Sr., Manhattan Beach Mira Costa

* Then: Carico grew up in a family in which everyone plays volleyball, sometimes on a non-regulation court still set up on their front lawn. She earned Bay League MVP honors and was an All-Southern Section pick last season after helping the Mustangs win the Division I-A and state Division I championships. That success followed MVP honors Carico earned while playing in 17-and-under Junior Olympics open competition in the summer of 2004.


* Now: A 5-11 left-hander who used to play the right side and puts up an excellent block, Carico was a member of the U.S. youth national team that traveled to China and placed fourth in international competition last summer. She has committed to USC. Carico helped Mira Costa (9-1) to a runner-up finish in the Las Vegas Durango tournament two weeks ago, and to a victory Tuesday over Huntington Beach Edison. The Mustangs, who fell to Louisville (Ky.) Assumption in three games in the Las Vegas final, hope for another shot at the nation’s top-ranked team during the Mother McAuley/Nike Challenge that begins today in Chicago.

* Quote: “I definitely like being the setter because you pretty much run the game,” Carico said. “You get to decide so much of what happens in a match.”

-- Lauren Peterson




Sr., Agoura

* Then: Played on the junior varsity as a freshman and sophomore, then stepped into a starting varsity role last year, when the Chargers had only one returning player, Danny Polyakov, with varsity experience. He had five goals to help Agoura rally from a two-goal deficit with under two minutes to play to beat Thousand Oaks, 7-5, in overtime. Gross finished as the team’s second-leading scorer and earned second-team All-Marmonte League honors.

* Now: At 5 feet 7 and 145 pounds, Gross is usually one of the smallest players in the pool, especially at the two-meter position. He has taken advantage of the defensive attention paid to Polyakov and emerged as the team’s leading scorer with 25 goals in 13 games. He scored 16 goals in four games last week to lead the Chargers to the San Luis Obispo tournament title, then scored five goals Wednesday in a 13-2 nonleague victory over Malibu. Agoura, ranked No. 5 in Southern Section Division IV, will travel to No. 10 Westlake next Friday.


* Quote: “We’ve had to work with him to make him quicker and more maneuverable and still be able to score goals,” Coach Dustin Litvak said.

-- Dan Arritt