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June 3, 2023

Sobrato roller hockey teams prove to be Lord of the Rinks

Roller hockey’s heyday might have been two decades ago, but interest remains strong at Sobrato High and in the San Jose area. 

The Bulldogs have two teams, the top Maroon Division I team and the White Division II team, that were victorious in the High School Roller Hockey League Playoffs on March 5 at the Silver Creek Sportsplex in San Jose. 

Both squads capped off impressive seasons, with the Maroon team finishing 10-2 on the season and the White team going 9-2. Bulldogs coach David Iwanaga believes this is the first time in school history that their Division I team has won it all. 

The roster for the Maroon Division I team includes Branden Bedley, Luke Iwanaga, Jared Lebovitz, Joseph Lee, Bladimir Lopez, Evan Lopez, Adam Meyberg, Thomas Miner, Nathan Ortiz, Zach Tran, Colin Walford and Mason Walford.

Players on the White Division II team include Bedley, Lopez, Lebovitz, Matt Holly, Adam Meyberg, Kimberly Meyberg, Joseph Iniguez, Connor Lau, Abram Parlove, Luke Spears, Logan Woodring and Rachel Wipf. 

A handful of players compete for both squads, including Bedley, who goaltended for Maroon which won its title game, 5-3, and also had four goals for the White squad’s 8-6 win. 

Lebovitz is the goalie for the White team and a forward/defender for Maroon. Because the semifinals and finals were on March 5, athletes like Bedley and Lebovitz played a total of four games (one hour each), all back to back. 

Lee had two goals and two assists in the Maroon team’s championship game, while Iniguez had the same stat line for the White squad. 

Iwanaga is in his first season as the head coach but has served as an assistant coach in previous years. He and assistant coaches Allan Lebovitz, Matt Lee, Paul Woodring and team manager Dena Lebovitz decided to resurrect the program after Covid shut things down for 2020. 

Iwanaga’s youngest son, Luke, expressed interest in playing and after gauging interest several others had the same desire to play. Roller hockey is a niche sport and several of the Sobrato players also play ice hockey. 

The lure of roller hockey is in its affordability compared to ice hockey and the game tends to be a bit more fast-paced and up tempo as there are four skaters for one team—two forwards and two defenders—instead of five for ice hockey.

Neither roller hockey nor ice hockey are Central Coast Section sanctioned sports, which means they both go under the radar. Because roller hockey is a club sport and not every school fields a program, teams often have players from a couple of different schools on their roster. 

For instance, Iwanaga would be able to have an athlete from Live Oak or other schools in the area on the team as long as the league gives its OK. It just so happens that all of the players on this year’s Maroon and White teams attend Sobrato. 

Some of the top players in the program include Lebovitz, Bedley, Iwanaga, Colin Walford, Mason Walford and Nathan Ortiz, who had a standout football season last fall. Ortiz is a senior forward/defenseman and one of the more experienced players on the team. 

“Nathan is very skilled, competitive and tenacious,” David Iwanaga said. “He’s definitely one of the leaders on the team.”

Fellow senior Lebovitz also plays with tremendous determination, Iwanaga said. The coach’s son, Luke, is a junior and does a lot of things well. 

“He’s a skilled puck handler, passer and kind of quarterbacks the team,” David said. “He sets up other players for scoring opportunities and is a smooth skater.”

Bedley, a sophomore, plays the all-important goaltender position, an often thankless job in roller hockey because a goaltender can play lights-out and still give up a half-dozen goals due to the offensive nature of the sport. 

“Branden is very athletic and fun to watch in goal,” Iwanaga said. “It’s a tough position and sometimes a thankless one, so you always appreciate Branden for how he plays in goal.”

Iwanaga said the Walford brothers are “big guys” in a no-checking league, though it still helps to have physical players on the team. 

“They make sure no one takes advantage of them or their teammates (with something outside of the rules),” Iwanaga said. “They’re leaders and offer a calming presence.”

Sobrato High senior Jared Lebovitz played forward for the Bulldogs’ Division I team and goalie for the Division II squad. Photo courtesy of Dena Lebovitz.

Sports editor Emanuel Lee can be reached at [email protected]

Emanuel Lee
Emanuel Lee is the sports editor of the Los Gatan, Gilroy Dispatch, Hollister Free Lance and Morgan Hill Times. An American High and University of Kentucky alumnus, he primarily covers high school athletics, Gavilan College, various youth sports in south Santa Clara/San Benito counties and pro sports on occasion. Two decades of journalism experience and recipient of several writing awards from the California News Publishers Association. With the Weeklys/NewSVMedia group since 2013. Emanuel has run eight marathons with a PR of 3:13.40 (7:24 mile pace), counts himself as a devoted follower of Jesus Christ and loves spending time with his wife and their two lovely daughters, Evangeline and Eliza. Coaches, athletic directors and parents are encouraged to report scores to [email protected].

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