During the past 15 seasons, the Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy volleyball program has built a storied tradition, evidenced by a pair of CIF Southern Section championships in 1996 and 1997 and consistently challenging for Mission League championships.
It’s something Ernest Banaag recognized from afar while shaping the Mayfield volleyball team into a perennial CIF champion. Banaag pined to become the head coach at Sacred Heart if the position ever became available. It did after last season, leading to Banaag applying for the job and filling the role.
Now, Banaag will look to usher in another chapter of success for the Tologs.
“The Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy volleyball program has a lot of pride,” said Banaag, who will succeed Anne Arlie after leading Mayfield to three straight CIF titles between 2008-10. “They certainly don’t like to lose, and I like that a lot because they are already self motivated.
“You see and hear a lot about the program because they’ve always been one that’s been competitive. I knew that it would be a great place to coach one day. I waited my turn and the job opened up.”
While the Tologs missed the playoffs last season after finishing fifth in league, Banaag said they aren’t far from again contending for a league crown and vying for a playoff spot.
It might take some time for adjustments to be made, but Banaag said it can be done rapidly.
“I’ll come in taking a cautious approach,” Banaag said. “For example, you know the Mission League will be hard again, so I’ll see what happens during the first round [of league] and then assess things.”
The Tologs’ key returners figure to be senior libero Colleen Degnan, junior outside hitters Katie Conley and Madie Peterson and sophomore setter Sophia Coffey.
Holy Family has enjoyed its share of success lately, winning the program’s first Horizon League title in 2010 before sharing the league championship with Alverno last season.
Those two championships came under coach Robert Bringas, who fielded experienced teams that included Ashlee Sandoval, Aurora Aguirre and Denise Patino.
Virtually all of last season’s team graduated, leading to Bringas ushering in the newest crop of talent that will feature senior libero Katherine Barrios, junior setter Rianne Sanchez, junior middle blocker Nicolette Garcia and junior outside hitters/middle blockers Dominique Ornelas and Iris Guzman.
“We have a predominantly junior class who did well with the JV team last season,” said Bringas, whose team is ranked No. 10 in the CIF Southern Section Division V-AA preseason poll. “They followed up during the summer by showing improvement and we think we have the kind of team that can be competitive. It’s going to take a lot of hard work to get by Alverno.”
At Crescenta Valley, the Falcons made a playoff appearance last season under coach Jen Ku Lee.
Though Crescenta Valley lost a pair of standouts in Kira Guarino and Payton Wheeler to graduation, Lee said he’s confident he’s got several returners who are capable of helping the Falcons contend in the Pacific League and postseason.
“I know that our league has gotten so much better,” Lee said. “The teams that have struggled the last few years have gotten better, so I expect most of the matches to be a grind.
“We don’t have a lot of height, so we are going to have to build a team that’s going to be scrappy defensively.”
Crescenta Valley’s main core will include senior outside hitter Alison Reik, senior middle blocker Noel Wong, junior libero Nannette Grigorian, junior opposite hitter Cassidy Iannello, junior middle blocker Sabrina Shahbandeh and sophomore opposite hitter Micaela Guarino.
Flintridge Prep struggled throughout most of last season while fielding an inexperienced squad and missed the playoffs. The Rebels will look to reverse the trend under coach Sean Beattie.
“When you look at our team, as a whole, we are relatively young,” Beattie said. “Half of our team is seniors and the other half is a combination of freshmen and sophomores.
“It will take some time, but I think our future bodes well. We will need the younger players to continue to grow quickly and the older players to stay patient.”
Among those expected to contribute for the Rebels are senior middle blockers Danielle Lincoln and Olivia Gaines, senior setter Katherine Bogaard, senior libero Bryn McFadden, sophomore outside hitter Dani Motte and freshmen outside hitters Lauren Stiles and Ella Worley.
Glendale, Hoover and Glendale Adventist Academy will be looking for significant improvements after missing the playoffs last season.
Glendale Coach Jennifer Vo agreed with Lee that the Pacific League will be extremely competitive.
“We played a lot of the teams in our league during the summer and you see that the teams are getting more bunched together,” Vo said. “You see what you are then capable of doing [going into the season].
“The goal will be for us to make the playoffs, so we are aiming high. I feel like we have more energy now and that’s where it starts.”
The Nitros will be led by senior setter Gabby Magpantay, senior middle blocker Alyssa Ridad, junior outside hitter Kirsten Cabarong and sophomore middle blocker Grace Tappin.
Hoover Coach Charles Min said the Tornadoes should have more depth and balance in taking the next step toward reaching respectability. Min will turn to his experienced players to reach that goal.
“We’re expecting to make a significant improvement from last season,” Min said. “We have a solid group of returning players that have been committed to make a big impact in league.
“The seniors are leading the way to have their last season be their best. It’s not going to be easy in our league, but this team is taking strong steps to make playoffs.”
Hoover’s top players will likely be senior outside hitter Shaina Barrett, senior libero Samantha Flores, junior opposite hitter Nicole Mirzakhanian, junior middle blocker Lilit Chaparyan, junior outside hitter Vanasis Ohanian and junior middle blocker Gabby Carreiro.
Glendale Adventist will have a new coach in Hugo Gomez, who succeeds Bianka Tulgar. Gomez will coach the school’s girls’ team for the first time after previously coaching the boys’ program from 2009-10.
The Cougars will feature the sister tandem of senior outside hitter Andrea Blake and sophomore middle blocker Erin.
“They are going to be very good players again this season,” said Gomez, who led the boys’ team to a trip to the playoffs in 2010. “Andrea will especially be the center of our offense and she’s able to put the ball down.
“We’ll be playing different lineup combinations, but the No. 1 goal will be to make the playoffs.”