A program usually isn't left in a good position after it's graduated all but three players from its roster, but Flintridge Prep boys' volleyball Coach Sean Beattie is upbeat about the upcoming season.
"We graduated I want to say 12 of 15, but we have a good core of young kids this year, so we are looking forward to it," said Beattie, who is entering his 15th year coaching the Rebels.
Among the players Prep graduated last year were its All-Prep League standouts and three primary offensive weapons: Kenyatta Smith, Jared Norsworthy and Nolan Jimbo.
Beattie is replacing the trio with a group that should have chemistry, albeit without much varsity experience.
"The first few games of the season will be telling for us because we are literally last year's junior varsity team with some varsity guys leftover from last year," said Beattie, whose group comes into the season ranked fifth in CIF Southern Section Division V. "They were like 15-1 or 14-2 [last year], so it's not like it's a team with no success. They are used to success and used to playing with each other, so I have high hopes for these guys."
Kareem Ismail, a six-foot-five junior, will play at one of the two middle blocker spots this year.
Chad Cosse, a junior, and Kory Hamane, a senior, look to bring some firepower as outside hitters.
Mike Lii, a junior, will step in as the team's setter and Mike Ellis, a senior, will also make the transition from outside hitter to libero or defensive specialist this season.
"We lost both middles, our outside, opposite and setter all graduated so right now we are trying everybody at different spots to see who will fit in best where," Beattie said.
Despite all the moving pieces, Beattie expects his team to meet the same goal he had for last year's squad — making the playoffs.
"I don't care how young of a team you are, that has to be the goal for everyone," said Beattie, whose team finished 12-14 and 4-4 in the Prep League in 2011. "Last year we weren't even .500 because we missed a lot of the guys while basketball made a deep run. I would say we could hit a .500 record and make the playoffs again [this year].
"When you're in the playoffs, anything can happen, that's what I always tell everyone."
St. Francis is in a much different position than Prep, but hoping for the same success after not having made the postseason since 2005.
"I return all but one starter," Golden Knights Coach Mark Frazee said, "so it should be OK. We should be pretty solid."
The Golden Knights, who were 8-10 (4-8) last year, will have to brave the tough Mission League that includes Loyola High, the No. 2 team in Division I.
"That's a big obstacle," Frazee said. "They will be a good strong squad — they always are, but beyond that, the rest of the playoff spots are up for grabs and I think we have as good a shot as anyone."
Among Frazee's returners are seniors Michael Bacall and Wesley Coffey at outside and opposite hitters, respectively, juniors Chris Thompson, a setter, and Charles McCarthy, the other outside, and Tyler Korzun at middle blocker.
Seniors Collin Peterson and Thomas Banks will look to anchor the Golden Knights defensively on the back line as Frazee looks to rotate them between defensive specialist and libero.
"If we play solid ball I think we are good enough to get over some tough times," Frazee said. "Our guys are pretty well seasoned and most have played club, so they are ready to go, it's just getting everyone together to jell."
Crescenta Valley will be looking to move up in the Pacific League standings after finishing fourth last year at 11-15, 3-5.
It won't be easy, as the Falcons will have to deal with Burroughs (second), Arcadia (sixth) and Claremont (ninth), which are all ranked in Division III, with a group of seven seniors.
The Falcons figure to be a dangerous offensive team with senior outside hitters Ian Poprocki, Wes Cormier and opposite Vincent Van Hoek providing plenty of firepower.
"Those are three pretty good sized, strong kids," CV Coach John Nelson said. "I wouldn't want to be standing in front of them."
The rest of the seniors, Grant Chappell (setter), Michael Linvill (libero), Eric Seo (defensive specialist) and Carter Warren (outside/opposite hitter) should all make a big impact along with junior middle blocker Freedom Tripp, Nelson said.
"Ultimately our goal is to play at the highest level we're capable of playing because that's really all you can do," Nelson said. "I think it will take us a bit before we start to put it all together, but I think a month from now it will start clicking together pretty good."
Glendale Coach Ta'ase Mose wants to see his team improve a little bit each day this season after the Nitros closed out 2011 with a 2-10 record and went 0-9 in league.
"I have a lot of returners, so I will be OK this year," Mose said. "Most of our guys are juniors right now, so hopefully next year we will make it to CIF, that's my goal to move them closer this year."
Victor Bernardino, a setter, and Josh Collado, an outside hitter, headline Mose's group of juniors this year with Kyle Hulguin set to make a big impact as a sophomore opposite.
The Pacific League is expanding to a seven-team format with four teams making the playoffs, as Burbank joins the league and Hoover returns after a one-year hiatus and 0-10 finish in 2010. Charles Min, who also coaches the Tornadoes girls, takes the helm of the program.
"We want to instill pride in the program to where it's competitive and make sure these kids have fun and all that, but are working hard," said Min, who played for the Tornadoes more than 20 years ago.
Juniors Dan Sanidad and Christian Pacificador stand to make a big impact this season. Sanidad should be Hoover's best hitter, whether it's on the outside, opposite or middle and Pacificador will be looking to set him up as the team's setter.
Glendale Adventist Academy will look to get in the win column this season under first-year Coach David Nicolas after the Cougars went 0-14 and 0-12 in the Liberty League in 2011.
Nicolas graduated from Glendale Adventist in 1985, coached there from 1988 to 1991 and decided to come back after the program's recent struggles.
"I have been frustrated with the volleyball program, it's been nonexistent for the past few years or so," said Nicolas, who will be assisted by his cousin CJ Nicolas this season. "We need to build a program here and that's what we're working on this year."
The Cougars will feature mostly first-year players with senior setter Tanner Warrick leading the team.
"It's going to be a building year," Nicolas said. "I have a lot of first-year guys with good heart and a good work ethic. I think we will be OK this year. I want to show progress and I think with that will come more interest."