By Keith Lair, Staff Writer
It will be awfully tough to top 2008.
Mayfield Senior School won its second consecutive CIF-Southern Section Division III-A volleyball title. La Ca ada High School won its first, the CIF-SS Division II-A championship. San Gabriel and Gabrielino advanced to the quarterfinals in the Division III-A tournament.
Some of the best players to grace west San Gabriel Valley volleyball courts have graduated. Mayfield’s Susan Carlson, the Star-News and CIF-SS Division III player of the year, is at Georgia Tech. Cami Martin (La Ca ada) and Sylvie Lehac (San Gabriel) also graduated. But fear not, the cupboard is not bare.
The Cubs return six players who were in regular rotations, and the Spartans also return six. Add in programs with a lot of returnees and seniors, and it very well be an interesting season.
1. La Caada
The core is back, which will make it tough on Rio Hondo League and CIF-SS Division II opponents.
“It’s CIF or bust,” coach Brock Turner said. “That’s the goal. We know how to do it, we just have to practice.”
Because of the Station Fire, the team hasn’t practiced in nearly two weeks.
“There is no pressure,” Turner said. “We’re taking it upon ourselves that we want it. We like the pressure and we know what it takes.”
Outside hitter Courtney McCutchan returns. The senior was the Division II player of the year and will play at Lehigh. Also back for senior years are setter Hayley Woodford, who will go to George Washington, libero Tara Rallis, who will go to Loyola Marymount, and MaryJo Scott.
Eirene Kim and Catherine Horner are back. Freshmen middle blocker Katie Pierce and right side Micaela Anderson are filling huge holes.
“They are the freshmen I had to go,” Turner said. “I have big hopes to go to them.”
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The Cubs were not all Carlson last season, although she played a major role in their success.
Six seniors return, including starters Rachel Aragon, Danielle Dondanville and Madisyn Spence. Fellow senior Anneliese Luck also made the rotation. Junior Hannah Schraer is back in the middle, and Subi D’Aguilar will play a big role, too.
The Cubs open the season at La Ca ada on Sept. 18.
3. Flintridge Sacred Heart
Four offensive stalwarts return, but the Tologs’ main focus will be on defense.
“My main focus has always been on defense, and that’s what we’re looking at right now,” coach Shelli Orlandini said. “We’ve moved people to different positions until we get the kinks figured out.”
UC Davis-bound Mary Schroeder, who was a middle blocker last year, will play her more natural right side, which Orlandini said will benefit the Tologs in the long run.
Junior outside hitter Camille Coffey is getting a lot of college scholarship offers, junior Alyssa Walton will remain at outside hitter, and senior Maureen McDonald will take over at middle blocker.
Another Orlandini moves in at setter. This time it’s sophomore Alessandra, who is Shelli Orlandini’s niece. Senior Jordan Terwilliger will also play setter.
The Tologs return eight seniors.
The Apaches won the Pacific League again last season, putting an end to a two-year drought.
“We’re pretty good,” coach Charles Freberg said. “We’re still learning the game and trying to understand how things work.”
Setter Madyson Cassidy and Taylor DeGraaf were both first-team all- league selections last season, and middle blocker Ashleigh DeBarge also returns. Michelle Kha has stepped into a starting spot on the right side from the JVs, and Jennifer Estrada is expected to come through. The big newcomer is libero Ashley Etheridge.
The Wildcats made some noise last season, finishing second in the Rio Hondo League to La Ca ada.
The Wildcats are now ready to challenge the Spartans.
“We just want to make people think we’re one of those very good teams,” coach Wayne Teng said.
“Hopefully, we’ll play well together. We’re changing things around a little bit.”
What won’t change is the power plays of senior outside hitters Rachael McWhirter and Brittany Puffinburger and junior outside hitter Tirah Le’au.
“We’re a work in progress, but those girls want to get it done,” Teng said.
They’ll work with a new setter, junior Erin McGeeney. Sophomore Noralia Toomalatai is also expected to make an impact.
She’s back. That’s Taylor McLeod, who decided not to play last season, when the Minutemen failed to make the playoffs.
But even if McLeod, who will play setter and outside hitter, depending on the offensive set, was in the lineup last season, Maranatha may have had trouble reaching the playoffs anyway. Olympic League foe Campbell Hall defeated league foe Brentwood. Campbell Hall downed another Olympic team, top- seeded Village Christian, in the semifinals.
New coach Becky Honeycutt has high hopes that missing the playoffs will be a one-year anomaly.
The Minutemen return several players who saw significant time last season. Senior Sara Kert is back at outside hitter. Junior Hope McMorrow is back in the middle. And senior Nicolette Tsukamoto and junior Abbey Welborn will anchor the defense.
The Eagles could be very, very good. Or very, very young.
Two returnees – starting setter Ashley Van Oosten and Sohphea Suy – may miss play this season because of family issues.
“They’re question marks,” coach Cuong Chau said.
Outside hitter Melissa-Rose Villasenor, however, is back for her senior season. Amanda Watkins returns at middle blocker and Sylvia Quach also returns. Junior Jessica Rivera comes up from the JV team.
The Tigers will have a new coach and will have to do without Katrina Post.
But they have able players to pitch in. Seniors Eli Diop, Hope Bogle and Natalia McAdams will lead Westridge. Junior Monique Francois also saw a lot of playing time last season.
9. San Marino
It’s time for the Titans to make a run at the Rio Hondo League title.
Coach Scott Mooney is putting the offense in the hands of freshman setter Amanda Yee.
“She’s a great player,” Mooney said. “I’m not afraid to start her right now. By the time she gets to league, she’ll have some experience. She’s smart.”
That would be a good omen for senior outside hitter Catherine Barth and junior middle blocker Kelsey Buckner. Even though senior libero Kathy Cheung decided not to play this season, the Titans still return Noviana Tho at the position. Newcomer Casey McCloskey is also expected to step in on the defense.
10. San Gabriel
There will be a lot of new faces, but with the way the Matadors play, it’s tough to count the team out.
Coach Larry Kanow lost seven players from last season, including setter Sylvie Lekhac. The only returning player with a lot of experience is Annie Phan. She returned to practice for the first time after breaking her leg in May.
Stephanie Liong, a backup last year, is expected to step in, as is setter Sharon Diec.