Tribune names male, female Athletes of the Year

Male Athletes of the Year

Josh Abraham, Senior
Josh Abraham has been playing at the varsity level in two sports since he was a sophomore, and contributing big.

Alhambra tight end Josh Abraham delivers a big stiff arm to the College Park defender during the opening game of the season at Knowles Field in Martinez, Friday, Aug. 28, 2015. (NEVILLE GUARD / Martinez Tribune)
Alhambra tight end Josh Abraham delivers a big stiff arm to the College Park defender during the opening game of the season at Knowles Field in Martinez, Friday, Aug. 28, 2015. (NEVILLE GUARD / Martinez Tribune)

He caught a staff of upperclassmen as a sophomore on a team that reached a North Coast Section final, and has played on both sides of the ball for a football team that has reached the second round of the NCS playoffs in football twice during his tenure.

Abraham was named second-team all-DFAL on the offensive side of the ball in his junior and senior years, while also being listed as honorable mention in his senior year as linebacker.

On the baseball team he has caught nearly every inning since his sophomore year, handling staffs with two pitchers who have gone on to play college ball at four-year institutions, and a handful of pitchers who now ply their trade at Diablo Valley College.

Abraham was at the helm of a pitching staff this year that allowed the fewest runs in the DFAL, and on top of that he batted in the heart of the order for the Bulldog boys.

He leaves Alhambra as a top dual-sport athlete with six varsity blocks – a mark only a select few athletes who play three sports achieve.

Joey Miller, Senior
Joey Miller became homecoming hero and had one of the best 24-hour spans any teenage kid could have this past year.

Alhambra’s Joey Miller (right) sizes up his Dougherty Valley opponent in the Bulldogs’ 54-18 loss on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016. Miller won his match by decision in the final seconds of the third round. Alhambra was forced to forfeit four bouts, but went 4-5 in contested bouts. (MARK FIERNER / Martinez Tribune)
Alhambra’s Joey Miller (right) sizes up his Dougherty Valley opponent in the Bulldogs’ 54-18 loss on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016. Miller won his match by decision in the final seconds of the third round. Alhambra was forced to forfeit four bouts, but went 4-5 in contested bouts. (MARK FIERNER / Martinez Tribune)

Hours after being named the school’s homecoming king, Miller made the special team’s play of the year by blocking a key PAT against Dublin to preserve a slim lead over Dublin. That win would be huge in securing a playoff spot and hosting a playoff game at Alhambra.

He was one of the senior leaders on a stout defensive line that was one of the top strengths for Alhambra’s playoff-bound football team. He worked in an interior line position that rarely gets credit when things go right, and achieved great things. He was rewarded for his work with a spot on the second-team all defense as a senior.

But he wasn’t done there. Only a few months later, Miller went into the Diablo Foothill Athletic League wrestling tournament by storm by winning a very competitive weight class and becoming the league’s champion representative at NCS.

Miller was named a second-team all league award winner as a junior wrestler, and his DFAL championship led to him being named a first-team all league winner as a senior.

Matt Beck, Senior
Matt Beck leaves Alhambra as one of its best pure athletes in recent memory. After stepping into the fold of the football team as a senior, he sky-rocketed straight up to a starter as running back to go along with Jonathan McCart. For his time he was awarded a first-team all league spot on offense, but also held together an injury-prone secondary for the Bulldogs.

Matt Beck (pictured above against Miramonte) scored the Bulldogs' only run on May 12, 2016. (MARK FIERNER / Martinez Tribune)
Matt Beck (pictured above against Miramonte) scored the Bulldogs’ only run on May 12, 2016. (MARK FIERNER / Martinez Tribune)

After an off year as a junior in basketball, Beck stepped in as a strong piece off the bench for a struggling Bulldog boys basketball team. He played max effort even when the Bulldogs were down 30 points, always playing at 100 percent even when he wasn’t feeling 100 percent.

For many student athletes, just having those two things on their CV could amount to a successful career, but Beck excelled in one sport above the other two.

As a baseball player he stepped in to bat lead off in the second half of the season as a sophomore. During his three years at the program he moved around from anywhere to first in the lineup to clean up.

On top of that he got to seemingly every ball hit in his direction in the outfield, which earned him second-team all-DFAL recognition as a sophomore, and a gold glove award as a senior.

Nick Lucido, Senior
Nick Lucido, another three sport athlete, won a pair of North Coast Section championships during his time as an Alhambra athlete, something very few have done before him.

Alhambra senior captain Nick Lucido (pictured above against Campolindo) had four goals in the Bulldogs’ 18-8 loss to the Las Lomas Knights on Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015. (GERARDO RECINOS / Martinez Tribune)
Alhambra senior captain Nick Lucido (pictured above against Campolindo) had four goals in the Bulldogs’ 18-8 loss to the Las Lomas Knights on Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015. (GERARDO RECINOS / Martinez Tribune)

Lucido was part of the team that won the water polo program’s first title after four straight finals in 2014, and was one of the top goal-scoring options on the team in his junior year before taking over as a captain in his senior year along with teammate on water polo and volleyball, Bailey Abbott.

Lucido was the glue of a history-making volleyball team that became one of the top programs in the country overnight and set a standard for Alhambra volleyball unlike any team before it.

While winning the North Coast Section was the main objective, the Bulldog boys also went on to break ground in the Nor Cal Volleyball playoffs, and although they didn’t win the tournament, they represented Alhambra well.

As opposite hitter, Lucido provided offense for the team when needed, but was a key player in the defensive side of the game. His shining moment of the season with many bright spots was getting the match-winning kill in the NCS finals.

Jerald Jionoran, Senior
Jerald Jionoran’s achievements at Alhambra will always be remembered for his part in turning around what the volleyball team did in their championship winning season. But the senior was a JV call up as a sophomore that saw significant minutes after injuries plagued the varsity boys’ team.

Alhambra’s Jerald Jianoran (left) and Allin Torio (pink) lay out for a dig in the Bulldogs’ 3-1 win over Del Oro-Loomis on May 24, 2016, in the first round of the Nor Cal CIF Volleyball playoffs. (MARK FIERNER / Martinez Tribune )
Alhambra’s Jerald Jianoran (left) and Allin Torio (pink) lay out for a dig in the Bulldogs’ 3-1 win over Del Oro-Loomis on May 24, 2016, in the first round of the Nor Cal CIF Volleyball playoffs. (MARK FIERNER / Martinez Tribune )

Jionoran provided rebounds and defensive work for that team and he continued to play on the team until his senior season.

Those achievements understandably get lost in the distance when you become a big part of the team that brings a school the first North Coast Section title in a program’s short history.

Jionoran played a big part in the team reaching unheard-of territory as a program. He was one of coach Peter Crowley’s most valuable players on the court, and also the most versatile. Crowley often said he felt Jionoran’s ability to move to any spot on the court the coach asked him to was his greatest asset to the team.

Like Lucido, he too was a multi-sport athlete who earned three varsity blocks in two different sports.

His finest moment on the court came in the NCS final where he notched a match-high 21 kills in a historic victory.

Female Athletes of the Year

Bri Perez, Junior
Bri Perez won her third softball North Coast Section championship, hit .613, drove in 40 runs, hit six home runs, and stole 21 bases in 21 attempts.

Junior Bri Perez slides in safely in the 24-2 win over Miramonte on March 31, 2016. (GERARDO RECINOS / Martinez Tribune)
Junior Bri Perez slides in safely in the 24-2 win over Miramonte on March 31, 2016. (GERARDO RECINOS / Martinez Tribune)

Those numbers are all eye-popping at any level, but it’s just what she does. The UCLA-commit did something even the previous generations of Alhambra starts couldn’t do.

Three titles in Division II will lead the Bulldogs into Division I next season in Perez’s senior year, where she has a chance to leave the school with one of the greatest softball dynasties in the area.

Perez was named to her third first-team all-league selection in the Diablo Foothill Athletic League, and followed up an MVP season with one equally as solid.

Only an out of this world season by teammate Karlee Sparacino stopped the streak of keeping the award in the Perez family.

Her coach, Paul Buccellato, often refers to Perez as one of the best high school athletes he’s ever seen, let alone coached, so with one more season to make her mark at Alhambra, the incoming senior will surely leave as one of the top athletes ever to put on the blue and gold of Alhambra High School.

Marissa D’Atri, Sophomore
Marissa D’Atri managed three different sports this season – cross country, soccer and track and field, and did all three spectacularly. The incoming junior has achieved more in her three years than some students have in all four of their years in high school, from qualifying for the CIF State Championships in Cross Country, to playing a vital role providing quality pace on the wings for the soccer team, to a strong showing at North Coast Section in track.

Alhambra sophomore runner Marissa D’Atri (bib 72) makes her way up the final stretch of her 3-mile race, ‘Finale Hill’, on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015, in the Diablo Foothill Athletic League Cross Country Championships held at Martinez’s Hidden Valley Park. (GERARDO RECINOS / Martinez Tribune)
Alhambra sophomore runner Marissa D’Atri (bib 72) makes her way up the final stretch of her 3-mile race, ‘Finale Hill’, on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015, in the Diablo Foothill Athletic League Cross Country Championships held at Martinez’s Hidden Valley Park. (GERARDO RECINOS / Martinez Tribune)

D’Atri is the youngest person of the 10 athletes selected for the Athletes of the Year by the Tribune, and it’s clear to see why. Her body of work does the talking for her.

Just this season she set the second-best mark ever in the 800 meters with a time of 2:17.73, only three seconds behind the all-time mark. In the 1600 meters, she set the fourth best mark of all-time with a time of 5:11.21 seconds.

With two years still to go, it’s very conceivable to say we could be watching one of the best runners to ever lace up their spikes for the Bulldogs.

Make sure to keep an eye on her in 2017. We’re sure you wont be disappointed.

Nicki Rucki, Junior
Nicki Rucki made headlines for her work at Knowles Field for the football team this season. The incoming senior has been a part of the football team for nearly two seasons now, and continues to improve every day.

Alhambra junior Nicki Rucki punts the ball away. (GERARDO RECINOS / Martinez Tribune)
Alhambra junior Nicki Rucki punts the ball away.
(GERARDO RECINOS / Martinez Tribune)

Her crowning moment was perhaps the North Coast Section playoff game against Bishop O’Dowd, where a solid special teams game in a tight match-up kept the Bulldogs within striking distance all the way until the end of regulation.
But if you want to watch her at her best, you’ll have to brave the winter weather at Knowles Field.

Rucki has been one of the most versatile players on the soccer pitch, lining up at forward and goalkeeper for the Bulldogs. She’s scored from midfield, made brilliant saves and captained a solid team.

A late injury put a wrench into what could’ve been a great season, but we’re sure she is hungry to make an impact for the Bulldogs before going across the Bay Bridge to play at San Francisco State in two years time.

Rucki will line up between the sticks for what has been a golden generation of Alhambra soccer players who will have one last shot to deliver the title they so badly crave before going off to greener pastures.

Karlee Sparacino, Junior
Karlee Sparacino was going to be the only person who challenged Bri Perez for the last Diablo Foothill Athletic League MVP award. The middle infield that has anchored the Bulldogs’ best run as a program is one unlike any the school has ever seen.

Bulldogs infielders Karlee Sparacino (pictured above against College Park) had seven RBIs in the 20-1 win over Las Lomas  on May 19. That takes her regular season total to 53, a new record for Alhambra’s softball program. (GERARDO RECINOS / Martinez Tribune)
Bulldogs infielders Karlee Sparacino (pictured above against College Park) had seven RBIs in the 20-1 win over Las Lomas on May 19. That takes her regular season total to 53, a new record for Alhambra’s softball program. (GERARDO RECINOS / Martinez Tribune)

To win the award, Sparacino drove in 57 RBIs (a total that surpassed Kylee Perez’s previous record), hit seven home runs and hit .620.

The addition of Kimiko Zapanta allowed Buccellato to shift Sparacino down to the third spot in the order and she flourished in the role.

The accolades continued to pile up for the Oregon-commit. She was named a finalist for Ms. Softball State Player of the Year, and while she didn’t win the award, she was a part of the field of three that was narrowed down from nine initial candidates.

She, like Bri Perez, also raised her third softball plaque in early June and collected her third winners medal in her third season at Alhambra. In the final she went 3-for-3 with a pair of RBIs to assist the Bulldog girls in beating Newark Memorial for the second time this season.

Sparacino also collected her third straight first-team all-DFAL distinction.

Lexy Swenson, Senior
Lexy Swenson was one of the last members of the volleyball team who participated before the recent upswing. She played through less than exciting games but continued on.

Alhambra senior captain Lexy Swenson (7) sets up her teammates in the Bulldogs’ 3-2 loss to the Albany Cougars on Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015, in the opening round of the North Coast Section playoffs on the road in Albany. (GERARDO RECINOS / Martinez Tribune)
Alhambra senior captain Lexy Swenson (7) sets up her teammates in the Bulldogs’ 3-2 loss to the Albany Cougars on Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015, in the opening round of the North Coast Section playoffs on the road in Albany. (GERARDO RECINOS / Martinez Tribune)

Coach Willie Marchesano once called her the team’s Stephen Curry, alluding to the Golden State Warriors’ guard. Pretty high praise from a coach, but the senior setter earned it due to her captain-ship of the team.

She was a leader on the court, and equally so on the pitch.
The central defender on the team with most time logged for the Bulldogs captained Alhambra to a solid finish in the soccer season. There, too, she captained the Bulldogs to a great season.

Swenson was one of only three seniors on the soccer team this season, and her job was one of the most important on the field.

The Bulldogs were one of the best defensive teams in the DFAL this season, but were also tied for second in the entire section in Division II in goals allowed, behind only the Northgate Broncos.

Swenson’s partnership with Adriana Saroni or Sarah Emigh will be hard to replicate but with some young talent down the line, we could soon see someone fill her boots.

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