|Tennis player Kristy Valencia and volleyball player Justin Perez are the April Athletes of the Month.|
Perez is a standout for the boys volleyball team, which is 7-1 in Sunbelt League play and 17-7 overall. He leads the team with 135 kills and 22 blocks from his middle blocker position. As the Wildcats continue in their drive toward the CIF playoffs, Perez will be one of those honored Thursday at 4:15 p.m. as the school pays tribute to its seniors in a home match against first-place Hemet.
"Losing to Hemet earlier was one of our first league losses in a while," Perez said about an April 9 loss to Hemet, which is undefeated in league play and 22-1 overall. "That's why Thursday's match is so big. We lost a lot of depth on the bench this year, but the team is doing well."
Last year, the Wildcats advanced past the first round of the CIF playoffs for the first time, losing in the second round. In a CIF division filled with Orange County beach teams where volleyball is a year-round sport, the Wildcats hope to continue showing improvement.
"I like volleyball because it's the definition of a team sport," Perez said. "You can't do anything unless three people touch the ball. There isn't just one person who can make a difference."
Wildcats volleyball coach Katie Bradley has high praise for Perez, who plans to attend UC San Diego to study engineering.
"Justin is an outstanding athlete and an even better teammate," Bradley said. "He is a positive leader and his energetic attitude on the court ignites our team."
Valencia is being honored for her accomplishments with the girls tennis team last fall. In her final season, she teamed with partner Erin Martinez to become a successful doubles team that led the way for the Wildcats into league finals.
She had never played tennis until her junior year, when a coach suggested she try the sport. After playing a year with the junior varsity and taking private lessons, Valencia earned a spot on the varsity last fall and impressed coach Alison King.
"I had the pleasure of knowing Kristy as a student in Advanced English and AP Literature and Writing," King said. "During those two years, Kristy showed great dedication to her schooling. She never settled for anything but her best and would constantly come into my room before and after school to work on improving her writing skills.
"This same dedication and hard work carried over into her time on the tennis courts. Kristy continually worked on her skills as a junior with the goal of making varsity. As a teacher and a coach, it is rare to find a student who is always willing to put in the extra effort, but Kristy is that student."
Valencia plans to attend Cal Baptist and study nutrition, with a minor in music.
"I fell in love with tennis," she said. "I like doubles because the court is bigger and you work as a team. I like playing up front because I can spike the ball. What I want to work on now is my serve. I need that to be very strong."
Perez and Valencia received a certificate of recognition and an iTunes gift card during the presentation of their awards at the school.