make the big saves,” he said.

Aug. 29, 2016. The first day of classes at Northern Arizona University, where Sanders is going to college.

She might play club lacrosse there. But guess what she wants to study? Exercise science.

“There’s a positive out of my knee, actually,” Sanders said. “I realized I want to be a PT.”

Sanders does try to stay positive. It’s not hard for her to find good things to say about her senior season in the Newport Harbor girls’ lacrosse program. In the future, maybe people will look back at it as the one when the Sailors established themselves as one of the top programs in Orange County.

“It’s definitely been a lot of ups and downs, but I have amazing friends that are just always encouraging of me,” Sanders said. “It’s going to be amazing to look back at it. It was really cool because our seniors this year were a part of the program when it was almost nothing. To be a part of it this year, when it’s the best that it’s ever been, that was really fun.”

Hannah Sanders

Born: July 1, 1998

Hometown: Newport Beach

Height: 5-foot-3

Sport: Lacrosse

Year: Senior

Coach: Matt Armstrong

Favorite food: Flank steak

Favorite movie: “Bridesmaids”

Favorite athletic moment: Upsetting No. 2-seeded St. Margaret’s in a U.S. Lacrosse Southern Section South Division quarterfinal match this season.

Week in review: Sanders, a goalie, made 25 total saves in three games and helped Newport Harbor reach the South Division semifinals for the first time in program history.

Copyright © 2016, Daily Pilot



Congratulations to the following girls who made Century-Empire-Sunset All-League Honors:


1st  – Newport Harbor (7-0)
2nd – El Dorado (5-3)
3rd – Valencia (4-3)
4th – Yorba Linda (2-6)
5th Esperanza (1-7)


Rylie Siegfried – Newport Harbor

Hannah Sanders – Newport Harbor 

Alfaro, Isabella – Esperanza
Bae, Sophia – Valencia
DeLeon, Celeste – El Dorado
Dicken, Natalie – Yorba Linda
Farley, Sarah – Newport Harbor
Hendrix, Katie – Newport Harbor
Kiasi, Sophia – Yorba Linda
Naumovski, Sofia – El Dorado
Perry, Kayla – El Dorado
Rausch, Jordan – Newport Harbor
Rothbard, Adena – Newport Harbor
Van Dam, Kelli – Valencia

Aiello, Maxine – Newport Harbor
Buckley, Emely – Yorba Linda
Davis, Madeline – El Dorado
Dwyer, Caitlin – Newport Harbor
Figueroa, EJ – Valencia
Lee, Brianna – Esperanza
Manzu, Nadia – Valencia
Nalezny, Tess – Esperanza
Pierro, Melody – El Dorado
Riggan, Sophia – Newport Harbor
Roberts, Heather – Newport Harbor
Stanley, Madison – El Dorado



Newport Harbor 1
Foothill 5

Sailors’ magic run ends
Matt Szabo | Contact Reporter

IRVINE — Newport Harbor High girls’ lacrosse coach Matt Armstrong still remembers talking with Foothill coach Kate Hick after the Sailors played the Knights in a nonleague game.

The Knights won by 10 goals, but Hick told Armstrong that she saw the Sailors as a sleeper team in Orange County.

So, when No. 10-seeded Newport Harbor earned upset wins at No. 7 San Juan Hills and No. 2 St. Margaret’s in the first two rounds of the U.S. Lacrosse Southern Section South Division playoffs, Hick wasn’t necessarily surprised.

“Nobody expected us to do that except for [assistant coach] Kaleigh [Gibbons] and me,” Armstrong said. “And maybe Kate Hick.”

On Saturday, the Sailors and the Knights met again with more on the line in the South Division (Orange County) semifinals.

A team hungry to show it belonged among Orange County’s elite ran into a goalie hungry to help her team earn back to back Orange County titles.

USC-bound Foothill senior goalie Hannah Upshaw shined as the No. 3-seeded Knights beat the upstart Sailors, 5-1, at Irvine High to end Newport Harbor’s season.

Upshaw made a handful of tough saves, especially in the second half, for the Knights (13-8). She helped her team return to the South Division title game, where it will meet top-seeded Mater Dei on Wednesday at Trabuco Hills High. The Monarchs defeated the other Back Bay program, CdM, by a 12-7 score in the first semifinal on Saturday.

Armstrong, a former goalie himself, has a lot of respect for Upshaw.

“She’s probably the best goalie in Orange County, and she showed it today,” Armstrong said. “There were definitely three or four saves she made that I think most other goalies would have let in. A few times we made her look good. We knew where we wanted to shoot on her, and we weren’t quite getting it there, but kudos to her.”

Upshaw and a defense also anchored by junior Allison Parkhill and senior Emily Coffee held Newport Harbor (12-7), making its first playoff semifinal appearance, to a season-low one goal. Junior co-captain Katie Hendrix made it happen midway through the first half. On the defensive end she caused a turnover, and on the offensive end she ran in and scored to tie the game, 1-1, with 14:17 remaining in the half.

Foothill got a free position goal from Carly Escalette and a goal from freshman Ava Brand to regain the lead at 3-1. The Knights then spent much of the end of the half in the Newport end, the Sailors unable to clear the ball.

Senior goalie Hannah Sanders, who had a strong nine saves in the game, made a couple of big ones in the extended possession for the Knights. She picked up a ground ball with 10 seconds remaining. Under pressure, the clearing pass was stolen. The Foothill player broke open in front of the goal before a check by Newport senior defender Jordan Rausch just before the halftime buzzer earned a yellow card.

“I felt like a yellow was better than a goal, at that point,” Rausch said.

Hendrix agreed.

“Going into halftime 3-1 is totally different than going into halftime 4-1,” she said. “The difference between two and three goals is so mentally different, so that was the right play.”

But Foothill senior Meridian Lee scored with 19:56 remaining to make it 4-1, Knights. Upshaw sealed the deal after that, making big saves on Newport senior co-captain Rylie Siegfried on a free position shot, then Hendrix. Newport junior Heather Roberts had a free position from the left with seven minutes left, and Upshaw crouched to get the low shot.

“I always tell her she’s a scouting report,” Hick said. “If I’m a coach and I’m going to scout us, I start and stop at Hannah. She’s a game-changer.”

Sophomore Adena Rothbard had two draw controls for Newport Harbor, and Siegfried led the Sailors with three ground balls while Caitlin Dwyer and Jillian Rosten had two each.

The defense led by Rausch, Rosten, Maxine Aiello and Hayden Allen was impressive. Newport Harbor became the first Orange County team this season to hold Foothill to fewer than seven goals.

“I’ve been waiting for doubt to creep in all week, and it never has,” Armstrong said. “Even up until the last 10 minutes of this game, I really thought we would put together a run and give them a little bit better game at the end. We didn’t quite get there, but I never doubted this team. They never gave me cause to doubt.”

Armstrong was proud of what he called a “landmark” year for the Sailors. They won the outright Century SE League title — the first outright league title in program history — and advanced to the playoff semifinals for the first time.

“We peaked at the right time,” he said. “This week has been amazing for them, for me, for the whole team. There are really no words to describe it.”

Rausch had some to describe her four years in the program, which have seen a steady growth.

“Making it this far has been phenomenal,” she said. “No. 10 making it to the top four? Armstrong said we’ve been the talk of Orange County recently, and I agree. It’s just great that we made it this far. It definitely felt good my senior year to go out on this note.”

Copyright © 2016, Daily Pilot




Newport Harbor 13 (2 OT)
St. Margaret’s 12

Newport Posts Second Upset on the Road to the 2016 Final Four

#10 Newport Harbor took another trip to south OC for their quarterfinal match-up against #2 St. Margaret’s, and the result was a battle for the ages.  For the Sailors, sophomore attacker (and midfielder and defender) Adena Rothbard opened scoring with a quick scoop and shot on an unsettled play.  She followed with a second goal on a quick dodge and drive minutes later.  Even after St. Margaret’s answered with a signature transition strike, Rothbard had a sharp reply to earn a hat trick by the seven minute mark of the game.  The Tartans scored another in transition and tied the game at three on a free position, forcing a Newport timeout.  The home team continued to press, and they built a two-goal lead before junior captain Katie Hendrix drove hard, shot hard, and grazed the upper netting for her first.  Rothbard drove to add the fourth of her six to the tally, and junior Heather Roberts made an opportunistic crease roll through heavy pressure and buried the bounce shot to give the Sailors a 6-5 halftime lead.

There was no scoring in the first five minutes of the second, but Rothbard opened by converting a free position that continued the back-and-forth affair.  The home team fought back and scored two from free positions of their own for the 7-7 tie with sixteen minutes to go.  As the half evolved, the game grew more and more physical and tension increased with each possession.  St. Margaret’s scored their third straight off a crease roll that beat the late slide and enjoyed their first lead of the game.  Hendrix drove four minutes later and ripped a shot from just inside the 8M arc to tie the game at eight with eleven minutes remaining.  Sure enough, the Tartans answered with a crease isolation that put them up, 9-8.  Two minutes later, Junior midfielder Sarah Farley sliced through three defenders on a free position to net the equalizer.  Time between contractions shortened, as St. Margaret’s buried another free position just a minute later; Newport answered in the next minute by forcing a bizarre “own” goal: Junior attacker Caitlin Dwyer shot a free position that was saved, a defender tried to flip the rebound back to the goalie, and senior Rylie Siegfried checked the stick on the flip and the ball squibbed in over the line.  Tie game, 10-10, with 7:00 in regulation.

The Sailors regained the lead with 5:16 remaining, as Siegfried drove, threaded a pass to a flashing Farley, who touch-passed the ball through the goalie.  Predictably, St. Margaret’s uncorked another free position a minute later to tie the match at eleven.  There was an uncharacteristic three-minute lull in scoring, as each team worked to find the perfect opportunity.  The Tartans hit the post once, but it was the Sailors who would strike with just under 0:40 remaining.  After a relentless ride that would not allow the home team out of their defensive zone, senior defender Maxine Aiello jumped a forced pass and caused a turnover; she scooped the ball, attacked the cage, was turned away by the Tartan defense, and brought the ball to X.  Senior attacker Nicole Newman jumped behind to offer the outlet, brought the ball above the goal line extended, and fed a cutting Farley, who received at the waist, dodged one defender, and pocketed the shot on the near post for the late lead.  But St. Margaret’s would not be denied, and they sent their best driver to work; two free positions later, the game was tied again.  Siegfried earned the ensuing draw control on the Tartan foul, drove through four defenders and ripped a shot with two seconds to go, but was unable to ice the dramatic victory in regulation time.

The first overtime period produced a few shots and a few nice saves, but neither team could finish the game before switching ends.  Off the opening draw of the second overtime period, Rothbard scooped the loose ball, brought it to X, then went to work from the opposite goal line extended.  She executed an inside roll and slotted the ball in the opposite high corner.  The celebration was on, and the Sailors rode home with the 13-12 OT victory and the program’s first ever berth in the Orange County Final Four.




Newport Harbor 9
San Juan Hills 7

Sailors post upset against San Juan Hills
Matt Szabo | Contact Reporter

SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO — A standout offensive play was provided when Newport Harbor girls’ lacrosse junior Sarah Farley reached to the heavens to snag sophomore Adena Rothbard’s pass, before beating a double-team and scoring the go-ahead goal.

“As far as a highlight reel, that one would be SportsCenter top 10, all day,” Newport Harbor Coach Matt Armstrong said.

A standout defensive play was provided four minutes later, when senior goalie Hannah Sanders reached up to stop a rocket shot off a free position from San Juan Hills leading scorer Journey Fischbeck and preserve that lead.

“The play of the game goes to Hannah for blocking Journey’s really good shot down there,” Newport Harbor senior defender and co-captain Jordan Rausch said with a big smile after the game. “It was so good.”

As for Newport Harbor senior midfielder and co-captain Rylie Siegfried, she provided the steady play and scoring touch that her team needed.

Siegfried scored a game-high five goals to help the Sailors notch the first playoff victory for anyone on the roster. No. 10-seeded Newport Harbor upset No. 7 San Juan Hills, 9-7, in the first round of the U.S. Lacrosse Southern Section South Division playoffs on Tuesday night at San Juan Hills High.

Newport Harbor earned its first win playoff in six years and will play at No. 2-seeded St. Margaret’s, a 19-3 winner over Woodbridge, in the South Division quarterfinals on Thursday.

“What I said to them after the game was that I’ve been waiting for this victory for like three years,” Armstrong said. “I couldn’t be prouder of them.”

Siegfried helped make sure that the Sailors would make a return trip to San Juan Capistrano on Thursday. But in the end, it was her assist to the third team captain, junior Katie Hendrix, that helped ice the game with 1:41 remaining.

Hendrix had a pair of goals and Rothbard had a goal and two assists for the Sailors (11-6). Sanders made 10 big saves, five in each half. Two of them came off free position shots in the final seven minutes, as the Stallions (14-5) had an extended offensive possession down by just a goal.

“It was a little nerve-wracking, but I knew I had to step up,” Sanders said.

The individual defense by Sanders and Rausch, as well as good team defense, were key in limiting San Juan Hills. The Sailors held Fischbeck, who scored 90 goals in the regular season, scoreless.

“As Armstrong says, ‘Defense wins championships,'” Rausch said. “That definitely proved itself in this game. We had a play, because we know she does the little crease roll. We were planning for it the whole game and in practice [Monday], we practiced it a lot … It was very stressful on the defense side a lot of the time, but we played our game the best we could.”

Siegfried led Newport Harbor with three draws won and four ground balls, while Farley, Hendrix and Rothbard all had three ground balls. Lysie Kenney, Maxine Aiello, Heather Roberts and Jillian Rosten had one each. Caitlin Dwyer had an assist.

The Sailors took a 5-3 halftime lead and never trailed, but they also had to withstand a San Juan Hills rally in the second half.

A 6-3 Newport lead vanished after San Juan Hills got goals from Bridget Cain, Mandy Muhr and Elena Guillen. But then Rothbard found Siegfried cutting in front to give the Sailors back the lead, 7-6, with 12:20 to play.

“It was really consistent throughout the whole season, our second half was better than our first,” Siegfried said. “We didn’t give up. When they scored, we didn’t get down on ourselves … I guess I just told myself I had to step it up one more level.”

Cain’s third goal of the night tied the score again with 11:04 to play, before Farley scored with 9:15 left to give the visitors an 8-7 lead that would hold up.

Hendrix provided the insurance goal, shooting low to score in the final two minutes.

Newport Harbor will be the underdog against St. Margaret’s. But Armstrong believes his team will be ready. Tuesday’s victory was also the first playoff win for Armstrong, who is in his fifth year in charge of the Sailors.

“I’ve been saying all along that Nos. 2 through 12 could all beat each other,” he said. “I don’t like to play the common opponent game too much, but if you like to play that game, San Juan Hills lost to St. Margaret’s by one and we beat San Juan Hills by two … You know, we’re going to have our work cut out for us, but I have a lot of faith that our girls will step up and do what they need to do. I think tonight they proved to themselves that they can win the big game.”

The Sailors have indeed had close losses to teams like Beckman, Corona del Mar and Los Alamitos this season. But on Tuesday, they proved they could come up with a clutch victory to keep their season alive.

“It feels really good,” Rausch said. “We had three goals at the beginning of the season: to make it to the second round of playoffs, to beat CdM and to win [the outright] league [title]. We didn’t end up beating CdM, but it feels really good to get two out of three, considering we got zero out of three last year.”

Copyright © 2016, Daily Pilot

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