Exciting Prep Girls Volleyball Season Ahead

The 2012 season was a year of firsts for Port of Los Angeles High girls’ volleyball. Its first year of being in a league (Ocean), ended up with the Polar Bears earning their first-ever berth in the CIF-Los Angeles City Section Division IV/V (Small Schools) playoffs. How did POLA take advantage? They made a magnificent run with three straight victories and was one more crucial set away from ending Elizabeth Learning Center’s dominance in the Division IV/V championship match.

However, the experience factor came into play, and POLA was left wondering what might have been as the Bulldogs went on to claim their third straight City title in five sets.

“It was amazing to be able to play as a team the whole year and really get to know each other,” says POLA senior middle blocker Allison Bayer. “On top of that to be able to play in championships together. We lost, but it was a huge way to go out with a bang for our many seniors.”

As the 2013 season begins, head coach Felicia Ivie and the Polar Bears are out for some unfinished business as they look to get back to the City Section Division IV/V championship match.

San Pedro and Mary Star of the Sea High are also looking to deliver in 2013 in a town that is synonymous with volleyball.

Mary Star was a CIF-Southern Section runner-up in 1998, while San Pedro claimed three CIF-Los Angeles City Section crowns in 2001, 2004 and 2005.

POLA (20-10 last season) will return a bevy of experience to the forefront as they will be paced by Bayer and fellow senior captain outside hitter Angela Wade, who, along with Bayer, were two of the biggest reasons why the Polar Bears reached the City Section Division IV/V final last season. Bayer, who is already a three-time City champion in softball, will be gunning for her fourth ring. She also won’t be alone as some of her fellow softball friends join her on the team this season.

Playing volleyball for the first time at POLA will be some softball players with championship experience in senior outside hitter Kelsea Short, junior defensive specialist Tiffany Torres and junior middle hitter Savana Ramirez. Another player eager for a championship after two straight finals appearances in girls’ soccer, junior opposite hitter Isabela Van Antwerp, will also be making her volleyball debut.

Wade, who is also a basketball standout, will be looking for a breakout season. Senior setter and libero, Annie Constantino, will also be key, as will senior defensive specialist Myra Munoz and sophomore Makayla Warth.

Don’t be surprised if POLA, already with a key nonleague win at Banning of Wilmington this season, makes another run at glory… and ultimately seizes it.

“I think we have a good chance of being in the finals again, but a key factor will be if we can work as a team for the whole season,” says Bayer. “There is a huge amount of new players this year, and it is key for us to trust and work as one in order to succeed.”

Over at San Pedro, head coach Kyle Ross enters his fourth season at the helm as he will try to guide the Pirates into battle in the killer Marine League that features both Narbonne of Harbor City, last year’s CIF-Los Angeles City Section Division I runner-up, and Carson, a D-I semifinalist. Senior middle blocker Mila Maricic is the unquestioned leader, as she is a returning All-Marine League first team pick.

San Pedro, who went 9-7 overall last season, may be able to surprise their league foes considering they add many new faces from the junior varsity team to the mix. Last year’s JV team went 10-2 in the Marine League. Junior outside hitters Paige Peterson, Julia Sampson and Brittany Foster, along with senior setter Vanessa Ruiz, are the only other returning varsity players from a year ago.

Key newcomers to watch out for include senior Michelle Costanza and juniors Kirsten Bauman and Jazmin Tela.

“I have a good feeling about our team this year with all the talent we have,” says Peterson, who led San Pedro in service aces and was second in kills last season behind Maricic. “We are all athletic and have the potential to get that Marine League title. We also get along very well, which always helps practices go a lot more smoother and games a lot more exciting.”

The biggest new additions to the Pirates just may be senior outside hitter Katie Sullivan, who transferred from Mary Star, and Miranda Mueller, a transfer from Carson. Sullivan was an All-Camino Real League selection for Mary Star a season ago.

And speaking of the Stars, One of Mary Star’s all-time greats, Sarah Gascon, is in her second season as head coach. Despite the defection of Sullivan, the Stars, who were 5-8 last season, will still try to be competitive in the Camino Real League.

Senior opposite hitter Brina Garcia, senior outside hitter Sarah Pearson and junior defensive specialist Hope Marinkovich are the top returning players, but playing volleyball for the first time is junior Lexie Geich, who along with seniors libero Victoria Vitalich and opposite hitter Christina Padilla, helped Mary Star’s softball team reach the CIF-Southern Section Division 6 championship game in June.

“I think we will be competitive,” says Gascon. “Our biggest challenge will be consistency. With our team it takes everyone to win. I love my team and staff and I’m honored to have an opportunity to share my volleyball knowledge with them.”

The Stars, who started off the season already claiming the Chino Tournament, have four freshmen on the team that are all looking to make an instant impact in outside hitter Lexi Andrie, S/OH Kaitlyn Martinez, outside hitter Ally Spillane and S/OH Angela Pisano.

“My freshman are great!” says Gascon. “They have a great competitive spirit, they’re coachable, and they have a winning attitude.”

Seems like the Pirates, Polar Bears and Stars all possess a winning attitude, and that’s what should make for three successful seasons. spt

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