Boys' volleyball preview: Flintridge Prep, La Cañada look for continued success with young rosters

Expect things to look very different regarding the landscape of the Flintridge Prep boys’ volleyball team.

With a roster dotted with seniors, the Rebels marched straight to an undefeated Prep League championship before advancing to the CIF Southern Section Division IV quarterfinals last season.

While the Rebels would gladly settle for at least a carbon copy this season, they will have to rely on essentially a new group of players who don’t have the experience their brethren did.

“We definitely will be a younger team with only three returners and one starter,” said veteran Flintridge Prep Coach Sean Beattie, whose team is ranked sixth in the Division IV preseason poll. “Since we have some new players, a few of them with little to no varsity experience, we will see a lot of them fighting for playing time.

“We need to find out who the main pieces will be to fit in with the top players coming back. It’s a huge jump to the varsity level, so there will be an acceleration process.”

Among those who might start are sophomore outside hitter and reigning All-Area second-team pick Dante Fregoso, senior middle blocker Trip Westmoreland, junior middle blocker Tyler Dill and sophomore setter Aldridge Khin.

“Maybe it can be a good thing that we are a little younger than normal,” Beattie said. “Nobody has secured a starting spot.

“A lot of the teams in our league seem to have that one top go-to player while looking to rebuild around them. The question for us is how quickly we can mesh as a unit, especially defensively?”

It would normally be considered a rebuilding season with at least four sophomores starting on the same team manning the volleyball court. Not so for the La Cañada High boys’ volleyball squad.

If anything, there’s great comfort for La Cañada second-year Coach Otto Lacayo knowing he’s got plenty of faith in a quartet of sophomores in a quest to enjoy another quality season.

“You know going in that they are young, but they are very important pieces to have,” said Lacayo, whose team finished second in the Rio Hondo League before advancing to the CIF Southern Section Division III quarterfinals after failing to qualify for the postseason the previous three seasons. “Having them lead as freshmen last year was a big thing, so they’ve now dealt with some of the pressure situations.”

La Cañada will turn to a group of sophomores of setter Connor Walbrecht, outside hitter Mel Schroeder, libero Connor Beltcher and defensive specialist Ben Choi. Walbrecht earned All-Area first-team accolades last season after finishing with an area-high 847 assists to go along with more eye-popping numbers in the form of 359 digs, 87 kills, 25 aces and 21 blocks.

“We definitely have some good potential,” Lacayo said. “We want to use that potential and shoot for a top-two finish in league.”

The Spartans’ main rival will be South Pasadena, which captured the league championship before winning the program’s first CIF title.

St. Francis should have a wealth of experience, bringing back four returning starters. The Golden Knights figure to have some needed leadership to help make the transition smoother for some of the first-year varsity players.

Under veteran coach Mark Frazee, the Golden Knights will feature a lineup that should feature a combination of sophomore setter David Thompson, senior outside hitter Mark Munoz, senior opposite hitter/setter Babe Micalivio, senior opposite hitter AJ Krappman, junior middle blocker Thomas Lund, junior outside hitter Markar Agakanian and sophomore libero Carl D’Aguilar.

“We have a lot of guys who are solid,” said Frazee, whose team took sixth in the Mission League last season. “The thing for us is that we have to be able to believe in ourselves and we have that core of seven or eight guys who were on the team last year.

“I think it’s going to be a battle in league. You know going in Loyola will be very strong again, but I don’t know much about the rest of our league. Maybe it could be wide open.”

charles.rich@latimes.com

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