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

Field Generals Spark 2013 Prep Football Season

Mary Star's Tyler Sestich and San Pedro's Jacob Miller. (photos by Joshua Stecker)

The 2012 season brought upon new phases for both San Pedro and Mary Star of the Sea High School football.

In the prior year, San Pedro rolled to a perfect 10-0 regular season with a Marine League championship to boot (12-1 overall), while the Stars went completely the other way around with a disastrous 0-10 campaign.

Once the 2012 season ended, it saw the Pirates go 8-4, and the Stars made a miraculous return to the CIF-Southern Section Northwest Division playoffs by closing out the year winning four out of their last six games.

All of that sets up a promising 2013 campaign for both schools and the two who are looking to guide their teams to greatness are two young and promising quarterbacks who both came from Holy Trinity.

San Pedro sophomore Jacob Miller and Mary Star senior Tyler Sestich are two of the latest quarterback sensations to come out of Holy Trinity, following in the footsteps of former San Pedro High quarterback greats such as Jonathan Marselis from the 1997 CIF-Los Angeles City Section championship team, Gustavo Navarro from the 1998 and 1999 Pirate teams, and of course, the 2011 CIF-Los Angeles City Section Co-Offensive Player Of The Year, Kenny Potter.

Both quarterbacks will be working behind experienced offensive lines and playing in front of two passionate and well-supporting fan bases at two of the best and historic atmospheres in the South Bay and Harbor Areas, the Pirate Stadium (San Pedro) and Daniels Field (Mary Star).

Believe it or not, Miller and Sestich’s paths didn’t cross together at Holy Trinity. “(Sestich) was two grades older than me,” Miller said.

Sestich added, “When I was on the 7th and 8th grade team, Jacob was only a 5th or 6th grader but we did play together on an All-Star team at Peck Park.”

Miller and Sestich both had an interesting 2012 season, to say the least.

Mary Star started off the year 0-3, with the third loss being a heartbreaking 21-15 loss to St. Anthony of Long Beach, which ended up being the last of what was a 15-game losing streak. In that game, Sestich threw a 60-yard touchdown pass to Joseph Alves on a fourth-and-long play with 48 seconds left that allowed the Stars to pull within one, and then a gutsy and successful two-point conversion run from Sestich’s fellow quarterback mate Jeremy Atencio put the Stars up, 15-14. Unfortunately, the hard-fought win was taken away when the Saints threw a 47-yard TD pass 30 seconds later.

The streak finally ended a week later when the Stars rallied to topple Verbum Dei of Los Angeles, 20-19.

“In 2011, we all worked really hard as a team and the scores didn’t reflect the effort we gave all year,” Sestich said. “But in 2012, we worked equally as hard and it felt great to see our hard work and effort translated on the scoreboard. And it wasn’t due to any one guy, it was our whole team working hard.”

Sestich, who split time as the starter with Atencio last season on matchup purposes, was the top passer on Mary Star who ran the spread offense that mainly favored the running game. He completed 38-of-75 passes for 437 yards, three touchdowns and seven interceptions. However, the Stars are looking to go more pro-style with their offense where the quarterback is lined up more than five yards behind the center in a shotgun style attack, which the spread normally is like.

What will also help Sestich tremendously is the fact that every single offensive line starter for the Stars are seniors. “The pro-style offense fits my style better,” he said.

Meanwhile, Miller didn’t find instant success right away at San Pedro, but he would soon make history by becoming the first freshman quarterback to ever take a snap in a varsity game. Miller was the starter on the junior varsity team for the first eight games, but was bumped up to varsity shortly after.

With San Pedro leading Harbor Area neighbor Banning of Wilmington by a sizable margin on October 26, 2012, head coach Mike Walsh substituted Miller into the fray, and history was made.

“It was a really good feeling, and a big accomplishment to be the first freshman to do that,” said Miller, who did not attempt a pass in the Pirates’ 48-6 victory over Banning. Miller threw for five touchdowns on the JV level, with his favorite play coming against Gardena in a Marine League opener where he scrambled to his right and threw a gorgeous pass on the run to Anton Srsen for a 22-yard touchdown.

Miller, who started playing flag football at age nine and played Pop Warner football for Palos Verdes starting at the peewee level, also comes from a great family. His father Leonard is now in his second year as the San Pedro Pirate Booster Club president, while his sister Macy, also entering her sophomore year, was the junior varsity girls soccer most valuable player in 2013.

San Pedro will once again look to challenge the likes of two-time defending CIF-Los Angeles City Section champion Narbonne of Harbor City and perennial powers Carson and Banning for another Marine League title in 2013. Walsh is excited about the defense and Miller’s raw but very amazing potential.

When asked who he thought was San Pedro’s biggest rival, Miller was pretty clear on his answer.

“Since they’re the defending champs, I would say Narbonne,” Miller said. “But Carson will give us a good game as well.”

Miller and the Pirates actually start off Marine League play on October 11 at Carson, and then they host Narbonne the very next week, so there’s a strong chance the Pirates can win the league again if they can win both of those games, and still have an outstanding run in league competition simply by winning at least one of those showdowns.

Sestich thinks Mary Star should do well enough to challenge La Salle of Pasadena for the Camino Real League championship this season and was pretty definitive on who he believes is the Stars’ biggest adversary in league play.

“Bishop Montgomery,” said Sestich. “We haven’t beaten them since I’ve been at Mary Star and they’re our rivals. I think we have a great shot at beating them this year.”

Mary Star will travel to face the Knights on September 27.

Other than the offensive lines that will seek to protect them, there’s one thing that will also carry Miller and Sestich throughout their respective 2013 seasons, and that’s an overwhelmingly support system and fan base at their schools. The experience at San Pedro is unlike any other, especially when the Pirates march onto the field through the fabled Victory Arch, a long treasured staple at school for 76 years.

“The Pedro fans are great and you really feel the energy behind you at the home games,” Miller says of the Pirate football followers. “And I know many of them will be there to support us at the away games.”

Speaking of which, the Pirates have six away games in 2013, with the first one being the second-longest road trip in school history when they travel to Morro Bay for their season opener on August 30. Morro Bay is a five-hour, 220-mile trip. This game came about after Centennial of Compton, the Pirates’ original opponent for Week 3, backed out, and no one else but Morro Bay had an opening in their schedule.

“It will be a good test to see how our team performs,” Miller says of the Morro Bay opener.

As far as the Mary Star football experience at their home facility Daniels Field goes?

“My dad (John) played for Pedro there and my mom cheered for Mary Star and our traditional walk down the alley is great,” said Sestich, who’s sister Meagan is a 2009 San Pedro High grad who once pitched for the JV softball team. “Our fans are great because they’re so loud and supportive. It’s just an overall awesome atmosphere, and to top it off we walk back down the alley (to Mary Star Elementary School) with our fans to say a decade of the Rosary at the Grotto.”

For those who aren’t familiar with the Grotto, this tradition got started in the 1960s when the football team would go to Mary Star of the Sea Catholic Church and sing the alma mater to the nuns who taught them. In the 1970s, former Mary Star coach Joe Radisich began the tradition of walking down the alley to and from the old high school at the church.

Mary Star opens their season on September 6 with a long road trip of their own to Aquinas of San Bernardino.

Should the 2013 seasons be as fruitful for the San Pedro football teams, expect Miller and Sestich to play big time roles in the successes of both the Pirates and the Stars. It will definitely be a promising journey for both. spt