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Girls’ Volleyball Preview: Holy Family, St. Monica Academy look to defend league championships

Photo Gallery: Holy Family vs. St. Monica Academy girls’ volleyball
Holy Family’s Meghann Velasquez, a reigning All-CIF selection, will look to help the Gaels capture a second straight Horizon League championship in 2019.
(Tim Berger / Staff Photographer)

A season ago, four of the eight area girls’ volleyball squads qualified for the CIF Southern Section playoffs.

Holy Family and St. Monica Academy were the only two programs to win league championships. Holy Family and St. Monica don’t have any plans to relinquish their hold of the Horizon and International leagues, respectively.

Flintridge Sacred Heart and Crescenta Valley appeared in the postseason in 2018, while Flintridge Prep, Glendale Adventist Academy, Glendale and Hoover didn’t make the cut.

St. Monica, Flintridge Sacred Heart and Glendale Adventist will have new coaches in 2019.

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Here is a closer look at the teams.

HOLY FAMILY

Winning another Horizon League title is at the top of the agenda for the Gaels, who split the league crown with L.A. Sacred Heart of Jesus last season. It marked the first championship for Holy Family since 2011.

Holy Family might be the favorite since it will return its nucleus, though it lost a key player who transferred to a league rival.

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“We have a lot of seniors and they are definitely hungry to repeat,” Holy Family coach Robert Bringas said. “We’re learning about what we need to work on in order to do that.

“We are a little bit short in height up at the net, so we’ll have to be on point with our defense and passing. Our middle blockers will need to be a little bit faster.”

Holy Family finished 19-14, 9-1 in league before falling to Villanova Prep in the first round of the CIF Southern Section Division VIII playoffs last season. The Gaels are now in Division VII after the CIF Southern Section realigned the divisions in May.

The Gaels will return senior outside hitter Meghann Velasquez, who finished with a team-leading 307 kills and 573 digs en route to being selected to the All-CIF Southern Section Division VIII first team. It marked the second straight season that Velasquez, who contributed 78 aces, earned the honor.

Also looking to make an impact for Holy Family are senior middle blocker Maely Lopez, senior libero Amy Camacho and junior setter Gabriela Martinez. The Gaels lost junior libero Kaylee Hernandez, who transferred to Bishop Conaty-Loretto.

ST. MONICA ACADEMY

Longtime coach Darren Bradley returns following a one-year hiatus. Bradley piloted the Crusaders to a CIF Southern Section Division V-A championship during his last stint in 2015.

Under Bradley, St. Monica will look to win another International League championship. The Crusaders finished 12-6, 8-0 in league and lost to South El Monte in a CIF Southern Section Division VIII first-round contest last season. The Crusaders will stay in Division VIII this season.

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“It’s good to be back coaching and it’s mostly a new crew,” Bradley said. “There’s just three players still here from when I last coached.

“We’ll try to win league again and I’d love to win at least one playoff match.”

The Crusaders will rely on junior outside hitter Elizabeth McCall, junior middle blocker Karinna Turicchi and sophomore libero Clara Collins.

FLINTRIDGE SACRED HEART ACADEMY

Things will look a bit different, as the Tologs have brought in Hannah Tedrow, who succeeds Ernest Banaag.

Flintridge Sacred Heart finished 25-15, 3-5 in the Mission League for fourth place before falling to San Clemente in the second round of the CIF Southern Section Division II playoffs last season.

Tedrow comes to Flintridge Sacred Heart after spending last season at Westridge.

“Things are going great because we have a group of players who are getting better each day,” Tedrow said. “It will help them when there’s a tough time during a match and they can step up to the challenge and stay hungry.

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“We like the group we have and there’s a good core here to help lead the way.”

Flintridge Sacred Heart will be led by junior setter Ellie Lund, junior outside hitter Emma Willingham, sophomore outside hitter Peyton DeJardin and sophomore libero Caitlin Du.

Flintridge Sacred Heart will stay in Division I/II.

CRESCENTA VALLEY

Coach Matt Simons begins his second season with the Falcons, who had a successful campaign in 2018.

Crescenta Valley finished 23-12-1, 9-5 in league to tie for third with Burbank in the Pacific League. Crescenta Valley lost to Downey in a CIF Southern Section Division IV first-round match.

Simons will look to continue moving the program in the right direction with the return of senior outside hitter Lizzy Kerman, senior setter Isabella Doom, junior middle blocker Emma Glaza and junior setter Cadie Carlson.

“There’s that commitment to getting better each year and I’m definitely seeing it with this group,” said Simons, whose team will be in Division III. “I saw plenty of tremendous growth over the summer and we are looking for that to help us compete with some of the top teams in our league such as Burroughs, Arcadia and Burbank.

“We realize that we are going to have to earn it in order to get to that next level in league. We just have to be consistent.”

FLINTRIDGE PREP

Flintridge Prep will look to qualify for the postseason for the first time since 2008. The pieces might be in place for the Rebels to end an 11-year playoff drought.

“It’s a chance for the group we have to step up and show what they can do,” Flintridge Prep coach Sean Beattie said. “We have some players who will be four-year starters and we can surround them with a good group of younger players.

“If we play hard, then we can compete with just about anybody in our league. Pasadena Poly will be a very good team and it can be up for grabs with Chadwick, Westridge, Mayfield and us.”

Flintridge Prep went 12-8, 5-7 in league for fifth place in the Prep League last season.

The Rebels will shift from Division VI to V. The Rebels return senior outside hitter Jada Gritton, senior setter Ani Bernardi, senior libero Ellen Chang and senior middle blocker Kaitlyn Chen.

GLENDALE

The Nitros finished 11-14, 4-10 in the Pacific League for sixth place last season. Glendale will be in Division IV after spending last season in Division V.

Glendale will have a new coach in Janssen Elento, who takes over for Jeffrey Thai.

“We want to improve on our spot in league from last season and we think we can do that,” Elento said. “We’re getting down the basic skills so that we can play the right way as a team. They know their capabilities and they are well conditioned.”

Glendale will be paced by senior middle blocker/outside hitter Jennifer Ser-Manukyan and senior outside hitter Erica Kroll.

GLENDALE ADVENTIST ACADEMY

Glendale Adventist will have its third coach is as many seasons as Aura Luna-Escudero takes over for Sabrina Shahbandeh, who replaced Gared Luquet after Luquet led the Cougars to a CIF Southern Section Division IX championship in 2017.

The Cougars went 12-9, 1-7 in the Liberty League for last place in 2018. Glendale Adventist will be in Division VII for a second season in a row.

Glendale Adventist will have just six players on the team this season, led by senior libero Gaby Diaz, junior middle blocker Sively Parra, sophomore outside hitter Alyssa Dixon and freshman outside hitter Navaeh Tillett.

The Cougars lost standout junior setter Elyse Knipschild, who transferred to La Sale.

“It’s about being able to work together, communicate and pass better,” Luna-Escudero said. “We’ll see how we hold up with just six players.”

HOOVER

The Tornadoes will seek improvement after going 3-17, 2-12 in the Pacific League for seventh place a season ago.

Hoover coach Dan Seranian said the Tornadoes will look to surpass last season’s win total with a group that’s gained some more experience.

“I think we are looking a little better and we’ll have more juniors and seniors,” said Seranian, whose team will stay in Division V. “I think we’ll continue to see more improvement with each match.”

Hoover will be led by senior libero Emily Nadimyan, junior libero Tatyana Davidian and sophomore outside hitter/opposite Kathryn Marks.


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