Monthly Archives: May 2004

high schools

Altersitz ending banner career at Cactus

by Jason Stone

It did not take Jack Altersitz long to get out of town.
Just days after classes ended last week at Cactus High School, the long-time teacher-coach had completely cleared out his room and hit the road with his son on a cross-country car trip to the East Coast.
After a quick return home in June, Altersitz will trek even further when he will fly to Spain for a summer break at the end of the month.
Nothing like a little retirement to get the travel-happy Altersitz going as soon as possible.
“I just needed the excuse,” said Altersitz, with a laugh.
While only 53, Altersitz took an early retirement from teaching after logging 30 years in the books.
And partly because he had to give up his classroom — which has doubled as the soccer program’s makeshift locker room and memorabilia shrine — Altersitz decided to give up coaching as well.
“I couldn’t imagine not having a place to go,” Altersitz said, glancing around his classroom, which was half-filled with boxes and stacks of awards yet to be packed. “I didn’t want to do that.”
PHP494BE0D7007BDInstead, Cactus lost its greatest coach ever.
Six state championships is double the next highest for any Arizona soccer coach — Salpointe’s Wolfgang Weber and Marcos de Niza’s Jack Smythe have three each — and it is one more than Cactus softball coach Jeff Griffith, who picked up his fifth two weeks ago.
“I have a pretty good feeling Jeff is going to pick up (state championships) No. 6 and 7 the next couple of years with his (talented) sophomores,” Altersitz said with a smile. “I’m OK with that.”
Cactus fans are OK with the way the soccer program was built from the ashes of a new school in 1980 to what is viewed as the top soccer school in Arizona.
“I don’t think anybody has ever gotten how hard it is to win a state championship,” Altersitz said. “It hasn’t been easy, although it might look easy. But we did have a good formula.”
Cactus’ state titles came in 1990, 1991, 1992, 1996, 2002 and 2003.
Sprinkled around those and more than 300 career wins were 13 region championships — spread over four different regions.
Altersitz said he believes the key to the program’s success is not overloading his players with information.
“I think coaches today tell players too much,” Altersitz said. “They have too much to think about. I liked to keep it simple.”
The soccer program’s success is one of many teams that have had lengthy runs of winning at the Greenway Road school.
Altersitz likes to refer to Cactus as living “in a bubble,” getting many of the top athletes from the West Valley across the board. He attributes that and a lengthy list of veteran coaches as reasons the school usually wins in most sports.
“We are, for lack of a better term, old-school coaches,” Altersitz said, refering to Cactus coaches Larry Fetkenhier (football), Jim Graham (girls basketball), Mike Tirella (baseball), Paul Williams (track) and Griffith. “We’re willing to work and take a loss if it means keeping a kid in line.”
Six Cactus coaches ended the year with 20 or more years in service, and Tirella is creeping up with 17 years under his belt.
But Altersitz has scratched his name off the list. But that is OK by him.
“The way they’ve structured the retirement plan, it was a no-brainer for me to retire this year,” Altersitz said. “But I never thought it would happen (at 53).”
Soccer trophies will eventually be moved into the gym trophy case, but Altersitz took with him the newspaper clippings and other memorabilia he collected over the years.
“I was going to take more, but I decided to leave it,” Altersitz said, looking around his room. “I have enough.”
Cactus soccer fans probably wish they had more.

Published at glendalestar.com • May 26, 2004

high schools

Sophomores led way to Cactus’ perfection

by Jason Stone

In any normal year, Megan McDonald’s .469 batting average, nine home runs and 38 RBIs would be considered a monster year.
But this was no normal season for the Cactus High School softball team.
The Cobras dominated the 4A Conference en route to a 38-0 record, state championship and a handful of individual and team records.
How good was Cactus this year? McDonald, the team’s catcher, was not even the team’s best player, despite her gaudy stats.
Sophomore Stacie Chambers and Katie Holverson had such big numbers that the pair shares this year’s The Glendale Star Athletes of the Year honor.
Chambers smacked 20 homers, shattering the old school mark of six.
The total is third-best all-time nationally, behind Erica Martinez, who hit 24 for Fort Madison, Iowa, in 1999.
Holverson, meanwhile, has never lost a game in her career. After going 10-0 as a freshman, Holverson backed that up by going 37-0 this season.
“The numbers are ridiculous,” Cactus coach Jeff Griffith said.
The Cobras have won more than 50 straight games dating back to last year’s state championship-winning season and were ranked nationally in USA Today this season.
Chambers, who batted leadoff this season, and Holverson, who started all but one game, will be back next season to attempt the first team three-peat since Chaparral won four state championships in a row from 1995 through 1998.

Published at glendalestar.com • May 26, 2004

high schools

Deer Valley, Cactus each claim state titles

by Jason Stone

It was twice the fun for local softball fans last week.
Deer Valley won its second 5A softball championship, and Cactus finished off a perfect season with its fifth 4A softball title n including its second in a row.
It was an all-West Valley affair as Deer Valley beat Sunrise Mountain 2-1, and Cactus nipped Centennial 1-0.
Deer Valley needed a spectacular defensive play with the tying run on base in the seventh inning to eke out its championship.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACactus, meanwhile, rode the 20th home run from slugging sophomore Stacie Chambers to beat its city and district rivals for the second straight year in the title game.
“It never gets old,” said Cactus coach Jeff Griffth, who led the Cobras to a state-record 38-0 record. “It’s hard to compare the (championships) though. It’s like asking which of your children is more spectacular.”
Deer Valley made its first championship appearance since losing in the 2000 game. The Skyhawks last won the state title in 1998, when it nipped Cibola 5-4.
“You can’t ask for anything more,” Deer Valley coach Carl Bakemeier said.

Published at glendalestar.com • May. 19, 2004

high schools

Deer Valley wins 2nd state softball title

by Jason Stone

Years from now, Deer Valley softball fans will have many things to remember about the Skyhawks’ 5A softball championship team.
But the play that ultimately won the title for D.V. will probably top the list.
With the tying run at third with two outs in the final inning, second baseman Ashley Paul drove to her left on a hard-hit ball between second and first. Paul smothered the ball, quickly got up and fired the ball to first for the final out, setting off a wild celebration at Rose Mofford Sports Complex last Friday.
The play secured a 2-1 win over Sunrise Mountain in an all-West Valley final.Deer Valley won its second-ever state championship and made its fifth championship game appearance in the process.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is the best feeling,” said first baseman Laine Roth, who gave the Skyhawks a 1-0 lead with an RBI single in the fifth. “Not everybody can say they won a 5A state title.”
Down 2-0 in the top of the seventh, Sunrise Mountain made the game close. An error put Krissy Acuna on base and she scored a batter later on Stacey Trevino’s triple.
Deer Valley pitcher Kristen Cruickshank then struck out Casey Vaughn and got Ashley Kirkpatrick to hit into the ground ball that Paul snared to save the game.
“To tell you the truth, that’s probably the best play I’ve seen all year or the last couple of years combined,” said Sunrise coach Jody Pruitt, who led the Mustangs to the final game in its first 5A season.
Cruickshank, who is only a sophomore, but picked up more than 20 wins, said about Paul’s play: “I owe her.”
Deer Valley looked like it was trying to break the game open early, making any game-saving plays moot.
But the Skyhawks could not get runners across the plate in the early innings.
Deer Valley had runners at second and third in the third with only one out but could not score.
In the fourth, the Skyhawks loaded the bases against Sunrise sophomore pitcher Jessica LaBovick, but the rally ended when Andrea Whipple flied out to right.
In the fifth, Deer Valley got two runners on base but again could not score.
After Roth’s single scored Jesse Bonilla with the game’s first run in the fifth, Sunrise Mountain stranded two more Deer Valley runners on base to keep the bleeding to a minimum.
Karie Wilson smacked a homer in the sixth to add what looked like an insurance run, but it turned out to be the game-winner.
Sunrise Mountain’s last-inning rally attempt did not surprise its coach.
“The kids showed some guts. Ever since the Horizon tournament (in early April), the kids showed nothing but guts. We weren’t going to leave with goose eggs.”
The win for Deer Valley gave it a 2-2 record all-time in 5A championship games.

Published at glendalestar.com • May 19, 2004

high schools

Cactus softball finishes perfect season

by Jason Stone

In the recent Wells Fargo Region tournament championship game, Cactus needed three towering home runs from Stacie Chambers to beat Centennial by three.
In the 4A state tournament championship rematch a week later, all Cactus needed was one.
Chambers hit a long homer in the third inning of the two teams’ final battle last Saturday to give Cactus its second straight state championship n and fifth in the school’s history.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAChambers’ homer proved to be the only scoring in a game played at Tucson’s Hi Corbett Field, spring training home of the Colorado Rockies.
It was the second straight year the two city and district rivals squared off in the 4A title game, but moving the game to Tucson this year did nothing to change the result.
Cactus, which was ranked nationally in the USA Today this season, became the first team since the 1996 Chaparral team to finish the season undefeated.
The Cobras’ 38-0 record, however, is unmatched in state history.
Thanks to Chambers’ homer, Cactus officially made itself n at least statistically n the greatest single-season team in Arizona history.
“Not many teams go undefeated,” said Chambers, a sophomore shortstop. “We are lucky that we got to do that.”
For the second straight year, Cactus beat Centennial in the title game and four games total throughout the season.
“We’re not going to throw (Chambers) a strike next year,” Centennial coach Bartt Underwood joked after the game. “We’re walking her every time.”
Chambers’ blast was her state-best 20th of the season. Cactus’ previous school record was six.
“I just wanted to hit the ball,” Chambers said. “I didn’t even know it was gone until I reached first base.”
Underwood said that he feared the homer would stand up as the game-winner, and he was right.
But the way the game was going, it was easy to see that the score was going to be drastically lower than the 10-7 result of the region championship game.
Neither team scored with a runner in scoring position in the first, and Centennial left two runners on base in the top of the third.
The Coyotes had runners reach second and third with one out in the fourth, but Cactus pitcher Katie Holverson, who has never lost a game in her two-year prep career, forced a groundout and a strikeout to get out of the jam.
Centennial pitcher Britnee Barnett got out of her own jam in the bottom of the inning when Megan McDonald led off with a double.
Barnett got the next three batters out, however, to stop the damage.
In the top of the fifth, Centennial got runners to the corners, but Holverson got Ashlie Rosenberg to ground out to end the threat.
In the top of the seventh, Holverson went through the Centennial order 1-2-3, striking out the final two batters to set off a wild celebration on the field.
Cactus players broke out bottles of apple cider to spray around and dumped a bucket of ice on coach Jeff Griffith during the on-field celebration.
“I give Centennial a lot of credit,” said Griffith, whose team has beaten Centennial eight times in eight tries in the last two years. “They never quit.”
Underwood did his best after the game to soothe the hurt feelings of his players.
“This might be tougher than last year because last year was the first year (in the championship game) and I wanted the girls to experience it,” Underwood said. “But I told the girls that they have nothing to be ashamed of.”
When Griffith and Underwood met behind the plate after the game, Griffith said he wouldn’t mind playing Centennial in the championship game every year.
“We’ve got one more chance,” Underwood said. “We’re moving up to 5A after next year, so we’ll give it our best shot next year.”
Cactus should be in good shape to return with super sophomores Holverson and Chambers back.
Holverson gave Cobras fans a scare in the top of the fourth inning when she was hit in the groin with a batted ball.
Holverson fell to the ground in pain and the game was halted for a few minutes as trainers attended to her.
“My heart stopped,” Griffith said.
Fortunately for Cactus, Holverson did not need to come out of the game. That, of course, was not good news for Centennial.

Published at glendalestar.com • May 19, 2004