Women's Volleyball: Lots of talent at Sage

NEWPORT COAST — Members of the Sage Hill School girls' volleyball team stayed on campus late on Friday night. It's probably not the best idea when the team has to rise at 4:30 the next morning to catch a flight to Hawaii.

The team stayed up for a good reason, though.

Before Sage Hill traveled to compete against some of the top high school programs in the country at the prestigious Ann Kang Invitational in Honolulu, it played host to some of the best players in the world.

The U.S. women's national volleyball team held an intrasquad scrimmage at Sage Hill on Friday. The Americans showcased their second team in the Red-Blue scrimmage, as the first team is competing at the FIVB World Grand Prix in Serbia.

First or second team, it didn't matter to Sage Hill Coach Dan Thomassen and his players.

"This is the first time we've had anything like this here," Thomassen said. "When they asked us to host them, it was a no-brainer. It's great for our girls to see the best volleyball players in the world. Specifically, I asked some of our girls to watch certain players at certain positions."

Players like Maddy Abbott, an incoming junior at Sage Hill, followed Jenna Hagglund. Just like Hagglund, Abbott plays setter.

Hagglund is one of those players who at any minute can join the U.S. team's top team. She traveled with the No. 1 team during the FIVB Word Grand Prix preliminary round action in Brazil, before coming home.

Hagglund played for the Red team, coached by Tom Pestolesi, a former Estancia High coach and Newport Harbor assistant. Pestolesi helps train the U.S. women's national team players that stay behind at the team's training center in Anaheim.

"He trusts me to not mess things up," Pestolesi said of Karch Kiraly, the U.S. women's national head coach who led the Americans to a sweep of Algeria in Serbia on Friday.

The Red team didn't do so well under Pestolesi, as the Blue won three of the four sets played. While officials kept score, the Blue winning 27-25, 25-14, 25-17, 18-25, Pestolesi said the scrimmage was much needed for all the players.

"It was really neat for these kids because they've been training so much and they haven't had a chance to compete in front of people and put a USA jersey on, and that's what Karch wanted to make sure they got, especially the newer kids," said Pestolesi, who's the women's volleyball coach at Irvine Valley College. "You could only [train] for so long before you get a little bored."

There weren't many dull moments for the Sage Hill players watching the action, or the decent crowd that attended the scrimmage put on at the last minute.

Dan Glenn, the girls' volleyball coach at Newport Harbor since 1986, showed up to support Pestolesi and the national team.

Pestolesi and Glenn go way back. The two graduated from Huntington Beach High in the late 1970s. Pestolesi even named one of his kids after Glenn.

The other Dan in the Sage Hill gym was Thomassen.

When the scrimmage ended around 9 p.m., Thomassen gathered his players. He talked to them about Saturday's travel plans to the Ann Kang Invitational, which runs from Aug. 15-17.

"It's probably the highest tournament we've played, and even though it's a summer tournament, we're taking it very seriously and we want to finish well," said Thomassen, whose Sage Hill program has reached the CIF Southern Section finals in each of the past two seasons.

"Our first match is actually against Huntington [Beach], so we're going, you know, 3,000 miles to play Huntington, which is 15 miles away or less [from Sage Hill]."

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