All in the family for Orlandinis

Both of their coaches say their standout volleyball players are leaders.

One just happens to play at Cal State Northridge and the other is at the University of Washington.

Both of their coaches rave about their athletes' intelligence on the court.

One is an offensive tone-setter who will enter her senior year at Northridge, while the other is a defensive force who'll be a redshirt sophomore and started every game as a freshman.

Both of their coaches say the expectations are high for not only their stars, but for their respective teams.

Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy graduates Sam and Jenna Orlandini say they're ready to meet those expectations.

They have been excelling at what they've been asked to do ever since they donned a volleyball jersey, whether it was at Flintridge Sacred Heart or at their respective universities.

Sam will start at setter for the fourth consecutive year at Northridge, where she has accumulated 2,608 career assists, third all-time in school history.

Her role will be different this year.

Northridge, which begins its season on Friday in the Utah Classic, lost four of its key components from the 2010 team to graduation, and will have an influx of young talent that will try to build off last year's team, which improved its win total from five to 13 from the previous season.

"We have 10 returning players and five freshmen coming in," says Sam, who'll be one of three seniors on a team that features two juniors, six sophomores and five freshmen. "It's really about teaching the freshmen the ways of our team. That could definitely be a challenge. I think we can do that, and hopefully win more games than last year."

Being a vocal leader on the court is something Sam, 21, has become accustomed to.

She was a captain last year at Flintridge Sacred Heart, where her mark of 4,263 career assists is an all-time state record, according to totals reported to, and also ranks among the top-five career totals reported in the National High School Sports Record Book.

"I try to lead by example, for the most part, just showing the girls how to work hard and being a good leader," says Sam, a 2008 graduate who was also a three-time Mission League champion, and, on the prevailing side of 111 matches, is the winningest player in the history of a program that advanced to at least a CIF semifinal in each of her four years as a starter.

"There are some girls who you have to treat differently. Some girls want you in their face yelling at them. You have to know your teammates really well to be a good leader."

She's also taken advice from a former collegiate setter, her mom, Shelli, a former three-time All-American at Northridge from 1983-85 who also coached Sam and Jenna at Flintridge Sacred Heart.

"My advice is always to lead by example," says Shelli, who helped the Matadors win a Division II title in 1983 and take runner-up honors in '84 and '85. "The harder you work, the more people give you respect. I tell her to work hard, try to lead, be positive, be competitive and do the best you can."

Sam has put the pressure on herself to be a leader.

Her coach, Jeff Stork, says she's a natural.

"The one thing Sam does always is she's a competitor," Stork says of Sam, who also led the Matadors with 33 aces last season."She has a high volleyball IQ. She competes and she can share that with her teammates. She does an unbelievable job. She's a natural leader. We've gone through that quite a few times, how to lead by example, and how to be a vocal leader. She does a lot of good things."

Jim McLaughlin, the head coach at the Washington, gushed with praise about Jenna, as well.

"She's an unbelievable kid in many ways," McLaughlin says. "She's the type of kid you want 12 of on the team. She's off the charts, statistically. She's doing things other kids just don't do the first, second year. She's a great kid to coach. The expectations are awful high."

Jenna, a defensive libero, has given McLaughlin reason to praise.

As a redshirt freshman, she totaled 545 digs for a 4.82 digs per set average, which ranked second in the Pac-10 and 65th nationally. Her digs ranked fifth in school history for a single season and she improved her average to 5.92 digs per set in Washington's four NCAA Tournament matches, the third-best in school history for a postseason and tops in the 25-point system.

She earned her starting position with her statistics.

"The way our programs work, if you have the best numbers, you play," says Jenna, 19, a 2009 Sacred Heart graduate. "Every person on the court has to work to get their numbers higher and to do better."

As a setter on a Flintridge Sacred Heart team that advanced to the CIF Southern Section playoffs her senior year, Jenna had to become acclimated to the speed of the collegiate level while playing a position she hadn't for more than a year.

Her redshirt year gave her time to become comfortable. As soon as she was, she earned a starting spot and never relinquished it, helping Washington advance to the Elite Eight for the sixth time in McLaughlin's 10-year tenure.

"It's a privilege to be here," says Jenna, whose season begins Friday at the Long Beach State Mizuno Invitational. "Everyone is working so hard to get better and to learn and to become better volleyball players.

"I've upped my game by my freshman year a lot."

She might need to continue to improve for Washington to repeat last season's success.

Like Northridge, Washington has a core of new players, as it lost a pair of All-Region players from 2010 and brings in five new athletes.

Jenna says her team knows it's a long journey until the Final Four, but it's one that she says she's excited to take.

"We want to make it to the Final Four and make it to the championship," Jenna says. "We have to take it day by day. We're just working on the basics. I think the expectation is to keep the eyes on the prize.

"You have to play like a champion every day."

Jenna and Sam have proven they both have, at Flintridge Sacred Heart and in college.

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