GLENDALE — This season won't be without some changes for the seven area girls' volleyball programs.
Crescenta Valley High, Glendale and Hoover have moved down a division in CIF, Glendale Adventist Academy will call a new league home and Flintridge Prep is moving up in division as it finds itself in the somewhat unfamiliar, but entirely welcome, scenario of looking to build on a playoff season.
And, there's been some transition on the sidelines, as well, with three programs making offseason coaching changes.
Holy Family is returning Robert Bringas, who was successful in his last stint with the Gaels, Anne Arlie replaces Shelli Orlandini at Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy and Steven Uememoto begins a new era for the Falcons, who bid farewell to the area's longest-tenured coach, 13-year veteran Jennifer Kunz Ryan.
Arlie, who has been a varsity assistant and lower-level coach at Sacred Heart for the past five years, inherits the area's most highly-regarded program, one which made two CIF semifinals appearances and one trip to the CIF finals during Orlandini's five years at the helm.
Most recently, the team advanced to the second round of the CIF Southern Section Division 1-AA playoffs.
Senior outside hitter Camille Coffey, a four-year starter, is the clearest remaining link to those past teams and will be the main weapon in the Tologs' arsenal as they first aim to navigate the Mission League, where nemesis Harvard-Westlake has been dominant for the last two seasons.
"It's always fun to watch Camille play," Arlie said.
Arlie's first order of business will be to sort out the Tologs' best lineup from a group of returners such as setter Alessandra Orlandini and a crop of varsity newcomers.
"I'm very excited about it," Arlie said of her first season as a varsity head coach. "I think we're going to surprise a lot of people. I know the attitude within the team is very good and that, mixed with a high skill level, is just going to make us even better.
"I think we're going to have a really good year. I think we'll be a force to be reckoned with."
Uememoto also comes from an assistant coaching background within CV and will rely on some of the same players that Kunz Ryan did in the team's 2009 season, which ended in the first round of the Division 2-AA postseason.
"I think we have a better chance of moving on in the playoffs and … hopefully win league," Uememoto said. "These girls went through a lot with the coaching change and everything, so I think they're ready to take on the challenge."
Senior and junior outside hitters Leah Gagliardi and Payton Wheeler and senior setter Ashley McFadden comprise the Falcons' core of returners.
"I had the girls write down their goals for the season and a lot of them wrote down they wanted to win league and go past the first round of the playoffs," said Uememoto, whose team was fourth last year in the Pacific League, which has moved down to Division 2-A. "That's a big goal for them, I think they want to make sure they can do that."
Bringas ushered in the Gaels' current run of four straight playoff appearances when he led the team to back-to-back postseasons in 2006-07. After a two-year hiatus, he will aim to keep the run going and take a shot at the Horizon League title with a group led by senior setter Rebecca Sanchez and senior middle Valerie Dominguez.
"I am excited about returning to the Gaels volleyball program this year after two years away," Bringas said. "The girls look very good this year. We have a strong junior class and senior leadership."
Flintridge Prep made the playoffs for the first time since 2005 last year after finishing fourth in the Prep League.
Things won't get any easier for the Rebels this year, as they are moving up to Division 3-AA and adjust to the loss of top hitters Marin Seifert and Morgan Brown.
"In losing Marin and Morgan Brown, we lost about 70% of our offense from last year," Beattie said. "That's what we're really focusing upon this year — where we're going to make up that offense — but we've always been a very strong defensive team."
Setter Casey Meurer and libero Tori Glebocki, both seniors, are the top returners, but Beattie said that everyone will get a chance to contribute as he tries to find the right combinations on the court.
"Last year was a good taste of success, especially for the returners that are coming back," said Beattie, who expects Mayfield, Pasadena Poly and Chadwick to once again top the league hierarchy. "They can see that now we can do it, we can compete with the other girls in our league.
"[This year] it's going to be a fight, just like it has in the last few years, between Westridge, us, Rio [Hondo Prep] and Webb for that last playoff spot, but if we can play the kind of defense we're capable of, we could give those top teams some trouble and that's all you can really hope for."
Looking to improve after missing the playoffs last season are Glendale, Hoover and Glendale Adventist.
"We're actually a fairly young team," said Nitros Coach Jennifer Vo, who does have returning seniors April Reed and Trish Nubla. "We have a lot of new players and I have a few returners I'm hoping will be able to lead my team.
"We just need a little work on teamwork, but other than that I think we'll be OK."
Both the Tornadoes and the Cougars won just two matches last season.
"I think this year will be a solid year for us," said Hoover Coach Charles Min, who will rely on a core of four seniors led by outside hitter April Melgar. "We've gotten some solid talent on the team along with a few returners who look to make strong contributions.
"We've gotten some great young players who look to play big roles for us this year."
Glendale Adventist has a young team led by sophomore middle Andrea Blake.
"We do have a better shot," Coach Bianka Tulgar said. "It all depends on how soon they connect together and play as a team.
"I don't anticipate we're going to do any worse [than last year], we can only do better."