Volleyball Preview: Flintridge Prep aiming to rule Prep League again
With virtually a new cast of starters, Rebels seek more league glory.
Flintridge Prep boys' volleyball coach Sean Beattie talks to his team during practice on Tuesday, February 25, 2014. (Roger Wilson / Staff Photographer / March 5, 2014)
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?”
Flintridge Prep was the lone local team to qualify for the playoffs last season. St. Francis, Crescenta Valley, Glendale, Glendale Adventist Academy and Hoover will shoot to move up in their respective leagues and possibly earn a trip to the postseason.
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.”
Crescenta Valley took fifth in the Pacific League, one spot shy of qualifying for the playoffs last season.
Crescenta Valley Coach John Nelson said the Falcons are capable of moving up at least a couple of spots in the league standings.
“We are fairly young, but our young guys are pretty good,” Nelson said. “We can be pretty good, certainly better than last year.
“We want to be up there challenging for league. Burroughs will be strong and Burbank can come up a little bit and be in the thick of things.”
Crescenta Valley’s top players are expected to be senior middle blockers Brad Fernandez and Henry Sim, senior setter Chris Han and junior outside hitters Raymond Barsemian and Min Kim.
Glendale, like Crescenta Valley, will also look to climb in the Pacific League following a sixth-place finish. Under coach Ta’ase Mose, the Nitros should have enough experience to steer them in that direction.
Glendale will bring back senior outside hitter Kyle Hulguin, senior setter Jae Lee and senior opposite hitter Jonathan Ibanez.
“We will look to put up a challenge for a top-four spot in league,” Mose said. “Our seniors bring a lot of leadership and experience to the court.”
Hoover will turn to new coach Gabby Gallardo to turn around the Tornadoes, who finished seventh last season in the Pacific League.
Under Gallardo, the Tornadoes will feature a lineup mostly including sophomores. The group will include Brandon Knight, a middle blocker and outside hitter, setter Norton Yungpairujuong and outside hitter Oscar Toscano. The trio will be joined by senior opposite hitter Brandon Estrada.
“It’s just about being able to see some signs of improvement,” Gallardo said. “The biggest thing starting up the season will be trying to play together and hopefully we will do well enough to make the playoffs.”
Glendale Adventist Academy finished sixth in the Liberty League last season.
Cougars Coach David Nicholas said Glendale Adventist will look to put some building blocks in place with senior setter Arron Pak, senior middle blocker Justin Budge and senior setter Justin Ng leading the way for the inexperienced squad.
“We are in a rebuilding year and we want to be consistent,” Nicholas said. “We are trying to get more interest in volleyball.
“We used to be a strong school in volleyball, but the past four or five years there was not much interest.”