The Bellarmine-Jefferson High girls’ volleyball team achieved two major successes last season, accomplishments no other area squad could claim.
The Guards were the lone local squad to capture a league championship, as they won their fourth straight Santa Fe League title.
In addition, Bell-Jeff advanced to the CIF Southern Section Division IVA championship match. It was the first trip to a CIF final in program history, and the first time a team Guards had advanced past the quarterfinals.
Although the Guards lost a few key players from the 2009 squad to graduation, they still have their share of talented players returning.
“We have a good core of players back,” Coach Miguel Segura said. “We have had some success the past few years, and we are just tying to maintain the reputation we’ve built with the program. Everything looks pretty good for this season.”
It was a good 2009 season all-around, as all four area teams — including Burroughs, Burbank and Providence — qualified for the postseason.
Here is a look at how the teams are shaping up.
The Guards went 19-9 (8-0 in league) a year ago and were defeated by 1-seeded Upland Christian Academy, 25-22, 25-23, 25-23, in the CIF championship match.
Prior to the final, the Guards breezed through the postseason, surrendering just one game. Along with early sweeps against Duarte and Santa Clara, they only had to go to four games to beat Twentynine Palms in the quarterfinals and earned a sweep against Desert Hot Springs in the semifinals.
One of the reasons for that success was the play of Jocelyn Cervantes, a talented outside hitter who returns for her junior season. She had 255 kills and a .460 hitting percentage, 65 aces, 116 digs and 232 assists. For her efforts, she earned All-CIF first-team honors, along with All-Area and all-league accolades.
“She knows we are going to rely on her a lot, and she is going to see the ball a lot this season,” Segura said of Cervantes. “She knows she’s going to have to step up for us and give us the big points when we need them. But I think she’s up for the challenge.”
Also returning for the Guards is junior setter Breanna Padron, who had 101 kills, a .310 hitting percentage, 72 aces, 159 digs and 315 assists to earn all-league first-team honors.
Also returning will be senior libero Sarah Martinez. She will move to the new position, a spot occupied for four years by Kim Van Dyke, who graduated. Sophomore outside hitter Taryn Nelson and senior middle hitter Katelyn Villareal make up the core of the returners.
A newcomer whom Segura said could make an instant impact is freshman setter Danielle Gonzales. She is a product of the highly successful St. Robert Bellarmine volleyball program.
In the quest for their fifth Santa Cruz League title, Segura said his squad should be pushed by St. Anthony.
“St. Anthony played us to five games last year, but we were able to pull it out,” Segura said. “They are going to be a real challenge.”
The Indians (16-11, 12-2) are hitting the floor without Traci Hamanaka, who graduated. Along with being a perennial All-Area and all-league standout libero for Burroughs, she was also named the league’s co-player of the year last season. Hamanaka averaged 22.2 digs a match.
Despite the graduation of some other key players, Coach Edwin Real likes the group that he has in place.
“We have six kids returning from last year,” said Real, whose team finished second in league a year ago to Arcadia. “Some of the players we did lose were pretty good players for us. I’m just hoping we are going to be able to make up for those players we lost.”
Returning for Burroughs will be junior middle blocker Megan Megan Stephenson. Senior outside hitter Amanda Hernandez, junior middle blocker Kathy Henry and junior setter Katarina Emerson are also key returners.
Two transfers who Real said could help the team are junior opposite hitter Tessa Dudley and junior outside hitter Katy Dick.
Competing for the starting libero spot will be a pair of juniors: Chelsea Lefevre and Victoria Santos.
Other players who could contribute are freshman setter Keana Figueroa, sophomore opposite Laura Howard, junior outside hitter Angie Rojas, sophomore outside hitter Tori Adams and senior setter Cynthia Dunn.
In league competition, Real said he expects Arcade to again have talent.
“Arcadia should be good,” he said. “I think they have just about everyone back. CV will probably be good as well, and Burbank will be up there.”
The Bulldogs (13-7, 10-4) have steadily been able to rise in the Pacific League echelon the past few years. After placing fourth in 2009 — and making the playoffs for the first time in seven years — Burbank stepped it up last season and finished third in league.
“We lost five players from last year,” Brown said. “Three of them were impact players for us. This year we have seven seniors, so I’m hoping that we’ll have some experience there.”
One of the Bulldogs’ key returners is senior setter Sarah Tubert. During the summer, she was chosen as one of 14 players on the USA Deaf National Women’s Volleyball Team. She also spent time competing at a high level for her Santa Monica Beach Club travel team.
“Just playing in the matches she did this summer and gaining all that experience is going to benefit her,” Brown said of Tubert.
Also returning are senior outside hitter Danielle Reid and senior opposite Jessica Murphy, who, along with Tubert, will be looked upon to provide the team with leadership, as all three are captains.
Two other key returners will be senior outside hitter Jessica Fish and junior middle hitter Reilly Brennen.
Other players who will be called on to contribute are junior outside hitter/libero Melanie Rains and senior libero Isis Torres.
“We also have three sophomores who could get playing time for us,” Brown said.
Brown said it is a goal to get back to the playoffs, along with staying competitive in the Pacific League.
“We want to keep it going,” she said of the team’s success in recent years. “I heard that Arcadia is good, but I haven’t seen them play. I expect that Burroughs is also going to be good.”
The Pioneers are coming off a year in which they placed third in the Liberty League and make it to the postseason.
Providence did lose its top player, Christine Mallari, to graduation. She was the team’s lone all-league honoree in 2009.
“We did lose Christine, and she was a great player for us,” Providence Coach Josh Eggleston said. “But we have a lot of players coming back from last season, and I think that we are further along now than we were last year.”
The team lost just three seniors to graduation and boast eight seniors — including seven returners — this season.
Leading the way is a group of four captains, which includes senior middle blocker Amber Bartmus, senior utility Shawnee Douglass, senior setter Veronica Ganno and senior outside hitter Cali Polanco.
“Each of those players has a little different leadership skill, and a different way of doing things,” Eggleston said.
Other players who will be starters are junior outside hitter Thalia Alvarez, sophomore setter Janel Adraneda and senior opposite Bronwyn Stewart.
Coming up from the junior varsity team is senior middle CC Boyce.
In the Liberty League, the coach expects Viewpoint to be good.
“Viewpoint is always good,” he said. “And Buckley gave us some problems last year. Also, we had some trouble with Holy Martyrs. If we can win two of three from those teams, we should be fine.”