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Teams are friendly rivals

Since the local high school boys’ volleyball community involves just

two teams, the area’s two private schools have become friendly

rivals.

In less than two weeks, Providence and Bellarmine-Jefferson highs

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will get their first look at one another in the 10th annual

Providence Tournament.

“We are hoping it is going to be Providence against Bell-Jeff in

the semifinals of the tournament,” Pioneer Coach Andrew Bencze said.

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“I think that would be nice for the community and for both programs.”

Although the tourney will serve as the beginning of the season for

the Guards, the Pioneers have two matches next week to kick off their

campaign.

Here is a look at how the season is shaping up:

PROVIDENCE

With a young team, Bencze realizes his Pioneers (17-7 last season)

aren’t going to get much CIF Southern Section Division IV recognition

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early on. But as the season progresses, the coach said his team will

likely be a force in the division.

“The division has really changed this season and it has become a

real small-schools’ division,” said Bencze, whose team finished

second behind Calabasas Viewpoint in the Liberty League last season.

“If we progress like I think we will, I expect us to be among the top

five in the division.”

Heading the quest will be 6-foot-2 senior outside hitter Ian

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Breckenridge-Jackson. Jackson -- who is also a standout basketball

player -- has great athletic and leaping ability.

Also playing outside hitter will be senior returner Francis

Sanchez (5-11), who along with junior setter Tony Boucher (5-10)

should give Providence some stability.

In the middle, a pair of freshmen -- Alex Knopper (6-2) and Ryan

Bartolome (5-11) will get a chance to shine.

“I have never had two freshmen starting on varsity,” Bencze said.

“But these two guys are great athletes and they will definitely help

us.”

Sophomore Martin Banda (5-10) should give the team some depth at

outside hitter.

In the battle for a league championship, Bencze said he expects

Viewpoint and L.A. Windward -- both ranked teams -- to pose the

biggest threats.

BELL-JEFF

Former all-league standout and 1996 graduate Miguel Segura returns

to his alma mater to take over the coaching reigns.

Although Segura said he doesn’t have a lot of returning players,

the team has a nice mix of veteran and new talent.

“We are going to be inexperienced, with only three returning

starters,” said Segura, who inherits a team that won just four

matches last season. “We are still working things out, but we are

looking for the positives and I think we can double the number of

wins.”

The cornerstone of the Guards is junior Brendon Doyle, a 6-foot-3,

225-pound force who is also a star in basketball and football, where

he earned All-CIF Southern Section honors.

Also returning is senior Luis Zatiana (5-8) -- in his fourth

season on varsity -- who will play in the back row, and senior Vahe

Issai (6-0), who will play middle blocker.

A freshman whom Segura will be counting on to contribute is Joseph

Oshila (5-8), as well as junior middle blocker Vaz Mekhsian (5-10).

With his lineup, Segura said the Guards should contend for a

playoff spot.

“I expect L.A. Cathedral to be the top team in league,” he said.

“But I really think we can make the playoffs.”


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