When The Bellarmine-Jefferson High girls' volleyball team was struggling during the early portion of the season, Coach Miguel Segura still had hope.
The coach figured his team would fight out of its funk in time to capture its sixth straight Santa Cruz League championship.
The Guards not only won the league crown, they did so without dropping a match in league play. Bell-Jeff finished 8-0 in league Tuesday with a 25-21, 25-13, 25-22, victory against host St. Anthony.
"I knew that sooner or later the girls would come around and start playing like I know that they could," said Segura, whose squad increased its unbeaten league streak to 44. "Our goal at the beginning of the season was to win another league championship, and we were able to do that."
Under Segura, Bell-Jeff (11-6-2) has the longest league-title winning streak of any team, in any sport, in the city.
Against St. Anthony, All-CIF Southern Section middle blocker Jocelyn Cervantes had 13 kills and 12 digs. Teammate Taryn Nelson had 10 kills and Amanda Maalouf contributed 32 assists.
"We're almost to where I want us to be," said Segura, a Bell-Jeff graduate. "I won't say we're completely there yet, but we have definitely improved."
In early-season matches, the Guards struggled at times after the loss of some key players from last year's team and the addition of athletes who were playing volleyball for the first time.
Next up for Bell-Jeff, ranked No. 5 in CIF Southern Section Division IV-A, is the playoffs, as the pairings will be announced today. Last season, the Guards made it to the division semifinals and in 2009 advanced to the first championship contest in program history.
"We have had some pretty good playoff runs the last few years," Segura said. "We are hoping to have another run this year, and maybe we can win it all. We are looking forward to CIF."