Four area boys’ volleyball teams — Flintridge Prep, St. Francis, Crescenta Valley and Glendale Adventist Academy — all qualified for the CIF Southern Section playoffs last season. Just St. Francis was able to advance beyond the first round.
With each squad having gained valuable playoff experience, it has left the programs hungry to again try to be a part of the postseason picture this season.
Glendale Adventist Academy and Glendale will have new coaches and Hoover will look to continue reshaping its program.
Here is a closer look at the teams.
A stellar regular season turned into a shocking first-round playoff exit for Flintridge Prep last season. The Rebels (21-4, 8-0 in league) won their sixth straight Prep League championship and appeared set to make a lengthy run in the CIF Southern Section Division III playoffs before being upended by La Cañada in the first round.
Flintridge Prep would like to avoid another early playoff departure.
“We’ll look to see what we can learn from what happened last year,” Flintridge Prep coach Sean Beattie said. “We know we have to move forward and I like what we have. I think we’re confident and we are meshing well.
“We’re returning many of our core players and we’ve done some things, like passing, well. Time will tell.”
Flintridge Prep brings back senior outside hitter AJ Nicassio, who was named the league’s most valuable player for the second straight season after posting 326 kills and 202 digs and earned All-Area recognition.
“AJ is a fantastic all-around player,” Beattie said. “He’s going to be a great leader for our younger players.”
Nicassio will be joined by senior outside hitter Nathan Powell (123 kills last season), senior opposite hitter Luke Stiles, junior libero Kristofer Chang and junior middle blockers Torres Shi and Cole Bernard.
St. Francis enjoyed quite an impressive season in 2018, culminating in 20 wins for the first time in more than a decade and competing in the playoffs for the first time since 2012 under coach Mark Frazee.
St. Francis went 20-11, 6-6 in the Mission League for third place. St. Francis defeated San Gabriel in the first round of the Division II playoffs before falling in the second round to Quartz Hill.
The Golden Knights will return some key athletes, yet figure to be a bit less experienced.
“It’s somewhat of a transition year for us,” Frazee said. “We have some freshmen and juniors who we’d like to see make a difference and contribute.
“I do like where we are right now. If we can stay consistent, then I think we’ll be good.”
Joey Thompson, a senior setter/outside hitter, will be a key returner. Thompson registered 405 assists, 46 kills, 20 blocks and 13 aces to pick up all-league and All-Area honors last season.
The Golden Knights also bring back senior libero Coby Escalano (204 digs) and junior opposite hitter Gus Maltzan.
Crescenta Valley went 19-12, 7-5 in the Pacific League and lost to Bishop Montgomery in the first round of the Division II playoffs.
With a steady core in place, Crescenta Valley coach John Nelson said there’s no reason the Falcons can’t contend for a league title with Burroughs (nine-time defending league champion), Arcadia and Burbank.
“You know going in that league will be very good,” Nelson said. “I’d much rather have a league that’s got a bunch of very good teams in it and be competitive than one that’s not.
“Burroughs is always good and Arcadia should be pretty good, too. We’ll look to make a little longer run in the playoffs.”
The Falcons will rely on senior outside hitter Garo Barsemian, who had 355 kills and 48 aces last season to earn an All-Area recognition. He will be joined by junior setter Austin Boyle (163 kills, 42 blocks and 34 aces), junior middle hitter Brendan Harvey. and junior setter Tristan Kekahuna.
GLENDALE ADVENTIST ACADEMY
Things will look quite different for the Cougars, who lost many of their players to graduation following an appearance in the Division V playoffs a season ago. Glendale Adventist went 6-9 and took second in the Independence League before succumbing to Redlands in the first round of the playoffs.
The Cougars will have a new coach in Chris Lindstadt, who is the school’s athletic director and takes over for Marton Medina.
“We lost quite a few players, so we’ll be rebuilding,” Lindstadt said. “We will have around nine players. Three of our returners played last year, but hardly that much.”
Glendale Adventist, which has made two straight trips to the playoffs, will count on junior middle blocker/outside hitter Jack Canas and junior libero/defensive specialist Andrew Flores.
Glendale Adventist has moved to the Liberty League..
Glendale will begin a new chapter in the program’s history after it finished 9-20, 4-8 in the Pacific League for fifth place last season. The Nitros turn to new coach Marilou Elento, who succeeds Andy Cheng.
Elento looks for the Nitros to continue their development and set some goals.
“Right now, it’s mostly about trying to develop their overall skill in different areas,” Elento said. “So far, I’ve been seeing that and we’ll look to try to make the playoffs.”
Expected to pave the way for Glendale are senior opposite hitter Joseph Elento and sophomore outside hitter Akili Ligons.
Numbers will be low for the Tornadoes, who will field just seven players after going 2-10 overall and in the Pacific League for sixth place last season.
Hoover coach Danny Seranian said the Tornadoes will try to make the best of the situation.
“We won’t have any depth,” Seranian said. “It’s going to come down to conditioning because the players are going to be on the court for most if not all of a match.
“We do have some skill and the players are comfortable with their positions.”