Aquinas High School, playing with just a trio of seniors on its 2019 side, came up a 5-game loser in its season opener against Palm Desert Xavier Prep last week. The Lady Saints are a ranked team in CIF Division 4.

Two of those seniors, middle hitter Alyssa Gurrola and outside hitter Abigail Aguilera-Ayala, played key roles on last year’s squad. Junior Janelle Pido, who can play setter, hit or play opposite side hitter, is also a key returning player.

Last season’s Lady Falcons’ squad, coached by Victoria Cachepero, finished 22-7 overall with a CIF playoff run that reached the quarterfinals before losing to Menifee Paloma Valley.

Wins over Lake Arrowhead Rim of the World and sixth-ranked (Div. 5) San Gabriel Gabrielino preceded the match with Paloma Valley, which lost to Division 5 champion Ontario Christian, an Ambassador League rival of Aquinas.

In a CIF-Southern Section pre-season poll, released on Aug. 12, Aquinas was listed atop its Division 5 “teams to watch,” though the 14-school listing was alphabetical.

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Coming off a 22-6 season, plus an 8-2 finish in Citrus Belt League play, Citrus Valley High went into its Monday non-league duel against Grand Terrace with a 3-2 mark -- tournament-play wins over Rialto, La Verne Bonita Big Bear, while suffering losses to perennial power Hemet plus Eastvale Roosevelt.

Tina Raddish, back as Lady Blackhawks’ coach, lost a ton of senior talent from her 2018 side, including top hitters Danielle Lilley and Ayana Felton, plus firepower from Clare Groninger, Taylor Hedrick and Lauren Granillo.

In last year’s CIF Division 3 playoffs, Citrus Valley beat Norco in four games before dropping a second-rounder to Newhall Hart in four.

* * *

San Gorgonio opened its 2019 season with a pair of wins over a 3-game span.

City rival Arroyo Valley scored a Fontana Tournament win over the Lady Spartans, who followed that up with a 4-game win over city rival San Bernardino last week plus another win over Public Safety Academy of San Bernardino.

Veteran coach Tom Kutzera lost nine seniors off last year’s squad, rebuilding on a team that won seven of 26 matches in 2018.

MEN’S COLLEGE SOCCER

Hugo Herrera, whose versatility in various roles helped out a strong San Bernardino Valley soccer side, has wound up at Cal State San Bernardino for the 2019 season.

Herrera is no stranger to championship soccer. The Indio Shadow Hills player, who scored five goals (2 assists) in a dozen matches last season, played defender and middle of the field.

At Shadow Hills, Herrera scored 24 goals (11 assists) for a 19-8-2 squad that went on an eight-match post-season run that included a CIF finals loss to Coachella Valley rival Thermal Desert Mirage.

The two sides squared off in the Southern California Regional championship, Desert Mirage winning that match as well.

While playing forward in an SBVC match against Palomar-San Marcos last season, Herrera’s two-goal performance helped down the Comets.

Midfielder Jose Politron is also over from SBVC, along with Hawaii Hilo midfielder transfer Jonathan Garcia, who played a huge role in a 2015 CIF championship run during his days at Redlands East Valley.

The Coyotes (12-6-1, 8-3-1) under coach Darren Leslie, are coming off a strong 2018 season in which they reached a second-round match against NCAA Division II power Cal Poly Pomona in the California Collegiate Athletic Association tournament.

Following a 2-0 CCAA tourney win over San Francisco State, Pomona ended Cal State’s season with a 1-0 loss.

WOMEN’S COLLEGE SOCCER

Redlands High product Karen Jacobs, a transfer from San Bernardino Valley College to LSU Alexandria, got a shot off against NAIA defending champion William Carey (Miss.) College in a 4-0 loss.

It was the next match, however, which drew rave notice.

Jacobs scored and assisted on three other goals in a 12-1 rout of Central Baptist (Ark.) last Saturday.

Jacobs, one of four SBVC products including Citrus Valley High’s Jordan DeJongh, is now playing at Louisiana State University-Alexandria.

Jacobs was a four-time all-Citrus Belt League soccer pick for the Lady Terriers, running on two CIF team track & field championships.

WOMEN’S COLLEGE VOLLEYBALL

Among the first notations about this year’s Cal State San Bernardino squad is the return of 2018 conference Player of the Year Alexis Cardoza, an outside hitter.

Sascha Dominique, the Lady Coyotes’ returning middle blocker who was a first-team selection on the California Collegiate Athletic Association squad, has also returned.

Then there’s libero Leila To’omalatai, yet another first-team all-CCAA selection on a Lady Coyotes’ side that finished 28-2 last season.

It’s no wonder that Cal State is marked down for first place by a panel of coaching votes, but don’t give up on Cal State Los Angeles. That squad returns four high-achieving players, including both the Freshman of the Year and the Newcomer of the Year.

Cal State San Bernardino, which opens with Minnesota-based powerhouse Duluth at a Florida-based tournament on Sept. 6-7, then drops into hosting the West Region Volleyball Showcase, a consortium of top teams from the CCAA, Great Northwest Athletic Conference and Pac West Conference on Sept. 12-14.

Kim Cherniss, 391-115 overall since taking over in 1991, is back after reaching last year’s NCAA Division II West Region finals.

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