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Roseville school hopes to turn corner in sports

Growing Cornerstone Christian, now in its 20th year, eyes move, hopes to field varsity teams for first time
By: Bill Poindexter/Roseville Press Tribune Sports Editor
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It’s late afternoon on Tuesday, Jan. 10. With the sun beginning its descent in the West, Valley Christian Academy is hosting a basketball tripleheader.

The home-team Lions, in their matching uniforms — from their white jerseys and shorts down to their shoes — are running the floor with the opponent.
Cornerstone Christian High School sophomore Gavin Bartlett, in his dark blue No. 00 Builders jersey, dribbles, shoots and passes to his teammates, one of whom is wearing a different jersey. That’s Everett Libolt, a seventh-grader. The jerseys don’t all match, but the Builders can play.

Founded by Craig Garbe with Cliff Minter, Cornerstone Christian now is in its 20th year, and yes, it has an athletic program. The Builders field boys soccer, basketball and girls volleyball teams. All play at the junior varsity level. The school was able to split volleyball into two teams in the fall, including a junior high squad, but it doesn’t have varsity sports — yet.

“Not enough players,” Headmaster J. Richard Batista says at halftime of the JV basketball game. “We want to. We’re hoping that as we grow.”

Cornerstone Christian offers a college prep curriculum and has sent students to West Point, the Naval and Air Force academies, Carnegie-Mellon, the Ivy League and Cal Tech. Daylon Schiffel, son of Cornerstone athletic director Michelle Schiffel, is on scholarship at the University of Central Arkansas. Daylon Schiffel played soccer for the California Development Academy and Cornerstone.

“By the grace of God, we have a lot of talent,” says Batista, also the school’s soccer coach.

Cornerstone Christian is located at 143 Clinton Ave. in Roseville, close to the westernmost point of Douglas Boulevard. It opened Sept. 15, 1992, with seven teachers welcoming 33 students. An old two-story house on the northeast corner of Clinton and Bonita Street serves as the school office and includes an outside play area for the younger portion of the student body. Classrooms are across the street, on the southeast corner, inside the old The Rock of Roseville church.

With 22 added students last year, enrollment grew to 165 for kindergarten through 12th grade. Cornerstone officials now are looking into moving to a new location.

“From the standpoint of our school’s growth, that would be great,” says Tim French, who has been with Cornerstone seven years. French wears multiple hats on campus as basketball and volleyball coach and choir director. “Athletically, I would love to have a facility with a gym.”

In the meantime, Cornerstone’s athletic homes away from home are Cherry Island for soccer games and Liberty Towers Church for basketball. Cornerstone also used Hardwood Palace in the past.

That, and JV-only teams, strongly explains why Cornerstone has competed in anonymity all this time.

“Other than size, we also have never had our own facilities,” French says. “A home game is at Hardwood Palace or Rusch Park, so that may contribute to it because (opponents) aren’t coming to our school.”

Cornerstone Christian is an associate — and not full — member of the California Interscholastic Federation, but the Builders have played games against Sacramento Waldorf, Country Day, Forest Lake Christian, Bradshaw Christian and bigger schools.

And, they win. Batista says the soccer team had a winning record in the fall.
There was no basketball program for a few years because of various factors before being resurrected last season. In its second season back, the Builders were 3-2 following their 54-36 loss to Valley Christian. The eight-man roster includes three juniors, three sophomores, a freshman and Libolt, the seventh-grader.

French sees a combined effort by school administration, coaches and players to continue building its sports programs.

“Sometimes, it’s that effort and commitment to put it all out there, whether it be in practice or the game, and walk away with whatever we’re working with doing as well as we can,” he says.

With the volleyball program split into two teams, French now will have the luxury of taking in freshmen with which he’s been working “for a couple of years.”

“They already have that foundation of skills, and we’re really looking forward to what we’ll be able to do with that as sophomores and juniors, when we’ve been working with them for four or five years,” French says.

Like other small schools, most of the students play multiple sports. Batista, observing the basketball game, says most of the players were on his soccer team.

Says French, “I look at my volleyball and basketball teams, this is like a third of the guys or girls in high school. You’re coming out for the team.”

Bob Bartlett, father of Gavin and a 9-year-old fourth-grader, is impressed with the dedication of Cornerstone’s teachers, who he says are excellent evaluators, communicators and encouragers. Athletically, Gavin Bartlett also plays AAU basketball and competitive soccer.

“We have been very pleased that Cornerstone has sought to build upon their athletics offerings,” Bob Bartlett says. “Their records have been impressive, against much larger schools and programs. Gavin … has really enjoyed the school team, and it allows him to utilize and strengthen his leadership skills in helping along the younger players and those less experienced. So that builds him in ways he might otherwise not experience.”

Now, about those uniforms … The soccer and volleyball teams were outfitted with new uniforms in the fall. After looking at the budget, uniforms for the basketball team were put on hold for one more season.

Says French, “I’m thankful the refs haven’t complained about it.”

Contact Bill Poindexter at billp@goldcountrymedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at BillP_RsvPT.

CORNERSTONE CHRISTIAN SCHOOL

Where: 143 Clinton Ave., Roseville
Enrollment: 166 (K-12)
Headmaster: J. Richard Batista
Athletic director: Michelle Schiffel
Information: (916) 783-7779 or www.cornerstonechristian.org