Trinity League faces increased competition from stronger public school leagues

By Dan Arritt     3/23/2018

You win some, you lose some. The Trinity League has been more than dominant in the CIF-SS playoffs ever since the league was formed in 2006-07, but some of league’s most dominant sports programs were sent late-winter reminders that beating a Trinity League team in the postseason remains a highly sought feather in the cap of their public school rivals. 

The upsets began Feb. 21, when the top-seeded Servite boys’ soccer team lost to Warren of Downey 2-1 in overtime in the first round of the CIF-SS Division 1 playoffs. It was the third straight season the Friars lost their first playoff game after entering as one of the top four seeds in the top division. It was the first time they’d been ousted in the first round as a No. 1 seed, however. 

The JSerra girls’ soccer team came into the season ranked No. 2 in the nation by USA Today after winning CIF-SS Division 1 and CIF Southern California Regional titles last season. 

The Lions also had their best player back, junior forward Isabella D’Aquila, who was the OC Register Player of the Year as a sophomore last season after scoring 34 goals. 

Santa Margarita was able to forge a win and a tie against JSerra during Trinity League play and snare the league title. The Lions answered back in the CIF-SS Division I finals, as D’Aquila scored her 35th goal of the season in a 1-0 win over Santa Margarita that clinched their second consecutive Division I title. 

But the Lions were upset in the CIF Southern California Regional final March 10 against sixth-seeded Upland, losing 1-0 to end their season on a down note. Upland became the lowest-seeded team to win the tournament in its 11-year history. 

“Coaches can make adjustments all they want, but if one team wants it more than the other, (this is) what’s going to happen,” JSerra coach Greg Baker told the OC Register after the loss. “Absolutely, (Upland) wanted it more. They deserved it. They were hungry. I don’t think we were, and the result speaks for itself.” 

The Mater Dei boys’ basketball team also celebrated a CIF-SS Open Division title by defeating Sierra Canyon 55-53 on March 2, but unexpectedly lost a week later to Fairfax in the first round of the CIF Southern California Open Division Regionals at Mater Dei. The loss kept the Monarchs out of the regional finals for just the third time in the past 13 seasons. 

Mater Dei had a lot to overcome this season, mainly the late transfer of 7-foot-2 center Bol Bol just before the start of the season. The Monarchs also had to dodge St. John Bosco fans as they stormed the floor following a 60-51 win on Jan. 10, ending the Monarchs’ 69-game league-winning streak. 

It was just Mater Dei’s second loss since the Trinity League was formed. The other was against Orange Lutheran on Jan. 7, 2011, which ended a 50-game league-winning streak that dated to Mater Dei’s time in the Serra League. 

“This is still one of my favorite groups of all time,” Mater Dei coach Gary McKnight said following his 36th season with the Monarchs. “It was a great group of kids. I was very fortunate.” 

They weren’t all bad finishes for Trinity League teams during the winter playoffs. 

The Mater Dei girls’ water polo team beat Foothill 9-2 to win the inaugural CIF State SoCal Regional Division 1 championship on March 3.