Recently in the Pacific League, the Burroughs High and Claremont boys' volleyball teams have engaged in some epic battles for league supremacy.
The last two years, Indians' Daniel Jacobs and the Wolfpacks' Stephen Zetterberg paced their respective squads, putting up big numbers and enjoying a wealth of success. In the 2013 campaign, Jacobs and Zetterberg shared the Pacific League Player of the Year honor. But Jacobs did graduate with up-upmanship bragging rights over his rival, as Burroughs won the league championship.
However, both players have graduated, and Burroughs and Claremont have had to move on.
"We did lose a lot from last year," Burroughs Coach Joel Brinton said. "And a big part of that was Daniel. But we don't look at it as a rebuilding year, but the guys kind if look at it as a reloading year."
Along with Burroughs, Burbank, Providence and Bellarmine-Jefferson also lost key players to graduation or transfer.
Here is a look at how the teams are shaping up.
Jacobs accounted for a large portion of the Indians' offense last season. The Leader Male Athlete of the Year led the team with 219 kills and 36 aces, to go along with 110 digs and 15 blocks. He ended his career at Burroughs as the program's all-time kill leader with 729.
Jacobs helped the Indians to another prosperous season. Along with a 21-8 record and a share of the league crown — its fourth straight — Burroughs also advanced to the second round of the CIF Southern Section Division II playoffs.
"It takes two players to replace someone like Daniel," Brinton said.
In addition to Jacobs, the Indians also lost three first-team all-league players to graduation.
"With Claremont losing its big player, it will be interesting to see what is going to happen once league rolls around," Brinton said. "We have the horses for sure.
"We are going to have a different team this year. Obviously not having Daniel Jacobs is tough, but it's also nice because for us to be successful we are going to have to have a lot of guys step up for us this year. And all the guys have been working hard to replace that production. But I think we're going to be a lot more balanced."
Setting up that offense will be sophomore Ryan Van Loo, who learned last season under senior first-team all-league setter BJ Lagmay. Also returning is senior libero Danny Casillas (169 digs), a second-team all-league pick a year ago.
Along with that experience, Burroughs also has returning players in senior outside hitters Jonathan Fuentes (58 kills, eight blocks, 18 aces and 104 digs), a second-team all-league player, and Tristan Martin.
One move Brinton has made his year is moving senior all-league honorable-mention player Nick Van Loo (61 kills, 14 blocks and 11 aces) from the middle to opposite.
"Nick has really stepped up his game and we are expecting big things from him," Brinton said.
Also patrolling the middle is 6-foot-6 junior Max Chamberlain, a newcomer.
Under Coach Patrick McMenamin, the Bulldogs have contained to grow and enjoy success since reviving the program in 2012. Last season, Burbank (11-18) went 6-6 in the Pacific League to tie for third with Arcadia. Burbank also qualified for its first CIF Southern Section playoffs.
Like Burroughs, Burbank lost quite a bit to graduation.
"We graduated 10 seniors from last year's team," McMenamin said. "We lost our team MVP, our first-team all-league, our second-team all-league and our honorable mention. So, we have two returning varsity players.
"But a lot of the players on the varsity this year are players who we've groomed in the program since they were freshmen. So most of our varsity is from last year's JV team.
The two returning players for the Bulldogs are senior outside hitter and team captain Justin Saisirikul and 6-4 senior opposite Joseph Servin.
"We are going to rely on Justin for his leadership this season," McMenamin said. "He does a great job at leading on the court and he does the job by leading by example. He is also very consistent."
Some of the newcomers who McMenamin expects to strep up for the Bulldogs are sophomore libero Paul Shim, junior libero Alec Agana and 6-4 junior middle Willie Perryman — whose father, Willie, was a former Burbank football standout.
"The boys had a strong offseason, so we do feel good about the product that we're going to have on the court," McMenamin said.
"Making the playoffs last year for the first time in school history is a start, but I don't want that to be the only goal for this season, or for future Burbank teams."
In the league race, McMenamin said that Burroughs should be the team to beat.
"But after that, I think it's going to be a good fight between a lot of teams," he said. "But I feel like we can compete with anybody."
The Pioneers are coming off a successful 2013 season, one which was anchored by senior Phil Harvey, who graduated.
Behind Harvey, Providence (16-10) was able to claim its first league championship in 13 years, going 9-1. The Pioneers also won their CIF Southern Section Division V first-round match against California Academy of Math and Science, 25-6, 26-24, 23-25, 25-15. Harvey tallied 14 kills in the win.
Harvey averaged 15 kills a match and was named the Liberty League Player of the Year.
Along with the graduation of Harvey, the Pioneers also lost junior middle DJ Cabrera, who transferred to Eagle Rock High.
"With those two guys, 80% of our offense from last year walked out the door," Providence Coach Josh Eggleston said. "That's a lot of offense to try and make up for. Those were our two key guys from last year.
"We are going to have to speed up the offense a bit and become a little more streamlined this season."
Eggleston is hoping that new offense will under smoothly under the direction of returning senior setter Brandon Reyes, a second-team all-league selection.
"The great thing about Brandon is that he doesn't have to learn all the things he had to learn last year as a setter," Eggleston said. "Now we can just work on fine-tuning his technique and making him a better player."
Also returning is junior all-league first-teamer Taylor Saldana, who will move from opposite to the left side, sophomore Kieran McGroarty, who will move from the left side to the middle, sophomore Chris Lingat, who will be on the left side, and senior outside hitter Justin Bicol.
A newcomer the coach said could make an instant impact is 6-5 Ethan Jacobson, who will play in the middle.
"We are really excited about some of our guys who are coming up from the JV team," Eggleston said. "We really do have some good athletes. We're going to be very young with only a few seniors, but there is a lot of playing time to be had. The future looks good for our program."
In the league race, Eggleston said he is hoping his squad will be up there with the top teams.
"I think Pacifica Christian is going to be good, depending on who they graduated" he said. "Oakwood is kind of up in the air, so we will have to wait and see about them."
Brandon Johnson takes over the program from longtime coach Miguel Segura, who moved on rival St. Genevieve after heading the Guards for 11 seasons.
Last season, Bell-Jeff struggled, going 1-11 and finishing fourth in the five-team Santa Fe League with a 1-5 record.
Johnson said in his first season he is fielding a team with a lot of new faces.
"We have a lot of new guys, which is fine," said Johnson, who coached at Canyon Country Canyon, Saugus and College of the Canyons before coming to Bell-Jeff. "In boys' volleyball, especially at our school, I'm looking for kids who have athleticism and kids who are willing to learn, and I can work with that.
"We have a good, solid group of three returning players who are hopefully going to lead our team and an upcoming freshman who should be good as well. We are hoping to get some basketball players off of that team because they have some very good players."
The returning group includes senior setter Colbert Orta.
"It's always great to have your setter returning, so you don't have to start from scratch," Johnson said. "To me, that is the most important position on the court, so having someone with experience, who has been there before, is so important."
Also returning is senior outside hitter Chris Coquia and junior utility Eric Davidians, who could see time at libero or at outside hitter.
The freshman who Johnson said should be able to step right into action is Jarred Malone, a club player who could see time in the middle.
"We have a lot of different talent and a lot of new guys," Johnson said. "We just want to get better as a team and hopefully we can enjoy some success. We just want to reward the kids who are out there learning and trying to get better."