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LBHS Girls Basketball: Big turnaround, bigger plans for the future


Photos by Mary Hurlbut

Laguna Beach High School may be the smallest public high school in Orange County, but its successful athletics program belies its size. The LBHS Breakers compete with – even dominate – teams from schools with much larger student bodies. So when the LBHS Girls Basketball team went 0 for 24 last year, needless to say, it didn’t generate a lot of buzz. However, in what has to be one of the most remarkable turnarounds one can point to in school history, this year’s team has amassed a very impressive mid-season 15-3 record as of press time.

Building a youth program for the future

Third year head coach Matthew Tietz knew he was going to have to build his team from the ground up. With no youth program feeding the high school team when he took over, some of his players arrive with very little background in the sport.

 “When I interviewed for the position, the first thing I asked was ‘What’s the youth program?’” explains Tietz. Hearing that, other than the Boys and Girls Club program that gets a lot of girls through third grade only to see them bleed off into other sports by sixth grade, there wasn’t one. “We started a youth program that runs out of here (LBHS) and Thurston. Lance Neal (LBHS Athletic Director) has bent over backwards to get us a gym and a team.”

Taking an 0-24 team to 15-3 in a season

So that will help in the future, but how do you take a team that lost every single game they played to one that has been dominating in the span of one year? “We had three starters come back,” says Tietz. “They’re really big on improving. I told them last year, ‘We’re going to learn this year to play better next year.’” And while that may sound easy, as a new coach who is trying to get his team to buy into his way of doing things only to have that team lose every single game, it is no small feat to get them to come back for more.

LBHS Girls Tietz and Brianna

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LBHS Girls Basketball Head Coach Matthew Tietz and his daughter and Assistant Coach Brianna

Credit goes to the players…

“It’s a credit to the girls,” he says. “They’re buying into it. When I first started, they weren’t as willing, but the ones who are here now…there are no selfish players.” Of course, that is true; the players do deserve much of the credit, but the coaches – Tietz and his daughter, Brianna – can’t be left out of the equation.

As well as the coaches

Tietz played basketball in high school, but says his main sport was football.  However, as he had a daughter, if he wanted to coach her, coaching football wasn’t really an option. Brianna was in third grade when Teitz started coaching her in basketball. He coached her all the way until she got to Northwood High School in Irvine. Even then he was offered a position to help coach her team there but opted out. “I didn’t want to cramp her style,” he says. 

Now Brianna is a college graduate and she and Tietz have helped teach the LBHS girls a lot of things, not the least of which is how to win. Tietz admits he created a schedule that would help with this, playing teams he felt his girls could beat. However, getting teams to play a team with an 0-24 record took some convincing. 

A 14-game streak comes to an end

Tietz will not have the same problem next year. Not only were the other teams caught off guard by the Breakers’ improvement, Tietz and his players were, as well. “I knew we’d improved, but we beat these teams by 30-40 points. The other coaches are looking at me and I just had to tell them we’re a little surprised by our success as well.”

The team had a 14-0 streak going before losing to a team Tietz says they could have beaten. “They’d like to play that one again,” he says of the girls, explaining that the pressure of the streak was definitely a factor in the loss. 

Hugely improved, but still a ways to go

Now, with the streak behind them, the team has the “opportunity” to play four teams from upper division schools. Corona del Mar was the first of these tests. I met with Tietz before the game and he was optimistic, but also realistic. “We can just relax and play our game and see what happens. They’re probably 30 points better than us, but we’ve got nothing to lose.” 

LBHS Girls team

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The LBHS Girls Basketball team:

(L-R in front) Rebecca Sanchez, Mia Pitz, Anna Cheng, Alia Hassan;

(L-R in back) Autumn Moreland, Claire Smithers, Julia Henry, Madi Garwal

Unfortunately, the end result was a sobering 13-60. Clearly, while great progress has been made, the team still has a way to go to compete with the bigger schools. Nevertheless, they are committed to this year’s goal of making it to the CIF playoffs. “We’re ready for that level already,” says Tietz. 

Vying for some student body attention

With such a drastic turnaround taking place, I asked some of the players if they felt the school was taking notice. Captains Madi Garwal, Julia Henry, Mia Pitz, and Anna Cheng were tempered in their responses. They acknowledged that their friends were definitely aware, but were less sure about the student body as a whole.

“It’s so much about volleyball and water polo and the schools those players are getting into,” explains Henry. “We’re not there yet, obviously.” She adds, “We’d love more student support.”

“Boys basketball games are an event,” says Henry by way of comparison.

Proud to be part of the journey 

But this is not to give the impression that the girls are in any way resentful of their place on the proverbial totem pole. They are all quite clear-eyed about the why’s and the how’s of building a program that generates the kind of excitement and pride that others do on campus. And while their success this year stands in stark contrast to their troubles last year, they understand it will take time to get the program to the level that their games are seen as events on campus. For the girls who are seniors, that change will come after they’ve graduated. Still, a legacy has to start somewhere.

LBHS Girls action

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Madi Garwal takes a shot in practice at the LBHS gym

Until then, they seem to be having a lot of fun. The practice I sat in on showed the girls definitely working hard but there was a joyfulness that was impossible to miss. The team had just come back from an overnight trip to Glendale where they played a game and then went to Magic Mountain. “There is no drama on this team. They all really get along,” says Tietz. 

All that’s needed is an interest

So for any girls out there who have an interest in basketball, contact Coach Tietz at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. The club teams will be starting up in the spring and he hopes to have at least three teams for third to fourth grade, fifth to sixth, and seventh to eighth grade. The club will host four tournaments and they will be run as a fundraiser for the girls basketball team. ”If you have a desire to play, we can turn you into a basketball player,” says Tietz confidently. Based on his results so far, his confidence is more than justified.

LBHS coach Rick Conkey to offer Holiday Boys and Girls Tennis Camp

Students are invited to take the opportunity this holiday school break to focus on their tennis skills. LBHS girls and boys tennis coach Rick Conkey, along with an international-level coaching staff, will offer a four-day clinic. It’s open to seventh to twelfth grade players and offers an effective student to pro ratio. 

LBHS coach court

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Rick Conkey in action at the vintage Laguna Moss Point tennis court, where he has been teaching for years

Students will be able to take advantage of the latest state-of-the-art coaching equipment and methods including video analysis, programmable ball machines, a speed gun, and bio-mechanical breakdown and analysis of all major strokes, strategy, court position, and drills. 

“We will enable students to both recognize and take advantage of an opportunity when it presents itself in their game,” explains coach Conkey. “We are offering drop in rates and four-day rates to allow some flexibility in joining us on the court over the holiday.”

The camp runs from December 31 through January 3 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. The cost is $149 with a daily drop in rate of $45. 

Sign up through the City of Laguna Beach here.

LBUSD Board of Education Dec 11 meeting highlights

LBUSD held its monthly Board of Education meeting on Tuesday, Dec 11. During the meeting, Board members Carol Normandin and Dee Perry took their Oaths of Office. All Governing Board members must take the oath or affirmation prior to entering upon the duties of their office. Dr. James Kelly, LBUSD’s newest Board member, was unable to attend and will be sworn in at the January 15 Board meeting.

The Board also elected its slate of officers as following: Jan Vickers, President; Carol Normandin, Clerk; James Kelly, Member; Dee Perry, Member; and Peggy Wolff, member. 

Additionally, the Board approved the 2019 meeting dates as follows: January 15, January 22 (Board Governance session), February 12, March 12, March 26, April 23, May 14, May 28, June 11, June 25, July 16, August 13, September 10, September 24, October 8, October 22, November 12 and December 10. 

LBUSD Board red

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Board members Carol Normandin and Dee Perry taking the Oath of Office at Tuesday’s meeting

Also during the meeting, the Approval to Accept the 2017-2018 District Audit took place. Every year, the school district must file an audit report for the preceding fiscal year with the County Superintendent of Schools, the State Department of Education, and the Controller. 

The Laguna Beach Unified School District audit was performed by the independent auditing firm of Vavrinek, Trine, Day & Company, LLP. The audit determined that the District’s financial status remains positive and the firm highlighted the exceptional accounting practices in place in LBUSD. During the meeting, the Board of Education took action to approve the acceptance of the 2017-2018 District Audit. 

Another important item on the agenda at Tuesday’s meeting was the Approval of Positive Certification of First Interim Report. Local educational agencies are required to file two reports during a fiscal year (interim reports) on the status of the educational agency’s financial health. 

The interim reports must include a certification of whether or not the agency will be able to meet its financial obligations; the certifications are classified as positive, qualified or negative. A positive certification is assigned when the district will meet its financial obligations for the current and two subsequent fiscal years.

The Continuous Improvement: Approval of Career and Technical Education Incentive Grant (CTEIG) Expenditures was another agenda item. The California Career Technical Education (CTE) Incentive Grant program was established in 2015 as a state education, economic, and workforce development initiative with the goal of providing K-12 students with the knowledge and skills necessary to transition to employment and postsecondary education. 

LBUSD’s allocation of the grant for the 2018-2019 school year is $110,995; the funds are to be used for continued implementation and expansion of the CTE Program at LBHS.

LBUSD placed on the College Board’s 9th Annual AP District Honor Roll 

Laguna Beach Unified School District is one of 373 school districts in the U.S. and Canada being honored by the College Board with placement on the 9th Annual AP District Honor Roll. 

To be included on the 9th Annual Honor Roll, LBUSD had to, since 2016, increase the number of students participating in AP while also increasing or maintaining the percentage of students earning AP exam scores of 3 or higher. 

LBUSD placed school

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

LBUSD earns College Board’s AP District Honor Roll

Helping more students learn at a higher level and earn higher AP scores is an objective of all members of the AP community, from AP teachers to district and school administrators to college professors. 

“I am always impressed by the ongoing success of our students,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jason Viloria. “These are rigorous courses that demand a high level of dedication, and I am proud to see an increase in student participation as a result of the ongoing efforts of our staff to identify and support students who have not traditionally accessed AP courses and through the addition of new AP course offerings. In our focus on continuous improvement, we have dedicated resources to ensure that every student feels supported academically and social-emotionally as they take on these challenges,” he concluded. 

In 2018, more than 4,000 colleges and universities around the world received AP scores for college credit, advanced placement, or both, and/or consideration in the admissions process. Inclusion in the 9th Annual AP District Honor Roll is based on a review of three years of AP data, from 2016 to 2018, looking across 38 AP exams, including world language and culture. 

In order to qualify, districts must: 

Increase participation/access to AP by at least 4 percent in large districts, at least 6 percent in medium districts, and at least 11 percent in small districts; increase or maintain the percentage of American Indian/Alaska Native, Black/African American, Hispanic/Latino, and Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander students taking exams; increase or maintain the percentage of American Indian/Alaska Native, Black/African American, Hispanic/Latino, and Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander students scoring a 3 or higher on at least one AP exam; and improve or maintain performance levels when comparing the 2018 percentage of students scoring a 3 or higher to the 2016 percentage, unless the district has already attained a performance level at which more than 70 percent of its AP students earn a 3 or higher.

The complete 9th Annual AP District Honor Roll can be found here.

LBHS Girls Basketball is 15-1 after going winless all of last season

LBHS Girls Basketball continues its remarkable turnaround season, ending the week with a 15-1 record.

“It’s been a lot of fun watching the girls’ hard work pay off,” said Coach Matthew Tietz. “I expected us to be better and competitive and the girls were skeptical but hopeful, but I don’t think anyone saw this kind of success coming. I’m very proud of these girls.”

LBHS Girls

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2018-19 LBHS Girls Varsity Basketball team (missing Hana Ford and Claire Smithers)

 “This is the mid-way point of the regular season and the schedule gets significantly harder from here…next week we start our Sunset League schedule and we know that even a single victory from that point on will be hard to come by. The girls are ready to battle and we’ll see what happens,” said Coach Tietz.

The success of the season thus far has come from great team defense that is allowing just 18 points per game and an unselfish, balanced offense that has everyone contributing, according to Coach Tietz. 

The team is being led by senior Point Guard Mia Pitz. She is averaging 12 points, 3.7 assists and 3.8 steals per game and her season totals in those categories put her near or at the top of the CIF Division 5A rankings. Junior Madi Garwal’s 170 rebounds is putting her on a pace to destroy the school record of 293 she set last season and is currently 3rd in the entire state in that category. Another great two-way and all around player, Madi is averaging 7.2 points, 13.1 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 3.2 steals and 2.2 blocks per game. The third returning starter, junior Julia Henry continues to be a force on defense leading Division 5A and 10th in the state with 32 blocked shots. The other two starting spots have been filled nicely by freshmen Anna Cheng and Autumn Moreland. Anna leads the team in scoring at 13.3 points per game and her 35 3-pointers ranks #1 in Division 5A and #4 in the entire state. That number also surpasses school legend Alexandra Lewis’ total for a freshman at LBHS. Her 55 steals also ranks #1 in Division 5A. Autumn has provided the team with much-needed physicality inside. Despite giving up several inches in height to her opponents, Autumn’s tenacity has resulted in 9.9 rebounds per game. She also contributes at the offensive end with 3.2 points per game. 

The bench has also has made significant contributions to the team’s success. Sydney Mangus, Clarice Curras, Laila Hassan, Rebecca Sanchez, Zoe Payne-Carter, and Claire Smithers as a group have averaged 5.9 points, 11.8 rebounds and 2 assists per game. The team also has Hana Ford waiting in the wings as she complies with CIF’s mandatory sit out period for transfers. 

“Hana will be a force inside and figures to be a large part of the team’s end of season push for a spot in the CIF playoffs,” said Coach Tietz.

The Breakers’ next game is against Corona del Mar on Tuesday on the road. Tip-off is at 5 p.m.

Watch and listen for the Laguna Beach Girl Scouts caroling with Santa on the trolley this Friday

On Friday, Dec 14 from 4 - 9 p.m., hundreds of local girl scouts will be on board the trolleys singing holiday carols for the community to enjoy, while they traverse the streets of downtown Laguna.

Watch and Santa

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Local Girl Scouts join Santa on the trolley for a night of Christmas caroling fun

In addition to caroling for the Laguna community, participating girl scouts will also make hundreds of candy cane cards for our military troops stationed abroad during the holidays. Join in with the holiday singing fun or simply stop and listen as they go by singing delightful songs. 

Laguna Beach Boys Scouts collected over 400 socks for the homeless 

Laguna’s Boy Scout Troop 35 and the congregation of its chartered organization, Laguna Presbyterian Church, collected socks for the homeless during the month of November. The service project was part of the Laguna Beach Hunger and Homeless Awareness Month outreach and brought in over 400 pairs of socks. 

Laguna Beach socks

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Troop 35 Amber Fox patrol members with the sock donations for the homeless in our community

The scouts advertised the service project through social media and at local schools, and had a great return. Of the more than 400 pairs of socks collected, 50 percent were for men, 30 percent were for women and 20 percent were for children. The socks included standard white and black socks as well as pastel colors, bold designs, and even two pairs of Mike Trout Angels socks. 

Laguna Beach Boy Scouts Troop 35 and Patrol meet every other Thursday at 7 p.m. at Laguna Presbyterian Church. The troop is lead by Scoutmaster Clay Leeds. 

For more information, visit

School Board meeting agenda for tonight includes oath of office for re-elected Board members

The agenda for tonight’s (Tuesday, Dec 11) regular LBUSD Board meeting has been posted online here. The meeting will begin at 5:45 PM with the oath of office for re-elected Board members Carol Normandin and Dee Perry (James Kelly is not able to attend and will be sworn in at the next LBUSD Board meeting). Open session will begin at 6 p.m. 

The Board will hear a report from Dr. Viloria and Dr. Keller on the district’s journey to a K-12 social-emotional learning system. Action items include the first interim budget report.

School Board tree

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Tonight’s LBUSD meeting will provide the community with important school-wide updates

On August 21, LBUSD staff presented information regarding the Social Emotional Supports implemented at LBUSD schools during the 2017-2018 school year and ongoing services in 2018-2019. 

Staff members also presented at the Annual Conference on Advancing School Mental Health regarding LBUSD implementation and more recently presented at the California School Boards Association Annual Education Conference. 

This presentation will include an overview of the information presented at both conferences, and also provide an update to include fall Universal Social and Emotional Learning.

Jade Howson from LBHS wins gold in China


Last month, when Stu News reported that Laguna Beach’s Jade Howson qualified as the top Jr 18 and Under for the USA to compete in the 2018 ISA World SUP and Paddleboard Championships, it was a cause for celebration. Now she and her family have even more to celebrate. Jade (along with her mother Kris) has just returned from the 2018 ISA World SUP and Paddleboard Championships as a World Champion with a gold medal. 

It’s been a long haul for Jade, a 16-year-old junior at Laguna Beach High School, who has been paddleboarding since she was eight. 

As reported in SUP Magazine, “Jade Howson took a convincing win in the junior Technical races (this was the first time the ISA ran a junior division, a great addition to the event).” 

Jade Howson flag

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Jade proudly carries flag after her championship win

“After a week of action in Wanning, China for the 2018 ISA World SUP and Paddleboard Championships, the 196 best paddlers in the world from 27 nations are headed back to their home countries. 

“The yearly team event, which features a SUP surfing competition and both SUP and paddleboard races in Sprint, Technical, Distance and Relay divisions, is unlike any other paddling competition in the world and features a veritable who-who of the world’s top talent.” 

Kris says, “Traveling to the other side of the Globe was a big trip. I didn’t know how all the changes and pressures would affect Jade. Seeing her dominate and win the gold medal in the first ever Jr Technical was very emotional. I know how hard Jade has worked over the past seven years and it clearly paid off. I was overwhelmed with joy and tears!”  

Jade Howson podium

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Jade wins gold

Robert, Jade’s dad, says, “I have always been a nervous dad. I want so much for my daughter to succeed as she has trained so hard to achieve her goals. Watching her in China, I was filled with such immeasurable pride! However, racing is never over until it is over. So much can happen even with a solid lead. You can have a physical problem, a mental error, or a mechanical failure of the board or paddle. Occasionally a lucky set wave can benefit the paddler from behind. All these things have happened to every seasoned racer. I was nervous for all those things. 

“Now it was Jade’s time on the biggest stage for pride and country! Gold! She won! I jumped up and down and yelled and screamed with my daughter Moorea. It could not get better than that for me! Jade was so far away. I wanted to hug her and Kris. I would have to wait. Days later came the Bronze in the sprints! Team USA killed it! The experience, win or lose, was a dream come true. How amazing it is for us to have a World Champion living under our roof!”  

Before the trip to China, Jade already had gathered many awards and honors.

Currently, she is ranked the 14th fastest woman in the world in the Paddle League Women’s World Rankings.

Now, Jade is the 2018 ISA World SUP and Paddleboard Championships World Champion in the 18 and under Jr division and has the gold to prove it.


LBHS musicians selected to perform at Carnegie Hall in NYC, will host free local concert Dec 10

Laguna Beach High School’s instrumental music groups have been invited to perform at Carnegie Hall in April 2019. The local community is invited to come hear these LBHS students perform holiday music at a free Winter Concert on Monday, Dec 10 at 7 p.m. in the LBHS Artists’ Theatre. 


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LBHS Wind Ensemble 

Under the direction of Jeremy Chung, members of the school’s Wind Ensemble and Symphonic Band groups will travel to New York City to get coaching from Carnegie Hall’s professional music staff before their adjudicated concert performance together. 

“The kids had to compete with schools from all over the country for this opportunity,” said Chung. “It’s a big honor to be chosen.” 

LBHS Symphonic

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LBHS Symphonic Band 

Local support has meant a lot to these music students; earlier this year, the Festival Of Arts Foundation awarded a $5,000 grant to the Boosters who directly support these and additional instrumental music groups (jazz, strings, marching band, and drum line) at LBHS and Thurston Middle School. 

LBHS Artists’ Theatre is located at 625 Park Ave.

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