Photo by David Ryan
Skovran Cunningham, ‘15, attempts a layup against Valley Christian Academy in the 2015 Section championship game. Cunningham started and had nine points.

It’s the start of the basketball and soccer seasons, and with them come SCDS’s fiercest sports rivalries with Valley Christian Academy (VCA), Buckingham Charter School and Forest Lake High School.

But why is competition so intense with these schools, and how long have these rivalries been alive?

I’ve played sports at SCDS since fifth grade, but it wasn’t until ninth grade that I learned we actually have sports rivals.

Every year that I’ve been on the varsity volleyball team, our goal has been to beat the VCA Lions in league.

It turns out that this rivalry with VCA has been fierce for a while.

The competition began 12 years ago, when the leagues were realigned and we formed a new league, the Sacramento Metropolitan Athletic League, according to athletic director Matt Vargo.

He said that half of the new league was comprised of the now defunct Sacramento Valley Christian League, and the other half was from our previous league, the Central Valley Christian League.

Although we didn’t immediately have a fierce soccer rivalry with the Lions, our competition in volleyball and basketball was intense from the beginning and still is today, according to VCA athletic director Brad Gunter Jr.

Mary-Clare Bosco, ‘13, who played basketball and volleyball, said that there was often an atypically huge SCDS turnout at away games against VCA’s basketball team.

“People would make the trek (to VCA) because they knew it would be a good game,” Bosco said. “It was never a blowout with them; games were always tight.”

Bosco also recalled how VCA’s crowd fueled the rivalry.

“They (the crowd members) were always loud and heckled us,” she said.

VCA alum Micah Gunter, ‘14, who played boys’ basketball, agreed.

“An environment with huge fan support on both sides makes the games a lot more fun and competitive,” Gunter said.

Senior Alexa Mathisen, who has played varsity volleyball for three years and is being recruited for college volleyball, said the even skill level between SCDS and VCA makes for really close games.

Mathisen said the league game against VCA at the end of the season was the only league game that she was nervous about because she knew it would be close.

“The noise of (VCA’s) crowd really pushed me to keep my cool, focus and play my heart out,” Mathisen said. “I didn’t want to let my team down by succumbing to the pressure of the crowd.”

Photo by David Ryan
Junior Cole Johnson goes for a layup in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section championship game against the Valley Christian Lions on March 5, 2015. Johnson had 22 points, and the Cavs won the game, 104-85.

Elise DeCarli, ‘13, recalled the intensity of the 2011 semi-final girls’ volleyball playoff victory against the Lions, which went to five sets.

DeCarli said she especially remembers how packed the gym was.

“I wanted to win the game so badly,” she said. “Not just because it was a semi-final game, but also because it was against VCA.”

DeCarli said that during the game she did more barrel rolls (when one dives for a ball and rolls after) than usual because of the high intensity.

“After the game I remember jumping around the gym because of how elated I was that we beat them,” she said.

Even though DeCarli played volleyball for a year at Occidental College, she said she still remembers the VCA victory as her favorite game ever.

Vargo called the competition with VCA a “competitive rivalry with mutual respect.”

“We root for each other when we’re not playing each other,” Vargo said. “Kids may have issues with each other, but the administrators are always on good terms.”

However, our soccer rivalries are a different story.

Tibor Pelle, who coached boys’ varsity soccer from 1993-2002, said our rivals during his time were Forest Lake, Sacramento Waldorf School and Woodland Christian School.

A huge reason that we had our soccer rivalry with Forest Lake was because of their lack of sportsmanship, Pelle said.

“They simply lacked grace in defeat but were boastful in victory,” Pelle said. “Playing against them was usually an ill-tempered affair characterized by trash talking and fouling.”

The competition with Waldorf and Forest Lake picked up in 1994 when we beat both for the first time in 20 years, Pelle said, adding that the schools were similar in size and had lots of pride at stake.

Our soccer conflict with Woodland began at SCDS’s first under-the-lights soccer game in 2000, when Woodland walked off the field in the middle of the game because “the lighting wasn’t good enough for them,” according to Pelle.

“They used that as an excuse; they said they couldn’t see the ball the way we saw it just because they were losing,” he said.

Girls’ soccer didn’t have a rival at the time because the league they played in was young, Pelle said.

Photo by David Ryan
The girls’ varsity volleyball team celebrates after they defeat the Lions, 3-2, in the semi-final game in 2011. This victory put them into the championship game against Victory Christian.

They didn’t play the same teams each year, so they didn’t form any rivalries.

Even now, there isn’t a real rival for girls’ soccer, according to senior Natalie Brown and junior Nina Dym.

However, the boys’ competitiveness with Waldorf is still alive, and Buckingham has been added to the fierce boys’ soccer rivalries.

Senior Aidan Cunningham says that we have an aggressive rivalry with Buckingham because of their lack of sportsmanship.

He recalled that during a 2016 away game, a Buckingham player was trash talking former student Jayce McCain, now attending Folsom High School.

When McCain’s mother told the Buckingham player to stop, the player yelled at her, according to Cunningham. Then senior Jesus Galindo ran off the bench to help defend McCain, Cunningham said.

“Whenever they play us, they’re constantly scruffy,” he said.

Vargo said that the competition with Buckingham took off during a league championship several years ago. The Cavs were down 0-3 in the first half but ended up closing the lead and beating the Knights 5-3.

Buckingham got six yellow cards and a red card, but none were soccer related, Vargo said.

Vargo said the altercations with Buckingham haven’t been one-sided; the Cavs are just as involved in the intensity that makes the game deteriorate when it becomes too physical.

“When you have young men battling on the field and officials that let the game get too physical, then of course there will be altercations,” Vargo said.

Junior Theo Kaufman said that our biggest soccer rival now is Waldorf because of their lack of sportsmanship as well.

“In the (2015) championship game one kid on Waldorf’s team swung at Jayce (McCain), and got red-carded,” Kaufman said. “They always play dirty, but we ended up beating them in the champs.”

By Katia Dahmani

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