Striving for net gains

Normally, it would be a burden for a team to lose its best player to graduation.

Fortunately for the Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy volleyball team, it has plenty of veterans who have multiple years of experience competing at the varsity level.

The Tologs lost standout Camille Coffey, who led the team with 241 kills and added 162 digs en route to being named the All-Area Player of the Year and the Mission League's co-Most Valuable Player last season. However, in an effort to fill the large void left by her departure, the Tologs have players capable of filling in where needed across the court.

"Camille will be missed and you are not going to replace her," Sacred Heart second-year Coach Anne Arlie said. "We still have a talented team.

"We now want to use that talent that we have and spread out the responsibilities so we don't have to rely on one player."

The Tologs, who placed second in league last season, will bring back senior setter Alessandra Orlandini, senior middle blocker Katherine Rubschlager, senior outside hitter Drew Washington and senior defensive specialist Shelby Tom.

Orlandini earned All-Area second-team accolades after registering 537 assists last season and will be expected to be the backbone of the Tologs' offense.

"Every year is a new challenge and we have a lot of seniors," Arlie said. "We have a lot of good leaders who are very intense on the court."

Holy Family will have plenty to strive for, entering the season as the defending Horizon League champion. The Gaels went 8-0 in league last season, but were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs.

Holy Family will return the bulk of its starting lineup in its quest to maintain its perch atop the league. Advancing further in the postseason will be something else the Gaels will attempt to achieve under Coach Robert Bringas.

"I think this group is pretty hungry," Bringas said. "I think our league will be a lot better.

"With the playoff loss, they felt it and it's something that's good to build off, in terms of taking the next step."

Like Sacred Heart, Holy Family will be a team filled with mostly seniors. Among those are outside hitter/middle blocker Ashlee Sandoval, a reigning All-Area second-team pick who recorded 341 digs and 203 kills last season. Joining Sandoval are outside hitter/middle blocker Denise Patino, defensive specialist/libero Alicia Marquez, setter/libero/defensive specialist Alexa Sandoval and opposite hitter/middle blocker Aurora Aguirre.

Crescenta Valley was the other local team to qualify for the playoffs last season. The Falcons will have a new coach in Jen Ku Lee, whose replaces Steve Umemoto, and lost All-Area first-team player Leah Gagliardi to graduation. Lee served as the school's junior varsity coach last season.

The Falcons will look to challenge for the Pacific League title with the return of senior outside hitter Kira Guarino and senior libero Payton Wheeler. Guarino collected 120 kills and provided a strong presence near the net for the Falcons after beginning the season as a middle blocker. Wheeler finished with 230 assists last season.

Lee said the Falcons have enough talent to succeed this season.

"We have the talent to win league," Lee said. "Maybe we can make a deep run in the playoffs."

Glendale will also look to vastly improve under Coach Jennifer Vo.

The Nitros will have senior outside hitter Ninette Mirzakhanian, senior libero Mary Tonikian, senior opposite hitter Satine Iskandaryan and junior Gabrielle Magpantay returning to fill out most of the starting lineup.

"I'd like for us to have a strong serving team," Vo said. "They want to work better as a team by playing good defense."

Hoover will have a similar roster makeup to Glendale's under Coach Charles Min.

Min said the Tornadoes have gained additional playing experience, something they'll look to use in shooting for a winning record.

"I think we've put together a good team and we can do well in league," Min said. "We have a good mix of power and maturity.

"We have a couple of spots in the lineup up for grabs. It can be one of the stronger teams that I've had."

Among those expected to be in the starting lineup include senior outside hitter Elizabeth Dardov, junior outside hitter/middle blocker Shaina Barrett, sophomore middle blocker Nicole Mirzakhanian, senior libero Christine Huynh and junior opposite hitter/setter Ashley McClure.

At Flintridge Prep, Coach Sean Beattie will use the first five matches to get a better understanding of his team. The Rebels are in the ultra-competitive Prep League that features Chadwick, Pasadena Poly and Mayfield. Chadwick, Pasadena Poly and Mayfield all advanced to the CIF Southern Section Division III-AA semifinals last season with Chadwick besting Pasadena Poly in the championship match.

The Rebels placed sixth last season, but Beattie said the Rebels might be in position to challenge for fourth place in league with the return of senior opposite hitter/setter Julia Miller and senior outside hitters Kate Woolley and Kimberly Kim.

"Going in, you know our league will once again be very tough," Beattie said. "We have so many new players that it will take some time.

"We don't want to get frustrated if things don't go our way. At least we have a chance at that last spot for the playoffs from league."

Things didn't fare well last season for Glendale Adventist Academy, which didn't win a match. The Cougars participated in the Liberty League last season after being in the Westside League for many years.

Glendale Adventist Coach Bianka Tulgar said the Cougars will look to start over. The Cougars will bring back senior defensive specialist Ashley Bautista, junior outside hitter/middle blocker Andrea Blake and sophomore setter Brittney Gregg. Blake suffered an ankle injury during the first match of last season and didn't return.

"Our goal is to try and get the players to mesh as a team and develop," Tulgar said. "Hopefully, we will do better and get a couple of wins."

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