DOWNTOWN — The Santa Monica sports scene will be sans two familiar faces come the school year.
Santa Monica High School’s softball coach Marybell Moreno and St. Monica’s boys’ volleyball coach Javy Martinez have decided to leave their respective posts.
Moreno leaves Samohi following just one year leading the program after taking over for longtime coach, and one of her personal mentors, Debbie Skaggs. She was successful in leading the Vikings back to the playoffs a year removed from the school’s first CIF-Southern Section championship in the sport in Skaggs’ last year leading the team.
The lure of a promotion at her day job — aerospace company Teledyne Controls — was just too much for the walk-on coach to pass up. As a walk-on coach, Moreno wasn’t a teacher at the school, a fact that exacerbated her decision to leave.
Another factor in her decision was the ailing health of her mother, who was recently diagnosed with cancer. As her primary care provider, Moreno said that a promotion at her job coupled with her mother’s condition made coaching somewhat of an afterthought.
“It’s been an emotional roller coaster,” she said of the touchy situation. “I wasn’t sure I could survive another season. I figured it was the best thing for the program.”
Moreno’s departure from Samohi comes after a long relationship with the Vikings that stretches back to her playing days under Skaggs.
After graduating from Samohi in 1996 following a successful run on the field, Moreno returned six years ago as the junior varsity coach before taking over as the varsity skipper.
“I’ll miss the girls,” Moreno said of the team. “I’ll miss Samo, but the job was hard to turn down.”
Despite the bitter sweet taste of leaving, Moreno is proud of her time at Samohi — both as a student athlete and coach. She said the challenge of replacing a successful coaching staff was a struggle, but she was happy to continue the team’s success that includes 10-straight seasons as Ocean League champ.
“We will miss her and we’re proud to have her as a contributor to our softball success and history,” said Daniel Escalera, Samohi’s athletic director.
Moreno led the Vikings to a 10-0 record in league and yet another in a long line of consecutive playoff appearances.
“I wouldn’t change it for anything,” she said of her tenure. “I think we didn’t do too bad with another league title.”
Though Moreno doesn’t have a replacement in mind, she does offer the next coach good luck in continuing the school’s strong tradition in softball.
The best nugget of advice she received from Skaggs when taking over the helm was to play to win. That’s easy enough to say, but for Moreno that tip resonated within her. With that in mind, she told her team before last season that the only thing they could do was “do us.”
“Whatever that means to this new coach, I don’t know,” she said. “It’s hard to tell your replacement what to do.”
Finding a new coach may be complicated by the fact that the softball field on campus is slated to be razed this fall, sending the Vikings in search of a new home. Moreno believes the team will play at Memorial Park, the site of JV games. Despite being away from campus, she feels that having both teams at the same location could be a benefit, allowing both teams to practice together at times.
“I know that there has always been candidates interested in coaching [at Samohi],” she said. “Not having the field is not going to be relevant.”
Martinez heads for Buckley
After three seasons leading the boys’ volleyball team at St. Monica, Javy Martinez has decided, with a heavy heart, to leave the program.
The coach, who was also the director of technology and the computer science department chair at St. Monica, will leave to assume a similar position with Sherman Oak’s Buckley School this fall.
Martinez leaves after leading the Mariners to a perfect 10-0 season in the Camino Real League and a playoff appearance last season.
“It was fun,” he said of his time at St. Monica. “But, I had to jump at this opportunity.”
A benefit of the new job includes a shorter commute for Martinez. He lives just minutes away from his new school, a factor in the decision. Though the move is a step up professionally, Martinez won’t coach at Buckley.
It’s not without regret that Martinez leaves St. Monica.
He said that he would have enjoyed playing in a renovated gym, a project that should be completed by late November.
“I’m kind of sad,” he said. “I wanted to see what the new gym looks like.”