For the past three years, Burroughs High has been the premier boys’ volleyball program in the city.
The Indians have won or shared the last three Pacific League championships. In addition, the team advanced to the CIF Southern Section Division III semifinals in 2012 and the championship contest in 2011.
With a solid group of returners this season, don’t look for the Indians to shoot for anything less than league and CIF crowns.
“The older guys who have been around are definitely into keeping the tradition going,” Burroughs Coach Joel Brinton said. “And what’s nice is that they’re teaching that to the younger guys.”
While Burroughs has been thriving, Burbank is continuing to build its program, as the Bulldogs embark on their third season of play. At Bellarmine-Jefferson, the Guards will field a small squad and Providence looks for success in a revamped league with a new-look squad.
The Indians fell a bit short of their goal of making it back to the divisional championship last season, as they were eliminated in the semifinal round of the playoffs. The team also lost the final match of the regular season, forcing Burroughs to share the Pacific League crown with Claremont. It was the second time in three years the Indians ended up co-league champions with the Wolfpack.
Despite sharing the championship, Burroughs (21-5) again had a successful season.
The Indians did lose some talent to graduation, namely co-league player of the year Robby Rutecki (97 kills, 160 digs, 25 blocks and 31 aces) and first-team all-league player Ike Nwachie (217 kills and 65 blocks). But the team does have a wealth of quality players returning.
“If we can commit to the effort, and we can put in the work, the outlook for us looks very good,” Brinton said. “The returners know what is expected of them and they are aware of the standards that have been set.”
Leading the group of returners is senior all-league outside hitter Daniel Jacobs. Last season, Jacobs set a new school record for kills in a season with 264, besting his own mark of 253 set in 2011. In addition, he had 101 digs, 25 blocks and 47 aces.
“He is learning what he has to do to become more of a complete player,” Brinton said of Jacobs. “He has to really focus on his passing and other aspects of his game.”
Also returning are senior setter BJ Lagmay and senior outside hitter Daniel Marbach. Lagmay tallied 594 assists to go along with 25 aces, 58 digs, 12 blocks and 22 kills and Marbach set a school record with 61 aces and also had 83 digs, 112 kills and 11 blocks.
Senior middle Shayne Beamer is also expected to be an impact player. Two newcomers who Brinton has high praise for are junior middles Nick Vander Loo and Dalton Burroughs.
Brinton said he has a group of players competing for the libero and defensive specialist positions on the team.
With Claremont returning co-league most valuable player Stephen Zetterberg, Brinton expects a tough time against the Wolfpack.
“They will be good for sure,” he said. “It has become a good rivalry when we play them. But each team in league will provide a different challenge for us.”
Although they didn't make the playoffs a year ago, the Bulldogs had a respectable year in their first season back on the varsity level, placing fifth in league with an 8-15 record.
Under coach Patrick McMenamin, the interest in the boys’ volleyball program has been growing each season. In fact, the coach said he had 71 individuals try out for the various Bulldogs teams. With the increased numbers, McMenamin said he would like to see the program take the next step and qualify for the playoffs.
“I’m really pleased with the popularity of the sport since we started a few years ago,” McMenamin said. “But it’s time that we increased our quality of play.
“We will have a lot of seniors and they started three years ago with the program when they were sophomores.”
The team will have two setters in seniors Ryan Garcia and Jason Gomez, whom McMenamin said will share playing time. Also returning for the Bulldogs will be junior opposite John You, senior outside hitters Derian Blandon and Justin Saisirikul and senior middle blockers Elijah Cowart, Paolo Fabregar and Joshua Wright.
The team will also have two liberos in seniors Jack Dagher and Mario Hernandez.
“The two will be battling at that position,” McMenamin said.
While hoping to qualify for one of the automatic playoff spots from the Pacific League, McMenamin said there is little doubt where the strength in league will lie.
“I think we’re going to be competing with a few schools for the final two playoff spots,” he said. “We feel that is attainable this year.
“It’s going to be Burroughs and Claremont competing for the league championship. They are both loaded again and they have good coaching. We had a preseason tournament recently with 24 teams from all over Southern California, and in the finals it was Burroughs and Claremont.”
The Pioneers (14-10) remained in the running for a share of the Liberty League crown until the final regular season game last season. Despite losing to champion Viewpoint, 25-20, 25-13, 25-20, the Pioneers finished as runner-up.
Providence did lose its share of players to graduation, as six seniors moved on.
“Along with the ones who graduated, we have some kids who decided that maybe volleyball wasn’t for them and they didn’t want to come out for the team,” Providence Coach Josh Eggleston said. “So, we only have basically two returners from last year. It’s almost a whole new team.
“But the good thing is that we have some good young players, both up from the JV team and players who are new to the program.”
Returning is senior middle Aaron Dizon and senior defensive specialist Robert Tolentino.
The team should also be bolstered by the return of outside hitter Phil Harvey, who didn’t play last season. As a sophomore, Harvey earned all-league accolades and helped pace the Pioneers to the Division V quarterfinals.
“It’s definitely nice having Phil back,” Eggleston said.
Newcomers who could make instant impacts are junior setter Brandon Reyes and sophomore middle DJ Reyes, a transfer from Eagle Rock.
With Viewpoint out of the Liberty League, Eggleston said a title is up for grabs.
“It’s really a toss-up,” he said. “It’s going to be interesting for sure.”
The Guards (4-14-1) will field a relatively thin squad. But it would have been even smaller if junior setter Colbert Orta had decided not to come out for the team. Orta, who is involved in science projects that take up a good deal of his time, will spend his share of time with the Bell-Jeff squad.
“He’s a smart kid and he’s going to MIT,” Bell-Jeff Coach Miguel Segura said. “So his science studies are very important to him. We’re not sure exactly how much time he will be able to devote to the team, but any time is better than none.
“Having him in there makes a lot of difference. That means I don’t have to train a new setter and we know he can handle the duties.”
Also returning for the Guards is junior Brandon Benites, who has been moved from the middle to the outside. He will be joined by senior all-purpose Chris Coquia and sophomore libero Eric Davidians, who is coming back after suffering a broken tailbone last season.
“Other than that, we have some younger players,” Segura said.
In Santa Fe League competition, Segura said he expects Salesian and Vistamar to field strong teams.