The Burroughs High and Bellarmine-Jefferson girls’ volleyball teams both lost a key player to graduation this past season. Both players earned All-CIF Southern Section honors and helped their squads win championships in their respective leagues.
Likewise, Providence also lost a solid group to graduation.
In contrast, Burbank graduated just one athlete from a year ago, and the Bulldogs have almost their entire squad back.
Here is a closer look at how the teams are shaping up.
Megan Stephenson was Burroughs’ go-to player in 2011, as she was voted the Pacific League’s Player of the Year and earned All-CIF and All-Area selections. Stephenson had 337 kills and averaged 16 kills a match. In addition, she tallied 117 digs and 27 aces.
The Indians (19-4) had a successful season with Stephenson leading the way during her senior season. Burroughs went undefeated in the Pacific League at 14-0, winning its first crown in four years.
“We not only lost Megan from last year, but we lost about half of our team,” Burroughs Coach Edwin Real said. “But the good thing is that we get half the team back.”
“With Megan gone, it just means we’re going to do some things differently this season and try and involve everybody.”
Returning for the Indians are senior middle Laura Howard, junior middle Caitlin Cottrell, junior setter Keana Figueroa, junior libero Daniela Gonzalez, senior opposite Autim Kanoho and senior outside hitter Tori Adams.
New to the team are junior setter Katie Rutecki and freshman outside hitter Danielle Ryan.
In league, Real said he expects tough competition to come from Acadia and Burbank.
“Once you have the league title at your house, you always want to keep it there,” Real said.
The lone player lost to graduation for the Bulldogs was senior all-league middle Reilly Brennan.
“We had a good summer and the girls are looking good out there,” Burbank Coach Sarah Brown said. “The fact that we lost just one player from last year is good.
“They are all working toward the same goal and they all know what is expected of them.”
Last season, the Bulldogs went 12-5 and placed third in the Pacific League. They also won their Division II-A playoff opener against Xavier Prep.
Leading the returning players is senior all-league middle/opposite Stephanie Eskander. She tallied 189 kills, 56 aces and 44 blocks in 2011.
“She is a real leader,” Brown said of Eskander. “She gets her kills and blocks on the court, but what is great about her is that she’s just a natural leader, on and off the court. She even sends all the other girls texts before our games.”
The team’s group of returners also includes all-league senior libero Stephanie Lin, all-league senior setter Tyler Brooks, senior middle Sharon Youn and senior opposite Jamie Gonzalez
“It’s always a goal to win league,” Brown said. “But ultimately we really want to continue to grow the program. We just want to get better every year.
“In league, I expect Burroughs and Arcadia to be tough.”
The Guards (14-7-2) advanced to the CIF Division IV-A quarterfinals in 2011, losing to No. 1-seeded Hemet in a dogfight, 21-25, 25-16, 25-27, 25-14,15-8. The Guards also secured their sixth straight Santa Cruz League title.
Senior outside hitter Jocelyn Cervantes was a driving force for Bell-Jeff. Cervantes, who earned her third All-CIF Division IV-A accolade, her second straight league player-of-the-year honor and her fourth All-Area award, had to overcome the struggle of having to rely on a new setter last season.
During her four-year tenure, Bell-Jeff won four straight league titles, posted a 66-25-2 record, advanced to the playoff quarterfinals twice, the semifinals once and the Division IV-A championship in 2009, all under Coach Miguel Segura.
With Cervantes gone, Segura said other players are going to have to step up.
“You just don’t replace a player like Jocelyn,” he said. “We relied on her heavily the last few years and we don’t have her to rely on this season. We are going to have to spread things around and hopefully make up for that production.”
Stepping up is returning senior outside hitter Taryn Nelson. Last season, Nelson had 171 kills, 64 aces, 121 digs and 22 assists.
Also returning is senior outside hitter Natalie Bravo, junior libero Samantha Casarez, junior setter Amanda Malloof and senior middle Mariah Bankhead. New to the squad is junior middle Brianna Hillo.
“We want to make it eight in a row in league,” Segura said. “But we know St. Anthony is going to be tough.”
The Pioneers will get a little relief in the Liberty League this season with the departure of powerhouse Viewpoint.
“With Viewpoint gone, that makes the league a little more manageable,” Pioneers Coach Josh Eggleston said. “We were talking to the girls about the possibility of winning a league title this season and our philosophy is ‘Why not us?’ We feel like we should contend.”
The Pioneers are coming off a season in which they went 8-11 and finished third in the Liberty League.
Returning to the team is senior outside hitter Janel Adraneda. This is the fourth year on the varsity squad for the two-time all-league selection.
“She was an all-league player for us last year and we look for her to help lead us this season as well,” Eggleston said.
Also among the returners are sophomore setter Jenny Nardoni and senior outside hitter Bea Yosuico.
New players Eggleston hopes will contribute are sophomores Olivia Menke and Megan Mai.
“We are going to start four sophomores,” Eggleston said.