Panthers and Rebels earn All-Prep League volleyball accolades

Even though the Pasadena Poly and Flintridge Prep boys' volleyball teams enjoyed different levels of success during the 2012 season, both squads were nearly on even footing on the Prep League awards list.

The Prep League runner-up Panthers garnered four total awards, including senior Michael Saeta being named the co-most valuable player along with Chadwick's James Lenihan, while the fourth-place Rebels merited three total selections on the first and second teams.

"Taking a look at the season, I definitely believe there are areas where we could have improved and matches we could have won," Poly first-year Coach Mark Mina said. "But overall, I'm pleased with what we were able to accomplish. It was a good year."

The Panthers finished with an 18-11 record, were runner-up in the Prep League to eventual CIF Southern Section Division V champion Chadwick, and advanced to the quarterfinals of the divisional playoffs as the fifth-ranked team.

Much of that success was due to the phenomenal play of Saeta, the Panthers 6-foot-5 opposite hitter who's heading to UC Irvine in the fall and who was named co-MVP of the San Gabriel Valley All-Star game on June 9.

Saeta, who was also honored as the CIF-SS Division V MVP, led the area with 536 kills and a six-kills-per-game average that included a solid 52% kill ratio.

"It was such a great honor to be named league co-MVP with James Lenihan," Saeta said. "He's obviously a great player and one of the best in the sport. Being co-MVP with a friend like James is special."

Saeta was more than just an attacker as he also led the Panthers with a team-high 218 total digs (2.4 per game) and tallied 89 aces and 45 blocks.

"We really expected to go further in the playoffs than we did and there were few things worse than walking off the court in the quarters," Saeta said. "When I think back on the season now, though, it's really great to see how everyone grew and how good of a team we were."

Saeta's teammate, 6-4 outside hitter Colin Woolway, who's headed to Harvard, was also named to the first team after finishing with 254 kills (three per game), 161 digs (1.9 per game), 50 blocks and 39 aces.

As for the Rebels, junior middle blocker Kareem Ismail earned a spot on the first team, while senior outside hitter Kory Hamane and junior outside hitter Chadd Cosse were selected to the second team, as voted on by the league's five coaches.

Ismail paced the Rebels (9-13, 2-6 in league) with a team-leading 235 kills and 93 blocks (90 solo). Hamane contributed 190 kills and a team-best 216 digs. Cosse finished with 200 kills and 75 digs.

"Kareem transitioned into a better blocker," Flintridge Prep Coach Sean Beattie said. "He was a complete middle blocker and he could hit and block effectively.

"Kory was our best all-around player, who could read the ball well and was one of our top passers. Chadd always hit the ball very hard and there were no surprises with what he would do."

Panthers sophomore libero Dennis Grover (211 digs) and senior setter Harrison Hodgkins (409 assists and 102 digs) were also named to the second team.

Charles Rich contributed to this story.

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