Girls Volleyball: La Salle, La Canada top list of many area teams primed for big CIF-SS runs in 2012

STAR-NEWS QUEENS: Senior Katrina Palffy, junior Caroline Knop and sophomore Haley DeSales are key players for La Salle High School s volleyball team.
(Sarah Reingewirtz / Staff Photographer)

1. La Salle
2. La Canada
3. Arcadia
4. Flintridge Sacred Heart
5. Alverno
6. South Pasadena
7. Gabrielino
8. Mayfield
9. Maranatha
10. Poly

By Keith Lair, SGVN

It is not a matter of restocking.
With the high school girls volleyball season getting under way this week, it is a matter of reloading.
Two San Gabriel Valley teams went to CIF-Southern Section championship matches last season. Another went to the semifinals and another to the quarterfinals. La Salle and Pasadena Poly qualified for CIF State tournament berths.
The playoff runs could be just as impressive this season, with most teams returning top players.
1. La Salle
The Lancers certainly reloaded. The CIF-SS finalists lost only two seniors. But extremely talented returnees and three transfers have the Lancers apparently ready to make the next big step.
“We just have to keep going,” coach Tiare Tuitama said. “We have a lot of goals and there is a lot of pressure on our shoulders.”
The Lancers return one of the nation’s best hitters in sophomore Haley DeSales. Junior libero Caroline Knop, who recently committed to Michigan State, is also back. Senior outside hitters Katrina Palffy and Reilly Spriestersbach also return, the latter expected to play the middle.
“CK is just a natural leader,” Tuitama said of Knop. “Everybody looks up to her. And getting a volleyball scholarship to the school she always wanted to go to shows how hard she has worked.”

The setting situation was resolved when sophomore Alyssa Tavera transferred from Bishop Amat. Another transfer, junior Renaissance Forster, is expected to step into the middle. The Lancers’ tallest player was at Serra last year.
2. La Canada
The Spartans’ Rio Hondo League title runs have been fueled by defense and setting the last few years.
The Spartans return one of the most formidable front lines in the area, but defense and setting will be an issue.
“We have the talent to compete and challenge for another Rio Hondo League title and take a long run into the CIF playoffs,” coach Brock Turner said. “We may have some early- season bumps in the road as we gain experience and grow as a team, but come playoff time we will be ready.”
Seniors Micaela Anderson, Kendall Walbrecht and Katie Pierce create an imposing front line. Anderson was the league MVP last year and like Walbrecht, a four-year starter.
3. Arcadia
The Apaches are ready to flex their Pacific League muscles again. They are coming off a silver medal in the L.A. Games and taking the Crescenta Valley summer league title. But that was summer ball.
“I think we’re pretty good,” coach Charles Freberg said. “We beat a couple of pretty good teams, but we are young. I hope things work out for us.”
Sophomore Lexi Resch will be the heart of the Apaches.
“Obviously she is one of the best outside hitters in the nation,” Freberg said. “Her club team had her learning something that was not fitting into our system, so she is re-adjusting.”
Senior Catherine Su and junior Allison Stevenson also return.
Junior Kristen Mueller moves to setter. Senior middles Dakota Bundesmann and Lauren Pulciano are being challenged by newcomer Jessica Hopkins. Alicia Contreras and Katelyn Martinez are fighting for the libero spot.
4. Flintridge Sacred Heart
The last time Ernest Banaag was a high school varsity coach, he was completing three consecutive CIF-SS title runs. He hopes to do the same for the Tologs, who are in a much tougher division.
“We’re trying to change the mentality at Sacred Heart,” he said. “They’ve been struggling the past couple years. I’m trying to get my philosophy in there and have the players and coaches on the same page.”
The Tologs are fairly young and lost their setter to graduation. Sophomore Sophia Coffey and junior Kathryn Conley will be key components.
Two freshmen will also be key players: Ali McCullum, who is 6-feet, and Mady Peterson, who also will be on the cross country team.
5. Alverno
The Jaguars turned a few heads last season by going 13-3 against non-Horizon League teams, including wins against Gabrielino, Hoover, Arroyo and Keppel.
Alverno lost only two players, one a transfer. Jessica Hamilton, one of the leading hitters in the state, is back for her senior season. Senior Lauren Tunzi is in the middle, senior Alex Overstreet at opposite and junior Asia Chapa at setter. Sophomore Ali Peterson will step into the libero spot.
6. South Pasadena
No one has come close to knocking off La Canada in recent years, but the Tigers could certainly be the team to do it. South Pasadena returns almost all of its starters, including outside hitter Claire Kieffer-Wright, the CIF State high jump champion.
“She’s going to be one of the big big players in this area,” coach Ben Diaz said of his junior outside hitter. “She can take care of games by herself.”
Kieffer-Wright will have help. Senior Jessica Arroyo is back at setter. Senior opposite Jessica Moog returns. Junior Samantha Figueroa will help anchor the front.
7. Gabrielino
The Eagles are young, but used their own summer league to make quite an impression.
Gabrielino graduated only four players, but they were a big part of the Eagles’ decade-long Mission Valley League title streak.
Junior middle Michelle Vuong, senior defender Kelly Ngo and senior outside hitter Sabrina Takeuchi return. So does senior setter Grace Chen.
8. Mayfield
The Prep League has won six consecutive CIF-SS crowns and will be bumped up to a higher division again. The Cubs are responsible for three of those titles and could make a big push for another league crown this season, even though reigning CIF-SS champ Chadwick returns all of its starters.
The Cubs can tout three four-year varsity regulars in Josie Luck, Maggie Dunn and setter Amanda Watkins. Nine seniors return to the team.
“Everything is going according to the plan,” new coach Jon Basilio said. “I’m expecting us to go pretty far this year.”
9. Maranatha
A new coach and a new offense has the Minutemen ready to take aim at Olympic League rival Whittier Christian, which reached the CIF-SS title game last year.
“I’m really excited to see the girls jump on board to what I’m teaching,” coach Leslie Flores said. “They’ve been learning a ton.”
The Minutemen graduated only five players. Senior Skylar McLeod is the returning setter and senior Lauren Holstein is back in the middle. Junior Kendra Logan is also in the middle.
10. Pasadena Poly
The Panthers have been to the CIF-SS championship game the last two years, losing to league rival Chadwick each time.
Poly loses three of its top players from that team, including Star-News Player of the Year Alexis Genske and first-team member Michelle Miller.
“Its hard to replace two seniors who were four-year starters,” coach Steve Beerman said. “But that’s our job and we’re going to do it. We’re looking at the future, not the past.”

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