The school’s Signing Day saw 20 students sign up with top-tier universities

By Jenelyn Russo     12/7/2017

November 9, 2017 marked the first day of this school year that high school senior athletes were able to officially sign scholarship letters of intent and announce their commitments to attend and play college athletics for their chosen school and sport.  

Santa Margarita Catholic High School participated in the day’s festivities by recognizing 20 of their student athletes who either signed letters of intent or celebrated their college commitments across eight sports. 

“The hard work, dedication, sacrifice and pursuit of excellence that we see in these student athletes is inspiring to all in the SM community,” says Santa Margarita President, Andy Sulick. “We are proud to see them taking their God-given talents to the next level.”  

Leading the way was the Santa Margarita girls volleyball team, with six of the Lady Eagles making college commitments.  

Middle blocker and three-year varsity player Peyton Ehmke of San Clemente committed to George Mason University. Four-year varsity starter and middle blocker Haley Carmo of Ladera Ranch committed to Cal State Fullerton. Ashley Chow of Rancho Santa Margarita, a two-year varsity starter and defender, committed to Colgate University. San Juan Capistrano opposite hitter and setter, and 2016 1st Team All Trinity League honoree, Sarah Ciszek, committed to Sacred Heart University.  

UCLA’s beach volleyball team will add San Clemente resident Abby Van Winkle to their squad. Van Winkle maintains the highest ranking in the women’s division of the California Beach Volleyball Association (CVBA). The Bruins will also add Devon Chang of Newport Beach to their indoor team. In 2016, Chang earned selections for 1st Team All-American, All-State, All-County and All-CIF. 

“This was one of the strongest classes we’ve had for the Lady Eagles volleyball program,” says Santa Margarita varsity girls volleyball head coach, Katy Gammon. “I am very proud of the commitment and hard work of all of these players.”  

In the pool, the Eagles have strong representation heading to several college programs. 

From the girls water polo team, Jessica Leckich of Coto de Caza and center-defender Samantha Loughlin of San Clemente have both committed to San Diego State University. Christina Doherty of Foothill Ranch committed to Indiana University, and Jordan Werkmeister of Aliso Viejo committed to UC Davis. 

On the swimming side, freestyle swimmer and two-time captain Marriott Hoffmann of San Juan Capistrano is headed to UC Santa Barbara. Breaststroke specialist and four-time National Interscholastic Swim Coaches Association (NISCA) high school All-American, Isabelle Odgers of Aliso Viejo, has committed to USC. 

Making her Ivy League commitment (which does not offer athletic scholarships, therefore no letter of intent was signed), Samantha Shelton of Laguna Beach will be swimming for Harvard University. As one of the most successful swimmers in Santa Margarita history, Shelton is a four-time individual CIF champion, a two-time Trinity League Swimmer of the Year honoree and has been named Orange County Swimmer of the Year by the Orange County Register two consecutive years.  

“The senior class of swimmers from Santa Margarita will go down as the most decorated class of swimmers in school history,” says Santa Margarita head swim coach, Ron Blanc. “Already having won three straight CIF Division 1 titles, this senior class is uniquely positioned to finish their high school careers with four straight D-1 championships.” 

On the softball diamond, pitcher Paige Vargas of Mission Viejo is headed to North Dakota State and centerfielder Marisa Pla of San Clemente has committed to Seton Hall. 

“Paige’s excellence on the field and her love for Christ has distinguished her as an athlete, student and teammate,” says Santa Margarita varsity softball head coach, John FitzPatrick. “Marisa demonstrated that connecting to her teammates and committing to winning has established her as a true leader and an example for others to follow.” 

Rounding out the school’s signees, pitcher and first baseman Chandler Champlain of Coto de Caza will be playing baseball for USC. Four-year varsity basketball player Jordan Guest of Lake Forest committed to Boston University. Boys lacrosse teammates Matt Ury and Quentin Buchman, both of Mission Viejo, have committed to Bellarmine University and University of Notre Dame, respectively. 

And from the Eagles track and field team, Nikki Merritt of Trabuco Canyon committed to Duke University. Specializing in hurdles, relays and sprints, Merritt is a three-time Trinity League MVP and last season was named Orange County Girls Track Athlete of the Year. 

Beyond excelling in their chosen sports, these Eagle student athletes are committed not only to athletics, but to academics and service as well, as several of them are scholar athletes and actively serve their campus and community. 

“SMCHS is very proud of the 20 Eagle athletes who committed to colleges and universities across our nation,” says Santa Margarita Principal, Ray Dunne. “These young men and women have worked very hard in their chosen sport, coupled with a dedication to their academics, to reach this fantastic milestone in their lives.”