Girls Volleyball: La Caada tops list of hopefuls

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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2. Mayfield

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.

4. Arcadia

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.

5. Monrovia

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.

6. Maranatha

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.

7. Gabrielino

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.

8. Westridge

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.

keith.lair@sgvn.com

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  • SGVolley

    Maranatha High School went undefeated at this weekend’s Gladstone Tournament. Maranatha and second place Gabrielino showed that the West SGV cannot be ignored.

    Maranatha took home the gold by defeating Gabrielino in two. I guess she is back…the right-handed Taylor McLeod was named MVP while a shoulder injury restricted her from her trademark jump serve and zero rotations on the outside. She recovered by serving left-handed and dumping left. Maranatha served tough and had several extended serving runs. MHS ran a diverse offense that kept the defense unnerved and unable to recover.

    Maranatha’s Sara Kurt had success connecting on the outside and was named to the All-Tournament team. Other notable Maranatha players were MB, Hope McMorrow, L, Nicolette Tsukamoto, and OH, Jackie Stople.

    Gabrielino’s Amanda Watkins was also selected to the All-Tournament team. GHS stayed tough while adjusting to a new setting rotation. With several strong hitters, look for this team to continue it’s successful run.

    Westridge had a tough time at Gladstone and came home with a fifth place finish. This young team and new coach have a lot of work to do. Don’t look for them to be a contender this year.

  • LC Mom

    So many great teams in our area this year! Should be an exciting season of volleyball where any of the top teams could beat any of the others on any given day.
    Don’t count out Westridge either, they may be a young team, but they have a strong senior setter with experience, great technical skills and outstanding leadership abilities.

  • SGVolley

    Kind of exciting…LaSalle vs. Maranatha. Maranatha takes the match against LaSalle (how many years did that take?).

    Lost in Football…won in Volleyball. Depending on who you ask, it’s redemption! : ) Maranatha vs. San Marino, Thursday @ MHS. Glory or not, it’s just fun. Come out and support SGV VOLLEYBALL. Gladstone champians…MVP…perhaps MHS is trying to compete.

    SGV coaches, parents, fans…share your info. SGV is a lover of Volleyball. Please contribute and be heard. This beautiful sport needs a voice. See something worth wild…post it.

    Football is great and we all need something to do on a Friday night but, speak up.

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