END OF AN ERA?: South Pasadena will look to end La Canada’s Rio Hondo League streak today.
Staff file photo by Keith Birmingham
By Keith Lair, SGVN
The La Canada High School girls volleyball team has been the dominant force in the Rio Hondo League for more than a decade.
The Spartans have won 58 consecutive league matches and are 174-6 in games since their last defeat, in 2006.
The young, injury-plagued Spartans will get an extreme test in today’s league opener at South Pasadena at 3:30 p.m.
“It is open,” South Pasadena coach Ben Diaz said of the league race. “We’re going to try and take their spot.
“We should be able to do some damage and we can definitely beat them.”
The Spartans have yet to have three-year varsity member Katie Pierce on the court this season. Four-year starter Micaela Anderson recently injured her ankle and did not play in an Orange County tournament last week.
La Canada did not win a game in that tournament and enters league play an uncharacteristic 3-7.
“With or without their players, we’re still going for kills,” Diaz said. “It does not matter who is there. They may be down in a lot of positions, but they still have the three big hitters.”
South Pasadena is off to a 3-3 start, certainly not the best Diaz would have liked to have happened. The Tigers were ousted from the Arcadia tournament because, Diaz said, players left mid-tournament because of club soccer practice.
“It is not exactly where I want us to be at,” he said. “It will take one more year.”
San Marino and Monrovia have had optimistic starts and could challenge the Spartans, ranked 10th in the CIF-Southern Section Division 2AA poll. Monrovia, 7-4, is ranked 11th and South Pasadena and San Marino, 6-3, are unranked.
“The way we have been playing, we can beat anybody (in league),” Diaz said.
Diaz likes the improvement of junior middle blocker Claire Kieffer-Wright.
“She can do things quickly to get points,” he said. “Her blocking is better. She knows the game a little better. It’s just a matter to get the ball to her.”
That means setter Jessica Arroyo has to get her the ball. And when opponents team up on the state’s high jump champion, Arroyo can set to junior Samantha Figueroa or sophomore Sophia Hathaway.
MOVING ON UP
First it was a summer tournament in Anaheim.
Gladstone did not beat Harvard-Westlake, Arcadia or Elsinore. But the Gladiators took some games.
“We’ve done better than expected,” coach Jeff Divine said. “We did not won those games, but we were close. The girls realized that if they can compete against teams in higher divisions that they can win the easier matches like against teams in our division.”
Then the Gladiators, 10-2, opened Montview League competition with a four-game victory over La Puente, which is seeking a fifth consecutive league title.
“We’ve been very strong with our consistency and ball control,” Divine said. “We found hitters for more balance.”
Gladstone has won three matches since beating La Puente. The Gladiators are ranked fourth in the CIF-SS 4A poll and La Puente is eighth.
“Now we can contend for the 4A tile,” Divine said. “Gladstone never contends for any title. We knew we could be good, and after we lost the first game (to La Puente), the girls have really been confident.”
Gladstone has done it with a 5-foot-2 outside hitter and a lot of help. Melissa Jacob has a 45.9 kill percentage and has served 45 aces.
“She has pretty good hops an works hard to get as good as she has,” Divine said.” She’s developed confidence and it’s carried over to the team.”
The Gladiators play Azusa tonight before meeting La Puente on Oct. 9 in the Gladstone gym. The teams shared the league title in ’09.