(listed with last year's record)
1. Clovis 37-3-1
The Cougars bounced back from a 7-0, 7-0 doubleheader sweep at the hands of Tustin Foothill last year and came within one game of being the mythical state and national champs. That game was for the CIF Central Section Yosemite Division championship and Clovis was upset, 4-0 in eight innings, by arch-rival Clovis West. This year, a hungry group of Cougars appear to have what it takes to go all the way. Junior pitcher/first baseman Jennifer Reynolds went 31-2 in the circle as a sophomore and had 25 shutouts. She was the State Sophomore Player of the Year. She'll be backed up by a strong defense, led by second baseman Jenna Cervantez, and in front of her will be one of the state's top catchers, senior Nichole Willis. Coach Mike Noel also thinks he'll get major contributions from two newcomers, sophomore pitcher/first baseman Merry Ann Barr and junior shortstop Ashlee Western, a transfer from Buchanan.
2. Pacifica (Garden Grove) 28-3-1
The Mariners were in the hunt for the mythical state and national crowns last year and were almost always the first team coaches in Southern California mentioned as being the one to beat this season. Coach Rob Weil will again turn to his daughter, sophomore Brittany Weil, to be the primary pitcher. She was one of the best in SoCal last year as a freshman. The team's top returnee, though, is shortstop Jodi Legaspi, a UCLA recruit and promising U.S. junior national team prospect. Two more key returnees are Jamie Waldecker (a signer with Nebraska) at catcher and leadoff hitter Amy Mayrhofer in center field.
3. Bonita Vista (Chula Vista) 31-1
Like Clovis in the Central Section, the Barons also suffered a big upset in the San Diego Section playoffs. The only difference is that Bonita Vista also was undefeated. Most of last year's team is back, but the really good news is that pitching ace Emily Turner is one of them. Turner has signed with LSU and was a second-team Student Sports All-American.
4. El Modena (Orange) 28-6
Three top-flight Division I signees make the CIF Southern Section Div. II Division runner-ups a major threat in 2003. First, there's UCLA recruit Tara Henry, who hit .410 last year. Then add in OFs Elizabeth Walters and Jessica Hejna, both signed with UC Santa-Barbara, and that's a lineup to fear. Heina helped the Orange County Batbusters win a 18-and-under national title this summer. The only starter who's gone is all-state infielder Ashley Van Boxmeer.
5. Etiwanda (Rancho Cucamonga) 24-6
Only two starters were lost from last year's club that won the CIF Southern Section Div. I title. Headlining the list of returnees is senior pitcher/first base Jackie Rogers, the CIFSS Div. I MVP, and all-state underclass shortstop Amber Spaulding. Two other all-leaguers back are senior catcher Megan Kordich and senior second baseman Sara Kuramata. Lindsey Benevidez (SS/OF), a transfer from Eisenhower, and freshman Danielle Spaulding (P/SS), Amber's younger sister, are just two more reasons we really like this team.
6. Santiago (Corona) 22-6-1
Coach John Perez has built a powerhouse program in the Inland Empire with a 133-36-4 record since the school opened six years ago. This year, the Sharks should take another step forward with eight returning starters, including pitcher Taryne Mowatt, who had six no-hitters and seven one-hitters last year. Three other all-leaguers -- Justine Yacco, Sarah Murphy and Sarah Shamblin -- and a freshman phenom, Brittany Moore, a shortstop, will all be key contributors.
7. University City (San Diego) 20-5-1
Coach Don Shankles inherited a high state ranking when Mira Mesa star and UCLA signee Lisa Dodd transferred to his Division III program, which was third in the CIF San Diego Section last year. Add Dodd, with her .468 career average and 0.10 career ERA, to a group with seven starters back, and you've got a championship team. CF Leanna Alston (.401), SS Kayla Luttmers (.381) and P Kim Kaye (14 wins, .335 average) are the key returnees.
8. North Salinas (Salinas) 24-6-1
The Vikings will be led by the most prominent returning player in Northern California, pitcher Monica Abbott, a Univ. of California recruit and who shined in the summer for a U.S. junior national team. Abbott had a 0.24 ERA last season and had five perfect games, including two in the CIF Central Coast Section playoffs. Another returning standout for this team is 1B Jennifer Patterson, who has signed with North Carolina State.
9. California (Whittier) 28-6-1
Condor P/Hitter Jennifer Davis (UC-Santa Barbara) might be the best player in the state with her combination of hitting and pitching. Other key returnees for coach Jim Kruse include SS/C Kellie Kruse, IF Candice Collins and junior OF Joy Salapaega.
10. Foothill (Tustin) 29-4
There's no big-time ace in the circle for the Knights, which is why they're starting this season lower in the preseason rankings than they've been in recent years. Coach Joe Gonzalez has high hopes that sophomore Lori Gilbert will develop into that role, but he's not sure. You can be more sure that Gonzalez will present a speedy, potent offense. Caitlin Lowe, the three-time All-American outfielder and Univ. of Arizona recruit, is back to lead that offense, and will have plenty of help with the likes of 3B/C Jillian Hartfield and 1B Chelsea Cantillo.
11. Thousand Oaks 19-10
Just call this team's pitching combo the Killer Ks -- Mandy Kilionski and Suzanne Kominski. Kilionski missed the first half of last season, but she'll get a full season under her belt this year. Also among a group of strong returning players (only one starter graduated) are juniors Melissa Smith (C) and Megan Spehar (2B). "We're going to be very improved from last year," said coach Gary Walin. "We were mostly sophomores and they're a real solid group that works hard."
12. Wilson (Hacienda Heights) 25-3-1
First-year head coach Ed Bruyninckx will see his name spelled wrong more than he will see his team lose this season. Hopefully, we copied it down correctly. The Wildcats will be loaded with nine returning seniors and six returning starters. They have the first ingredient to major success in a dominant pitcher with four-year standout Jamee Juarez. She'll be joined by honors candidates Jenny Chacon at catcher and Jenny McCorkhill at first base.
13. Valencia 23-5-2
Gerry Gittelson of the L.A. Daily News says, "Get this team way up there." Hope this was high enough. The Vikings return nine starters from last year, the most significant being All-State Underclass catcher Jaisa Kreps.
14. Canyon (Anaheim) 23-9
The Comanches will be in high Geer this season, especially with Lisa Geer inside the circle. A lot of coaches in Southern California seem to like this team and with Lance Eddy coaching that's easy to understand.
15. Freedom (Oakley) 23-4
Jordanna Freemer swatted four homers as a sophomore last season and kept on whipping her bat well in ASA summer ball. The defending CIF North Coast Section East Bay 3A champs are loaded with a lot of other returnees besides Freemer. Also back is junior 3B Angie Montenegro, junior 2B Rhiannon Thomas and junior SS Samantha Rodriguez.
16. Poly (Riverside) 26-3
Mindy Cowles will battle with Santiago's Taryn Mowatt for pitching supremacy in the Inland Empire. The Bears have a major hole to fill behind the plate as All-American catcher Elizabeth Peterson has graduated. Cowles won 22 games last season and led Riverside Poly in runs scored with 24.
17. Notre Dame (Salinas) 28-3
CCS Player of the Year Erin Sigala is now pitching at UNLV, but the Spirits will still be one of the best in Northern California. Sophomore Kim Reeder proved last year she could pitch, too, and among the returnees are OF Lindsay Schutzler (.520), junior INF Amy Tompkins (.367) and sophomore INF Melissa Pura (.427, one error in the field). Pura also was the San Jose Mercury-News Freshman of the Year.
18. Brookside Christian (Stockton) 32-1
Last year's top honors candidates from this program -- Carly Harmon and Katie Cotta -- are gone, one to graduation and Cotta to a transfer. Coming into the program, though, is 6-2 pitcher Danika Dukes, who last spring starred at East Nicolaus. Brookside won't have the benefit this year of being in the same CIF Sac-Joaquin Section playoff division as Vanden as the team will be in the much-weaker Div. V playoffs as opposed to Div. III. If there was ever a lock for a team to be a section champion, it's Brookside Christian this year in Sac-Joaquin Div. V. Can you say Central Catholic football?
19. Royal (Simi Valley) 25-6-1
The Highlanders battled Thousand Oaks for the Marmonte League title last year and played one of the more difficult schedules around. Nearly all of that team has returned, which is the good news. The bad news is that a bunch of other teams in the area are loaded with returnees as well.
20. Vanden (Travis AFB) 28-1
The Vikings may be better than last year when their only loss was to Brookside Christian in the Sac-Joaquin Section finals. Anjelica Selden is back after pitching 23 straight shutouts last year and getting her name among the state stat standouts of the week frequently. Four other major contributors from last year are back, most notably catcher Katie Roberson, her twin sister Angie Roberson at first base and third baseman Julie Stewart.