Former Yucaipa High School soccer players came from across the county on Saturday, Dec. 17, to play in the program’s 20th annual alumni match.
Played without a scoreboard at Thunderbirds Stadium, once the whistle blew the competitive spirit kicked in and friendships were put aside for 90-minutes of soccer played at a high level.
With 26 alumni participating, it was considered the largest turnout ever. YHS coach Sarai Stamper explained the alumni match is held around the holidays when many former players come back to visit. Three games are actually played. Two alumni vs. alumni games and one between the 2016 team and alumni.
“My current team will be much better after playing against the alumni,” noted Stamper. “Our alumni team is basically a group of all-stars.”
Former 16-year YHS coach Sheila Huggins called the assembly of alumni “a dream team.”
Stamper, who graduated in 2003, was joined on the alumni team by another college All-American Kodi Lavrusky.
Current Citrus Valley High School coach Norma Mendez, a 2005 YHS grad, played the alumni game for the 10th time. Mendez was an all-league pick who later played on the Mexican National Youth Team.
Karin Ferguson took honors for showing the most dedication. After completing her mid-term exams the day before, the 2013 YHS grad caught a 4 a.m. flight on game day from her home in Montana, made a connection in Seattle to Ontario and arrived in Yucaipa just before the game. “I left Montana at 6 degrees below. It’s 50 here,” said Ferguson. Ferguson plays soccer at Missoula College-University of Montana while majoring in architecture and design. She works at a ski resort and Starbucks.
Alumna Melanie Seawright-Steele graduated in 2003 after being Stamper’s teammate four years at YHS. She played one year at Azusa-Pacific College and is now a social worker. She also served two years in the Peace Corp in Morocco as a community developer.
At 25-years-old, alum Baelyn Tirella showed remarkable skill and speed and uses that same determination in pursuit of a physical therapy degree. Tirella described her unconventional path since graduating YHS in 2009.
She played on the 2011 soccer team at San Bernardino Valley College. She didn’t come back to play at SBVC again until 2016 but had to continue to work full-time in a nursing home. “I didn’t have time for conditioning and played hurt. I’m now looking to play soccer on scholarship to earn my degree.”
Along with Huggins and current YHS assistant Paul Robles, the game was well supervised by the Stamper family. Coach Stamper was joined on the field by her sisters Ariana and Jenese. Their father, Bill, officiated and kept the contest at a serious level. Their mother, Eliana, served in a support role behind the bench.
“Some of these alumni are 30-years-old and get so tired but once they get on the field, you can’t get them off,” said coach Stamper. “Maybe next year we’ll have a alumni dinner. Right now, the girls break into smaller groups and socialize according to age and situation. l’ll have coffee with some of them over Christmas break.”
(Some omitted by error)
Paul Robles: 16-year YHS assistant coach. Played varsity baseball and football at Corona High School
Tristen Killman: Record setting track athlete as 2013 YHS grad. Current starter as a junior at NAIA West Virginia University Institute of Technology where she was 1st team All-League as sophomore.
Emily Wadell: Attending Loma Linda University to work on master’s in physical therapy. Graduated from Northern Arizona U. where she was three-year starter who played on its first Big Sky Conference championship team. Played on three CBL championship teams at YHS before earning scholarship to NAU.
Erika Wadell: Will play fourth season of soccer at NAIA Vanguard University where she played on school’s conference championship team. Communications major who may attend law school. Scholar athlete at YHS and Vanguard. Was First team All-CBL at Yucaipa.
Sarah Siems: Finished soccer career this season after being two-year starting forward at Cuesta Community College. Was All-CBL First team at YHS.
Ashley Dean: 2013 YHS Girl Athlete of Year. Played four years on scholarship at UC Santa Barbara. Will earn political science degree this spring and might attend law school. Was two-time All-CIF First team and First team All-San Bernardino County. Was on two CBL title teams.
Jenese Stamper: 2012 YHS grad attended Long Beach State, Crafton Hills College, now in graduate school at Cal Baptist College. Plays recreational league soccer.
Ariana Stamper: 2010 YHS grad who hopes to play on same rec team with sisters. Played on YHS 2009 CBL title team that advanced to CIF-D 2 championship game. Graduated from Cal State University, Fullerton. Now works for the Wildlands Conservancy-Oak Glen Preserve.
Kaitlyn Pietrobono: Graduated from YHS in 2016 after playing varsity soccer two years. Attends Vanguard University majoring in psychology. Preparing to become clinical psychologist for state prison system. Sister Brittany graduated from YHS in 2012 after playing three years varsity soccer.
Keely Fisher: Played soccer three years at YHS before graduating in 2013. Current senior at University of Redlands as business major preparing to be corporate event planner.
TJ Verosik: Three-time All-CBL in four years on YHS soccer team. Played this season as freshman at Point Loma Nazarene University where the campus provides “prettiest view in America” by overlooking Pacific Ocean.
Taylor Leshko: 2011 YHS grad who was two-year starter for Sheila Huggins.
Sheila Huggins: YHS coach from 2001-2014. Named San Bernardino County Coach of Year multiple times and honored by CIF. Played soccer and softball at Fontana HS.
Kodi Lavrusky: 2012 YHS alumnus who sportswriters called one of greatest female athletes in history of CIF-SS. Recently made U.S.A. Olympic Handball Team but declined due to offers from National Women’s Soccer League. Scored winning goal in UCLA’s first national soccer title. More on her illustrious career search: Kodi Lavrusky.
Sarai Stamper: 2003 YHS grad in third year as coach of her alma mater where she held all school’s scoring records until exceeded by Lavrusky. Was two-time All-CIF 1st team before earning All-American honors as player and scholar at Cal Baptist University. Inscribed on Wall of Distinction at Riverside Sports Hall of Fame.