Girls' Volleyball Preview

Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy's girls' volleyball team practices on Wednesday. (Roger Wilson/Staff Photographer)

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Following a renaissance season that concluded with an appearance in the semifinals, the members of the Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy volleyball team have some unfinished business they’d like to tend to in the next several months.

Team expectations might be at their highest in quite some time.

“The players we have coming back are still feeling the blues a bit from just missing out on going to the championship match,” said Flintridge Sacred Heart Coach Ernest Banaag, the reigning All-Area Girls’ Volleyball Coach of the Year who guided the Tologs to a share of the Mission League championship last season. “They don’t want to feel that again, so they are even more motivated to want to be a better team.

“We are happy with what we were able to get done last year, but now we just want to take those final steps. We feel like we have the players in place to have a shot at doing that.”

Flintridge Sacred Heart will return several key players who helped the program reach the semifinals for the first time since 2007. Among them are senior setter Sophia Coffey, sophomore outside hitter Kayla Lund, senior middle blocker Megan Bacall and senior libero Emily Develle.

Coffey finished last season with 911 assists, 221 digs, 62 kills and 41 aces en route to being selected All-Area Girls’ Volleyball Player of the Year. Develle had 509 digs and Lund collected 348 kills. Lund, Bacall and Develle earned All-Area first-team recognition.

“The returners, who are all excellent, can share their experiences from last year,” said Banaag, whose team split the league title with rival Harvard-Westlake before falling to CIF champion La Salle in four games in the Division I-A semifinals. “We feel like that can help our new players and balance out the playing level of the team.

“They relish that atmosphere and they want to do it again. When you think of somebody like Sophia, it’s always going to be about her makeup and attitude that she brings to the table every day.”

In addition to Flintridge Sacred Heart, Crescenta Valley and Glendale qualified for the playoffs last season. The Falcons and Nitros participated in Division II-A postseason after finishing fourth and fifth, respectively, in the Pacific League.

Crescenta Valley, which lost to Oxnard in the first round last season, will likely have plenty of experience and leadership on board in an attempt to move up the league standings and head back to the playoffs under coach Jen Ku Kim.

Among the group will be senior outside hitter Emmie Walker and senior middle blocker Samantha Rubio. They will be joined by sophomore outside hitter Patty Kerman.

“We will definitely have plenty of experience and we played in a lot of five-game matches last year,” Kim said. “I think we were able to learn a lot from what we got done last year.

“Hopefully, it will help carry us through and we can build on that.”

Glendale qualified for the postseason after posting a winning record for the first time since the 1990s. The Nitros fell to Rio Hondo Prep in a wild-card road match.

Ta’ase Mose will be the head coach after sharing the role last season with Jennifer Vo.

The Nitros will look to draw upon last season’s success with a lineup that will consist mostly of upperclassmen.

“It was great to make it to the playoffs,” Mose said. “I think we’ll be OK this year because they gained a lot of confidence last year.

“We want at least a top-four spot in league. We don’t want a wild-card slot.”

Glendale’s main players will be senior middle blocker Grace Tappin, senior middle blocker Ivanna Gamboa, senior outside hitter Sevana Stepanian and junior setter Kathleen Hulguin.

Renee Segura, a Bellarmine-Jefferson graduate, will take over the coaching responsibilities at Holy Family. Segura replaces Robert Bringas, whose team took fourth in the Horizon League last season.

The Gaels will look to put things together and make the postseason by turning to senior outside hitters/setters Jordan Bautista and Skylynn Marquez. They will be joined by freshman libero Melanie Ibarra.

“We put a lot of work in during the summer, so we have a better idea of what we need to work on leading up to the season,” Segura said. “Nine of our 12 players will be seniors, but only four are returners.

“It’s just about being able to get on the same page and keep trying to grow. We think we have a team that will be able to compete in league.”

Flintridge Prep finished seventh in the Prep League last season. Coach Sean Beattie will look to get the Rebels out of the cellar by turning to several players who have shown marked improvement the last couple of seasons.

Among those looking to ignite the Rebels are senior middle blocker Rachel Benn, senior outside hitter Dani Mott, junior middle blocker Nicole Emmons and junior opposite hitter Ella Worley.

“We had a real tough season last year,” Beattie said. “The positive we can take away from that is it will help us prepare for this year.

“I think we are already at a better starting rate than we were at this time last year. You just keep trying to build now.”

Glendale Adventist Academy placed seventh last season in the Liberty League. The Cougars will field a 10-member squad, five of them freshmen.

Glendale Adventist Coach Gared Luquet said the Cougars are capable of showing more progress.

“It’s about being able to show signs of improvement,” Luquet said. “We know the level of competition we will be up against and our league will be tough again.”

The Cougars will turn to junior setter/libero Kimia Fariborz, junior middle blocker Marefat Mahta and freshman outside hitter Paige Singleton to lead the charge.

At Hoover, the Tornadoes will look to regroup after an eighth-place finish in the Pacific League.

Hoover Coach Gabby Gallardo said the Tornadoes should have a better mix of talent in 2014.

“We feel like we have some better players and they are buying into what we are trying to teach,” Gallardo said. “Our practices have been a lot better and they have a stronger work ethic and are much more committed.”

Hoover will feature senior outside hitter/middle blocker Jemmilynn Lintag, senior libero Kathy Alfaro, junior defensive specialist Pamela Galvan and sophomore middle blocker Jennifer Frasco.