Spartans looking ahead to Rio Hondo

The La Cañada High boys' volleyball team will look to capture its first Rio Hondo League championship since 2006 this season after a senior-driven team came up short last year.

This year, the Spartans will have to become league champs without much depth, after graduating nine seniors. La Cañada just got a boost though, as two integral pieces, seniors Sean Mintie and Matt Faber, joined the fold after the boys' basketball season ended on Saturday.

"They will have a lot of impact," said Spartans Coach David Woo of Mintie and Faber.

Mintie will take his place in the middle for the Spartans after starting there last season and compiling 58 kills and 32 blocks. Faber is giving volleyball a try for the first time this year after playing tennis the past three years. Woo isn't sure whether he'll start Faber at outside hitter or opposite to neutralize the opposition's best outside hitter.

Returning seniors Patrick and Greg Moore will join forces with Mintie and Faber as the Spartans look to capture the elusive Rio Hondo League championship. Patrick plays outside hitter and had 203 digs and 62 kills last year. Greg is in charge of anchoring La Cañada's defense at libero. He finished the 2010 season with 139 digs.

Passing will be La Cañada's strength this season, but the team will need to work on finishing off those passes, Woo said.

"Hitting isn't where I want it to be yet, but it's preseason and some of these guys are new to the sport," said Woo, hoping more experience leads to more kills.

Woo's had to juggle his lineup up to this point, dealing with injuries and the absence of Mintie and Faber.

"It's good experience for the new players," he said. "When I call on them in the playoffs, when I really need them to step up, they'll be able to draw on this early playing time."

The Spartans took second in Rio Hondo League last year and fell to Ganesha in the first round of the CIF Southern Section Division V playoffs, 19-25, 22-25, 25-20, 26-28.

"The goal is always to improve," Woo said. "We finished second [in league] last year, and if we play the way we can, we can finish first. The lowest I think we'll finish this year is second."

Two All-Area standouts, Jamie Pierce and Tim Lee, were among the nine who graduated. Pierce was an All-Area first-team member, finishing the year with 165 kills, 276 digs and 16 aces. Lee contributed 246 and 152 kills for the year and made All-Area second-team.

The thin roster just means everyone's going to have a chance to contribute this season, Woo said.

"I am trying to get all the guys as much experience as I can," Woo said. "League is wide open this year so whoever brings their A-game can win league."

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