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Yassie Bedart-Ghani, Redondo Union, Outside Hitter, Senior/Norene Iosia, Redondo Union, Setter, Junior

It came down to splitting the thinnest of hairs in deciphering the top choice. Both have arguments as powerful as their respective arms, so why take something away both deserve. For that reason, DailyPrepTalk presents 2014 Co-Players of the Year.

Redondo Union, by titles, had its best season in program history. It started with the team’s third consecutive outright Bay League crown, followed by its second CIF-SS Division 1-AA trophy overall and ended with its first CIF State Division 1 championship.

Redondo lost twice all season – once to Lakewood in the final of the Molten Classic and to Archbishop Mitty in the semifinals of the Durango Fall Classic. The one to Lakewood came without Bedart-Ghani in the lineup. She had only been back for a few matches when the team lost to Mitty.

After that, Redondo didn’t lose again, never dropping a best-of-five match with the 6-foot-4 Bedart-Ghani in the lineup. She was at her best in the biggest moments, a classic sign you want in any Player of the Year selection. She pounded down 22 kills and hit .512 in the 1-AA final victory over Mater Dei. In the state final victory against Pitman, she recorded a team-high 16 kills while hitting .464.

Iosia’s play is the epitome of consistency, running an offense with silky smoothness and ripping serves with a spiteful vengeance. In between, she can be a menacing offensive weapon, a magician with the set over. At 5-foot-11 and strong-handed, she’s far from a liability on the blocking end and simply put she always seems to be in the right spot at the right time.

Whether it be bump setting a ball 40-foot over her shoulder on a dime or breaking off a key service run, Iosia impacted every match in a variety of ways. She also had a flair for coming up clutch. She turned the third set around in the sectional final with her serve. Mater Dei was leading 13-8 until she helped Redondo go on a 5-0 run to tie and change the dynamic of the set. In the state final, Iosia delivered five aces, including three in a span of five points to help Redondo build a cushion in Game 3.

For their efforts this season, Iosia and Bedart-Ghani share 2014 Player of the Year honors.


Gary Wilhoite, Palm Springs

Selecting a Coach of the Year comes down to a variety of factors. One sign is how much improvement did the team show throughout the season, was it playing its best at the end when it mattered most. Expectations are another factor. Was the team/coach expected to win or was it a surprise.

Carrying a giant target on your back throughout the season and still coming out on top deserves credit. Guiding a team like that presents different challenges than trying to rally the underdog to the upset.

For DailyPrepTalk’s 2014 Coach of the Year in Palm Springs’ Gary Wilhoite, it was some of both. Palm Springs finished the season as the CIF-SS Division 2-A champion and advanced to the state finals. Both are firsts for the program.

Those are great on the surface but it’s the way they came about that make them even more special. Palm Springs starts no player over 6-feet. The tallest starter is 5-foot-11. The next tallest players top out at 5-foot-8. For Palm Springs to be successful, it all rested in the fundamentals.

While Palm Springs did reach the semifinals of the 2-A playoffs last season, the division underwent a change before this fall due to Southern Section realignment. Therefore, even though Palm Springs was coming off a strong season and returning a lot of players, there was enough unknowns to keep Palm Springs from being any kind of favorite.

Teams like Windward and Viewpoint moved up to 2-A, while a team like Louisville moved down to 2-A. Palm Springs wasn’t one of the four seeded teams in its division at the start of the playoffs. Instead, Palm Springs upset No. 1 Louisville and No. 2 Windward on the way to winning the championship.

In fact, of the 10 divisions in the Southern Section, Palm Springs was the only team not among the top-four seeds to finish first. Seven teams that were top seeds won the title, with one No. 2 seed and one No. 4 seed winning a title as well. Palm Springs was the only non-seed to win a title.

For those reasons, Wilhoite is the pick for Coach of the Year.


OUTSIDE HITTERS (alphabetical order)

Kolby Bird, Westview, Senior

Westview had some mixed results over the course of the season, collecting big victories but also tough losses. Through it all Bird gave Westview consistency and reliability on both sides, playing solid defense and being one of the team’s go-to hitters offensively. She’s not quite the same force some of the other outsides are when it comes to offense, but she has an all-around game that is coveted in outsides. She was picked to the San Diego All CIF team.

Meghan Buzzerio, Chino Hills, Senior

Chino Hills didn’t have the season it was hoping for ultimately, but it wasn’t without effort from Buzzerio. Few teams rode an outside as hard as her that ended with as good a year as Chino Hills had overall. She took a high volume of swings with 1,030. She ended up hitting .313, with 455 kills to go with 232 digs, 59 aces and 40 blocks. She was also picked for the Division 1-A All CIF team.

Skylar Caputo, Mira Costa, Senior

Caputo wasn’t the same offensive powerhouse like some of the other outsides on the list. Her beach experience makes her a smart hitter who knows how to score against bigger blocks and she was a mainstay in Mira Costa’s offense. However, it was Caputo’s defense and serve receive where she excels and those contributions played critical roles in Mira Costa’s success this season. She was named to the Division 1-AA All CIF team.

Alyse Ford, Mater Dei, Senior

Mater Dei’s go-to player had a superb senior campaign, finishing as the Co-Player of the Year in CIF-SS Division 1-AA. Ford was a front and back row force. Her speed and athleticism not only made her one of the top offensive talents, she flashed incredible defense at times and covers plenty of ground at the net. She posted 326 kills on the season, hitting .404. She added 166 digs, 26 aces and 23 blocks.

Sien Gallop, Francis Parker, Junior

Two So Cal programs took home state titles this season and Francis Parker was one of them. After a mediocre regular season, Parker heated up in the postseason and played its best volleyball en route to winning its third consecutive state title. An all-around factor in it was Gallop at outside. She played a key role in the team’s serve receive, as well as provided a weapon with her jump serving. She tied for a team-high kills with 18 in the state final, also coming up with 10 digs for the double-double.  

Sarah Miller, Lakewood, Senior

Miller might be hard-pressed to match the offensive games of the other outside hitters on the list, but she’s far from a liability on that end. She’s a smart, competitive hitter that knows how to score against bigger blocks. It’s her back row play where she makes her mark. She’s a strong passer out of serve receive and as solid as they come digging the ball. She was the team’s best all-around player this season.

Lindsey Ruddins, Aliso Niguel, Senior

Like Ford, Ruddins is a front and back row beast that is difficult to stop when she’s on the attack. Ruddins was named Player of the Year in CIF-SS Division 1-A, where she helped Aliso Niguel capture the program’s first CIF championship. With Ruddins so explosive on the offensive end, her defense can get overshadowed. She led Aliso Niguel with 18 digs in the CIF final. For the season, Ruddins recorded 452 kills and hit .484. On top of that, she had 141 digs, 51 blocks and 31 aces.

Savvy Simo, Torrey Pines, Junior

Summed up, Simo is close to being the total package. She might carry the best serve among all the outside hitters, deftly able to switch between nailing a jump topspin or jump float. She’s also a front and back row scorer and that means defenses always need to be aware of her. She’s also quick and that aids her ability to be a strong defender, picking off would-be kills or making solid passes out of serve receive. She was someone Torrey Pines relied heavily on this season in many capacities.

MIDDLE BLOCKERS (alphabetical order)

*Abril Bustamante, Redondo Union, Senior (*Middle Blocker of the Year)

Narrowed down to one example, it shows why Bustamante was the top choice among middle blockers this season. During the CIF-SS Division 1-AA against Mater Dei, twice Bustamante – who stays in during the back row – passed a ball from zone six and then rushed up to hit the quick attack out of the middle. It takes a freaky athlete to pull that off and that’s what Bustamante is. She gave Redondo so much versatility at the position – she led the team in digs in the state final – and impacted the match in a multitude of ways, from blocking to passing to scoring and serving.

Sascha Dominique, Redlands East Valley, Senior

A great regular season was tempered a bit when Redlands East Valley fell in the second round of the CIF-SS Division 1-A playoffs. However, Dominique’s play was consistent and her impact felt throughout the fall campaign. She’s an imposing physical force who is both a strong blocker and finisher. She ended the year with 168 kills while hitting .446. She also had 78 digs, 73 blocks and 25 aces.

Peyton Grahovac, Villa Park, Senior

Few middles reached the 20-kill plateau as much as Grahovac did for Villa Park. She hit the mark eight times, including a season-high 28 kills against Canyon in October. Her presence in the middle was a boost toward Villa Park’s success this season, reaching the semifinals of the CIF-SS Division 1-A playoffs. She ended the year with 496 kills and hit .494. She also contributed 147 digs and 108 blocks, as well as 28 aces.

Kristen Hamlin, Redondo Union, Senior

Breakout season is the best way to describe Hamlin’s play for Redondo. She’s a tough cover for any defense because of her explosiveness and athleticism. Even with opponents often knowing the ball was going to Hamlin, there was nothing it could do to stop the end result. She finished the season on a high note as well, posting 15 kills and hitting .500, along with three blocks, in the CIF State Division 1 final.

Amanda Pedersen-Henry, Vista Murrieta, Senior

While Vista Murrieta didn’t enjoy the same overall success as Redondo, Pedersen-Henry joins Bustamante as a six-rotation middle who was used in serve receive. That’s a rare feat for a middle and Pedersen-Henry did it against a competitive schedule. Pedersen-Henry put up 248 kills, hitting .375 with 134 digs and 51 blocks.

Katie Rethmeyer, Mira Costa, Senior

Rethmeyer doesn’t have the flash or power of some of the other middles on the list, but she sees the court well and has multiple ways to score and that allows her to be effective. She was steady and consistent in the middle all season for Mira Costa. She had her best performance of the season in the quarterfinal loss to Mater Dei, when she finished with a match-high 19 kills.

Amy Underdown, Great Oak, Junior

Few middles played with the physicality of Underdown and what she provided for Great Oak out of the middle was part of the success the team enjoyed in reaching the CIF-SS Division 1-AA semifinals. While not solely relying on it, Underdown plays with power on offense like few middles this season. Defenses must account for her then must find a way to deal with her pace. And going the other way, she can make it hard on teams trying to avoid her block. On the year, Underdown hit .501 and recorded 223 kills. She also had 34 blocks.

Brittany Welsh, Mater Dei, Senior

One of Mater Dei’s strengths this season was its ability to put up a big block and slow down opposing offenses. Welsh was a key cog in that scheme. She finished with a team-high 122 blocks to anchor the defense at the net. While Welsh’s biggest contributions came defensively, she also provided an offensive option for Mater Dei to help keep defenses honest. She recorded 192 kills and hit .328.

OPPOSITES (alphabetical order)

Megann Delgado, Lakewood, Senior

In terms of attacking, Delgado was as good as anyone from the opposite spot. She played all the way around and that made her a legitimate threat out of the back row on the D ball. Her size also bothered opponents when she was front row and blocking. And Lakewood liked to use Delgado in different ways, not afraid to have her run a slide out of certain rows.

Bailee Huizenga, Great Oak, Junior

Huizenga was another opposite that stayed on the court for all six rotations. She was even used in serve receive. That alone is rare enough to garner attention, but throw in the factor Huizenga was in the Great Oak offense and there aren’t many opposites that impacted their team the way Huizenga did. She finished the season with 223 kills and hitting .383. She also had 26 aces.

Lauren Lee, Santiago, Senior

Lee’s versatility at the opposite position was elementary in Santiago’s play this season. She’s a strong all-around contributor, with her ability to set making her a valuable commodity. She was second on the team in kills with 308, while hitting .372. She also added 169 digs, 80 assists, 47 blocks and 34 aces.

*Savannah Rennie, Torrey Pines, Senior (*Opposite of the Year)

After spending last season in the middle, Rennie took her physical skill set to the right side this season and was a reliable and steadfast option for Torrey Pines. At times, she has the ability to shut down opposing outsides and render their attacks fruitless. Rennie’s also a monster on the attack, pounding out kills with authority. Late in the season, she was a six rotation opposite, attacking out of the back row as well. For her performance this season, Rennie is the Opposite of the Year.

HITTERS-SETTERS (alphabetical order)

Payton Chang, Mater Dei, Senior

Chang was everywhere for Mater Dei this season, impacting the game in many ways. While her biggest contribution came on the setting side, Mater Dei relied on her to carry some of the offensive load when she was front row. She finished third on the team in kills with 220. She led the team with 681 assists, while also adding 288 digs, 36 blocks and 22 aces.

Heidi Dyer, Saddleback Valley Christian, Senior

Saddleback Valley Christian claimed the CIF-SS Division 3-A championship and advanced to its first state final in program history, finishing runner up to Sacred Heart Cathedral. Dyer was a crucial part of the puzzle, as she helped SVC in a lot of areas. She was named the Division 3-A Player of the Year. She ended with 509 assists, 308 kills while hitting .337, 286 digs, 69 blocks and 50 aces.

Kylie Miller, Rancho Cucamonga, Junior

Rancho Cucamonga made it to the CIF-SS Division 1-A second round and it was Miller doing it all for the Cougars throughout the season, including playing in serve receive. She was named to the Division 1-A All CIF team. On the year, she had 288 kills and hit .356. She had 535 assists, 225 digs, 71 aces and 27 blocks.

Zana Muno, Notre Dame/SO, Senior

Muno is the definition of a utility player, but what separates her is she does almost everything well above average. Muno set a 5-1 at times, ran a 6-2 other times and even played libero. She was picked for the Division 1-AA All CIF team. Overall, Muno had 466 assists, 154 kills, 184 digs, 59 blocks and 39 aces.

*Kathryn Plummer, Aliso Niguel, Junior (*Hitter-Setter of the Year)

One advantage Aliso Niguel carried this season was in Plummer’s ability to make a difference all around. Her height allows her to shut down the left-side attack of most opponents and conversely makes her a difficult cover to stop when she goes on the attack. She’s also used in serve receive and her serve is a weapon as well. She was picked to the Division 1-A All CIF team. She put up 472 assists, 244 kills while hitting .443, 123 digs, 96 blocks and 34 aces. For all she did this season, Plummer is the Hitter-Setter of the Year.

SETTERS (alphabetical order)

Sophia Coffey, Flintridge Sacred Heart, Senior

Flying under the radar at times, Coffey does a bit of everything for a Flintridge Sacred Heart team that reached the second round of the CIF-SS Division 1-AA playoffs. She was named to the 1-AA All CIF team as a result. While not flashy, Coffey is effective with both her delivery and her defense. She’s also needs to be accounted for on offense. She posted 117 kills with a percentage of .382. She dished out 1,175 assists to go with 191 digs, 34 blocks and 30 aces.

Sarah Dixon, Chino Hills, Senior

One of the highlights this season for Chino Hills was the contributions of Dixon. Steady and consistent, Dixon helped Chino Hills reach the quarterfinals of the CIF-SS Division 1-A playoffs, as well as go undefeated through the Baseline League. She had 985 assists, 245 digs, 66 kills, 52 aces and 23 blocks.

Cindy Marina, Great Oak, Junior

With a right side and middle heavy attack, Great Oak needed someone who could get the ball in the window for those players to be effective. That person was Marina and she did a terrific job of guiding the Great Oak attack and giving the team consistent production from the setting position. She ended the year with 835 assists, 19 blocks and 17 aces.

Jessie Prichard, Santiago, Junior

With her delivery and defense, Prichard’s play is smooth and her demeanor unflappable. She directed a fast Santiago attack that relied as much on its speed as it did its variety. Much of that had to do with Prichard’s ability to run the offense. She finished the year with 1,195 assists, with 234 digs, 61 kills, 63 aces and 53 blocks. She was named to the Division 1-A All CIF team.

Faith Smith, Point Loma, Senior

Point Loma had a remarkable season, capturing the CIF-SDS Division 1 championship by taking down La Costa Canyon. It was the first CIF title in program history. At the center of it all was Smith, whose setting skills elevated the Point Loma attack by delivering a hittable ball time after time, even if the pass wasn’t perfect. She had 622 assists, 66 digs, 60 kills and 44 aces.

LIBEROS (alphabetical order)

Payton Carter, Corona del Mar, Junior

Carter’s role for Corona del Mar can be summed up by the team’s biggest effort of the season, when the Sea Kings upset Lakewood in the CIF-SS Division 1-AA quarterfinals. In that match, Carter passed a 2.9 (on a 4-point scale), with 46 attempts and zero passing errors. It was that type of production CdM enjoyed all season. She finished the year with 270 digs.

Jane Horner, Santa Margarita, Junior

One of the smaller teams around, Santa Margarita relied heavily on its defense and ball control. After switching on and off at the libero spot to open the season, Horner took over for good midway through the season and held the spot the rest of the way. Santa Margarita earned a share of the Trinity League title and reached the second round of the CIF-SS Division 1-AA playoffs, playing one of the tougher schedules around.

Regan Lough, King, Junior

One piece that remained put for King this fall was Lough at libero. She was picked for the Division 1-A All CIF team after King reached the semifinals. She finished the season with 622 digs, 110 assists and 42 aces. The 42 aces led the team.

*Emma Smith, Mira Costa, Junior (*Libero of the Year)

The strength of Smith comes with her being strong in both serve receive and digging. Mira Costa relied on its ball control and defense to be successful and Smith was a crucial part of it. She was steady with her passing and erased many kills off the board for the opponent. On top of that, Mira Costa faced one of the toughest schedules around, so Smith performed against the top talents from schools like Redondo, Mater Dei, Torrey Pines, Santa Margarita, Marymount and Archbishop Mitty. Because Smith performed so well against the best teams, she is the Libero of the Year.

Kate Swanson, Bishop’s, Senior

It can be hard to measure a libero’s overall impact in the win and loss column, but it’s safe to say Bishop’s doesn’t have the same season it did without Swanson patrolling the back court with a passion. Bishop’s won the Coastal League title and made it to the CIF-SDS Open Division semifinals, as well as the CIF State Division 5 semifinals. She was the only libero selected between the two San Diego All CIF teams. She had 368 digs and 23 aces.

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1. Redondo Union (38-2)

An easy choice for No. 1, finishing as the CIF-SS Division 1-AA and CIF State Division 1 champions. Redondo also went undefeated through the Bay League and finished the season on a 27-match winning streak. Lakewood was the only So Cal team to defeat Redondo this season, coming in the second week of the season in the final of the Molten Classic. Redondo’s other loss was to Archbishop Mitty at the Durango Fall Classic. Overall, Redondo went 9-1 against the rest of the final Top 10 this season. It includes three victories apiece against Mater Dei and Marymount and two against Mira Costa. Redondo also finished third at the Durango Fall Classic and first at the Redondo Varsity Classic.

2. Mater Dei (30-12)

Mater Dei’s season ended much like last year, with the Monarchs finishing runner up in the CIF-SS Division 1-AA playoffs and reaching the CIF State Division 1 semifinals. Both losses came to Redondo. While Mater Dei dealt with off-court issues early on this season, clearly the team came on at the end and pushed Redondo all it could. Mater Dei racked up strong victories this season, including defeating Mira Costa in the quarterfinals of the sectional playoffs. Corona del Mar and Santa Margarita each defeated Mater Dei this season, but Mater Dei avenged those losses at later times. Mater Dei also beat Santiago and Aliso Niguel, as well as capture the California Challenge for the second straight season.

3. Aliso Niguel (30-2)

Aliso Niguel’s season ended with a tough loss to Clovis to open the state playoffs. It was only the team’s second defeat all year, the other coming to Mater Dei in tournament play. However, among So Cal teams Aliso Niguel’s season was strong enough to finish in the third spot overall. The run included earning the CIF-SS Division 1-A championship, the first in program history. In that match, Aliso Niguel rallied from down 2-0 to defeat Santiago in five games. Aliso’s next-strongest victory this season was sweeping Santa Margarita.

4. Mira Costa (27-7)

Mira Costa reached the quarterfinals of the CIF-SS Division 1-AA playoffs, falling to Mater Dei in five games. It was one of several quality losses for Costa this season, including twice to Redondo, once to Torrey Pines, Santa Margarita and Marymount. The only non-quality loss for Costa was to Rancho Cucamonga in tournament play. Mira Costa did avenge losses to Torrey Pines and Santa Margarita, as well as picked up a key victory over Archbishop Mitty in tournament play. That was at the Santa Barbara TOC, where Costa finished first.

5. Corona del Mar (24-6)

Few teams scored as big a postseason victory as Corona del Mar when it upset Lakewood in the quarterfinals of the CIF-SS Division 1-AA playoffs. It was a strong late-season victory that showed CdM’s improvement throughout the season. CdM also owns regular season victories over Marymount and Mater Dei, as well as beating Flintridge Sacred Heart in the second round of the sectional playoffs. The only So Cal teams to defeat CdM this season are Santiago, Great Oak and Mater Dei, which eliminated CdM in the semis.

6. Lakewood (33-3)

If Lakewood defeats CdM, there’s a good chance Lakewood finishes no worse than No. 3 overall. That loss dropped Lakewood out of the Top 5. It was only the team’s third loss of the season, with the other two coming at the Durango Fall Classic to Santa Margarita and Flintridge Sacred Heart. Lakewood defeated Santa Margarita earlier that week to win the Dave Mohs Championships. Lakewood also won the Molten Classic. Lakewood was the only team this season from So Cal to beat Redondo. It also defeated Marymount and Santiago.

7. Santiago (36-4)

A steady and consistent season for Santiago lands the Sharks at No. 7. Santiago finished runner up to Aliso Niguel in the CIF-SS Division 1-A playoffs. It finished tied for third at the Dave Mohs Championships, first at the Inland Empire Classic and runner up to King at the Ayala Tournament. Santiago defeated King twice during league play, however. Santiago also owns victories over CdM, Villa Park and Torrey Pines, which came in the state playoffs. Santiago’s only other losses this year came to Mater Dei and Lakewood.

8. Torrey Pines (28-7)

For the second straight season, Torrey Pines picked up the CIF-SDS Open Division championship. It was the program’s fourth CIF title in a row. Torrey Pines’ season ended with a loss to Santiago in the first round of the state playoffs. None of Torrey Pines’ losses this season were non-quality ones. Its first loss of the season came to Assumption at the Durango Fall Classic, where Torrey Pines finished tied for third. Torrey Pines also lost to Mira Costa, Marymount and Westview from So Cal and Branson from Nor Cal. Key victories for Torrey Pines this season include La Costa Canyon, Westview, Great Oak, Mira Costa, Canyon Crest and Francis Parker.

9. Great Oak (21-6)

Great Oak produced a deep postseason run for the second year in a row, reaching the semifinals of the CIF-SS Division 1-AA semifinals before falling to Redondo. Great Oak’s season included winning its second consecutive undefeated Southwestern League championship as well. Key victories included beating Marymount in the quarterfinals of the CIF playoffs, as well as topping Corona del Mar and Westview in nonleague matches. Quality losses for Great Oak included losing to Torrey Pines, Santiago, Westview and Chino Hills. Great Oak also fell to Chaparral in tournament play, but beat Chaparral twice in league play.

10. Marymount (28-7)

Rounding out the Top 10 this season is Marymount, which reached the CIF-SS Division 1-AA quarterfinals. Marymount owns the Mission League title, beating Flintridge Sacred Heart twice. Marymount also downed Mira Costa in nonleague play and Torrey Pines in tournament competition. Three of Marymount’s seven losses were to No. 1 Redondo. Marymount also fell to No. 2 Mater Dei.

11. Flintridge Sacred Heart (26-7)

Moving up to Division 1-AA this season, it was an overall strong season for the Tologs. Flintridge Sacred Heart’s season ended to Corona del Mar in the second round of the playoffs. FSH participated in the Durango Fall Classic and Santa Barbara TOC this year, as well as winning the So Cal Invitational. Quality losses for FSH included twice to Marymount, Westview and Mira Costa. FSH also owns victories over Lakewood and Villa Park.

12. Westview (19-11)

Westview was a difficult team to place because overall it had a mixed bag this season. It had strong victories against Torrey Pines, Great Oak, Flintridge Sacred Heart, Canyon Crest and Francis Parker. It also lost to Torrey Pines, Canyon Crest and Great Oak. Those are quality losses and Westview could be higher in the rankings if that was it. Yet, Westview had some tough tournament losses to Bishop Montgomery, Ramona and Point Loma, as well as dropping a nonleague contest to Del Norte. Ultimately, Westview’s victories over Torrey Pines and Great Oak came late in the season. Those are triumphs against Top 10 teams, so those carried Westview to No. 12 overall.

13. Long Beach Wilson (17-15)

No question Wilson is a surprise pick at No. 13. It was a tough regular season, but the Bruins came on in the postseason. First, they upset Huntington Beach, the Sunset League champ, before eliminated Santa Margarita, the Trinity League co-champ. While Wilson had some non-quality losses, in the end Wilson hit its stride at the right time. That meant two options, dropping Santa Margarita farther down in the rankings or boosting Wilson up. Since the one constant is no team is ranked lower than a team it beat in the postseason, Wilson goes above Santa Margarita and takes No. 13.

14. Santa Margarita (29-7)

Had Santa Margarita defeated Long Beach Wilson in the postseason, it’s likely Santa Margarita would’ve finished inside the Top 10. That’s what that loss meant. It was a strong regular season for Santa Margarita. The Eagles defeated Mater Dei, Mira Costa and Lakewood. It also had quality losses against Lakewood, Mira Costa, Mater Dei and Aliso Niguel.

15. Villa Park (26-7)

Villa Park’s victory over Chino Hills in the quarterfinals of the CIF-SS Division 1-A playoffs gets Villa Park in the Top 15. It was the second time Villa Park beat Chino Hills on the season. Villa Park went on to fall to Santiago in the semis. Other quality losses included falling to Flintridge Sacred Heart and Santa Margarita. Villa Park also lost to Brea Olinda and Redlands East Valley, while beating South Torrance.

16. Chino Hills (27-7)

Falling to Villa Park cost Chino Hills spots in the final ranking. Chino Hills owns a strong victory over Great Oak and a quality loss to Santiago in nonleague action. It played in three tough tournaments in the Molten Classic, the Durango Fall Classic and the Redondo Varsity Classic. Chino Hills also went undefeated in the Baseline League.

17. Francis Parker (29-8)

A sputtering season ended with a bang for Parker, which captured the CIF State Division 5 championship. It was the third state title in a row for Parker. However, this season Parker came in second in Coastal League, losing twice to Bishop’s. After falling to Torrey Pines in the CIF-SDS Open Division semifinals, Parker defeated Bishop’s in five games to reach the state final. There, Parker knocked off Branson for its ninth state title overall.

18. King (28-9)

King is the only team outside the Top 10 to defeat Santiago this season, doing so in the final of the Ayala Tournament. While that was King’s best victory, it’s most impressive part of the season came by reaching the semifinals of the CIF-SS Division 1-A playoffs after being down two starters. Finishing the season strong is always a trait that scores high and it helped King land inside the Top 20 to finish the year.

19. Saddleback Valley Christian (33-6)

SVC ended as the CIF-SS Division 3-A champion and advanced to the CIF State Division 3 final, where it finished runner up to Sacred Heart Cathedral. It was an amazing season for SVC, which picked up victories against Los Alamitos, Sage Hill, South Torrance, Scripps Ranch and JSerra. Los Al and JSerra reached the second round of the Division 1-AA playoffs. South Torrance captured the Division 2-AA title, while Sage Hill captured the Division 3-AA title. Canyon Crest reached the finals of the CIF-SDS Open Division playoffs. All that was good enough for SVC to break the Top 20.

20. Canyon Crest Academy (29-8)

Canyon Crest earned a clutch victory over Bishop’s in the Open Division playoffs. It also owns a victory over Westview this season. Quality losses include falling to Torrey Pines twice.

21. Bishop’s (33-7)

Bishop’s was two, five-game losses away from finishing much higher. Bishop’s fell to Canyon Crest in five games in the Open Division playoffs, then to Parker in five in the state playoffs.

22. South Torrance (31-10)

South ended the season as the CIF-SS Division 2-AA champion and reached the finals of the CIF State Division 2 playoffs, where it fell to Archbishop Mitty.

23. Sage Hill (24-4)

It was another strong season for Sage Hill, which earned the CIF-SS Division 3-AA championship and advanced to the CIF State Division 3 semifinals.

24. Village Christian (36-4)

Village Christian reached the finals of the CIF-SS Division 2-AA playoffs. The only teams Village Christian lost to this season were Santiago (twice) and South Torrance (twice).

25. Scripps Ranch (25-10)

The only teams Scripps Ranch lost to that it didn’t also beat are Redondo, Parker, Ventura, Flintridge Sacred Heart and Saddleback Valley Christian.

Others (alphabetical order)

Alta Loma

Brea Olinda


Del Norte


Huntington Beach


La Costa Canyon

La Jolla

La Jolla Country Day

Los Alamitos

Point Loma


Rancho Cucamonga

Redlands East Valley

San Clemente

San Marcos


Vista Murrieta

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Redondo Union (38-2) An easy choice for No. 1, finishing as the CIF-SS Division... [numOfComments] => 1 ) [2] => stdClass Object ( [id] => 30277 [title] => Redondo climbs past Pitman to reach pinnacle [alias] => redondo-climbs-past-pitman-to-reach-pinnacle [catid] => 10 [published] => 1 [introtext] =>

Redondo Union, the expected So Cal juggernaut this fall, was just that.

Two weeks after capturing its second CIF Southern Section Division 1-AA championship in program history, Redondo (38-2) added to its riches Saturday night by claiming its first state title.

Redondo swept Pitman, 25-23, 25-18, 25-21, in the CIF State Division 1 championship match at Santiago Canyon College in Orange, ending its best season ever.

“I’m humbled that we won,” Redondo coach Tommy Chaffins said. “It’s a long season, the longest I’ve had. We’ve never won state before. This is a special group to coach. More than anything, I just try to stay out of their way. They are so intelligent, so aggressive. It was an easy group to coach.”

Redondo was a victory away from reaching the state finals two seasons ago when it lost to Marymount in the semifinals.

That Redondo unit featured current starters in senior middle Abril Bustamante and junior setter Norene Iosia, while current Redondo senior outside Yassie Bedart-Ghani was on the Marymount team that eventually won state.

“It’s surreal,” Bedart-Ghani said. “There are no words for this. Making school history and playing with some of my best friends, it’s so ideal what happened tonight.”

It’s a different side of the coin for Pitman (44-2), which didn’t start the season with a spotlight on the state title like Redondo.

Two years ago while Redondo was battling Marymount, Pitman was out in the first round of the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division 1 playoffs. Last season there was improvement to the semifinals.

Coming into this campaign, Pitman didn’t give much thought to the state playoffs. But as the playoffs started, the confidence grew. The run included a five-set victory over Pleasant Grove in the sectional finals and a five-set win against Menlo-Atherton in the state semifinals.

“I’m so proud of my team,” Pitman senior outside Lindsey Vander Weide said. “I never thought we would have gone this far. I’m happy to end my senior year this way. In the beginning of the year, I wasn’t sure how it was going to play out and how the postseason was going to go. As it started and we kept winning and playing stronger and getting better, I knew in my heart that we were going to go far.”

Three Things:

1. “Huge.” It doesn’t matter which coach gets quoted, they both had the same one-word response to how important the opening set was. Pitman went on a 4-0 run – capped by Vander Weide’s kill – to push past Redondo and lead 14-12 in Game 1.

Pitman had leads of 19-15 and 20-16 later on. Sophomore outside Yisel Perez’s kill off the block made it 20-16. Yet, after controlling a good chunk of the set, Pitman couldn’t stop Redondo from going on a 9-3 run to win it.

Rice had a cross court kill to cut it to 20-18. Senior Hayes Honea laid out for a one-handed dig to keep the rally going. A few points later Honea served consecutive aces to put Redondo up 22-20 and cap a 6-0 run. Perez’s right-side swing off the block cut it to 22-21 and Pitman was still right there.

However, Hamlin crushed a quick set from Iosia three plays after to give Redondo set point at 24-22. Vander Weide’s tip winner out of the middle made it 24-23. Redondo first-ball sided out on the next play, with Bedart-Ghani delivering a nice angled shot cross court for the winner.

“We didn’t want to give them life,” Chaffins said. “Being up 1-0 isn’t a bad spot to be in.”

By the numbers, the first set was Pitman’s best.

That’s one reason why it was so tough to lose it. Pitman hit .385 in Game 1 and not higher than .152 in the next two sets. In the first game, Pitman had two of its four total aces and 10 of its 32 total digs.

Those are in Pitman’s favor, but the telling number is even though Redondo hit .250, Redondo had 10 more swings than Pitman in the set (36-26). That led to Redondo having five more kills overall (17-12).

“If we would have taken that game, the whole match could’ve been different,” Pitman coach Kristen Pontes-Christian said. “That was crucial and unfortunately we didn’t take that one. That was big.”

2. Unique feat shows Redondo’s strength. There were a total of 19 sets played between the five divisions Saturday. Only one ended with three players getting kills on three consecutive points. That set belonged to Redondo and it came in the last of the day.

Junior outside Megan Rice, senior middle Kristen Hamlin and Bustamante recorded kills on successive plays and put the final touches on the victory after Redondo’s lead had been shaved to 22-21.

The final three (really four) points of the season sum up Redondo’s attack in a nutshell. Before Rice’s kill started the 3-0 run to end the match, Bedart-Ghani had an attack from the back row that she just missed connecting on.

In the last four points, Iosia went to Bedart-Ghani out of the back, Rice on the left, Hamlin in the middle and then again out the back to Bustamante, who had the clincher.

Bedart-Ghani led the way with 16 kills, hitting .464. Hamlin ended with 15 kills and hit .500. Rice had nine kills and Bustamante six. Only Bustamante didn’t get 20 attempts. She had 19 instead.

Bedart-Ghani had 28 swings, Hamlin 24 and Rice 21.

“They just had so many weapons,” Pontes-Christian said. “They have good hitters, great hitters and they are consistent. They hit the spots they needed to hit. Our defense, it was just so quick, we didn’t adjust fast enough.”

While Pitman had trouble slowing Redondo’s attack, Redondo’s guesswork was a bit easier.

Redondo entered expecting to see Vander Weide and freshman middle Whitney Barnes take the majority of the swings and that’s how it panned out. The pair combined for 50 of the 87 attempts for Pitman.

Even with the focus heavily on Vander Weide, she finished with a team-high 14 kills and hit .333. She also had three aces. Redondo was coming off a five-game victory over Mater Dei in the state semifinals Tuesday, when it faced standout outside Alyse Ford, who moves around in Mater Dei’s attack.

But it’s nothing like Redondo saw with Vander Weide, who hits everything but the kitchen sink.

“In those particular rows, probably not,” said Chaffins regarding if he’s seen a team move a player around as much as Vander Weide. “It was a good strategy by them, not just setting her in one spot. The closest thing is Alyse Ford. She comes inside for some plays, but Alyse doesn’t hit slides like that kid does on occasion.”

3. More notes. Running through some loose items, this was the first time any sport has reached the state final in Pitman’s history.

“I’m proud of the girls for making it here,” Pontes-Christian said. “It’s huge for Pitman and for Turlock. I wish we could’ve given them more of a fight. I wish it could’ve gone four or five sets, but at the end of the day we are runner up in state. That’s huge.”

It’s out of the indoor and on to the outdoor for Bustamante now. For the second year in a row, she won’t be playing indoor for club and instead focusing on sand. If it’s her last swing she takes indoors, it was a good one, clinching the state championship for Redondo.

“I’m so excited to even be a part of this team,” Bustamante said. “The way we ended it in three, it’s more than I could’ve asked for.”

While Bustamante came into the season as a known commodity, Hamlin might be the Southern Section’s breakout player of 2014.

“We play for each other and play like no other,” Hamlin said. “That’s what our coach always says. We always preach it on the court. We play for each other and we love each other. That’s why we come out with so many wins. I was glad I actually got to make a difference on the court.”

Iosia finished with five aces and seven digs, tying junior libero Amanda Tsao for second in digs. Iosia’s serve is a weapon. Three of those five aces came in a four-point span in the fourth set.

Iosia turned a 5-3 lead into a 9-3 advantage. As for Tsao, she was inserted as the starting libero in the sectional semifinals against Great Oak and has been there since. She also had an ace and three assists.

Junior Lauren Solis led Pitman in digs with six. Senior outside Madison King and Barnes had five kills apiece, while senior setter Maddy Halteman finished with 29 assists.

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[event] => stdClass Object ( ) [postType] => [link] => /girls-volleyball/high-schools/item/30277-redondo-climbs-past-pitman-to-reach-pinnacle [featuredIntroImage] => /media/k2/items/src/910b6c753d1ef36d028ac4947f812042.jpg [featuredImageThumbnails] => stdClass Object ( [image_620x340] => media/k2/items/cache/620x340_910b6c753d1ef36d028ac4947f812042.jpg [image_290x160] => media/k2/items/cache/290x160_910b6c753d1ef36d028ac4947f812042.jpg [image_140x90] => media/k2/items/cache/140x90_910b6c753d1ef36d028ac4947f812042.jpg [image_50x50] => media/k2/items/cache/50x50_910b6c753d1ef36d028ac4947f812042.jpg ) [featuredIntrotext] => Redondo Union, the expected So Cal juggernaut this fall, was just that. Two weeks after... [numOfComments] => 0 ) [3] => stdClass Object ( [id] => 30276 [title] => Mitty in familiar spot after taking care of South Torrance [alias] => mitty-in-familiar-spot-after-taking-care-of-south-torrance [catid] => 10 [published] => 1 [introtext] =>

Trees in a forest, Archbishop MItty in a California state final.

A seemingly permanent fixture, Mitty’s latest appearance came at the expense of South Torrance in four games, 25-12, 25-21, 20-25, 25-19, for the CIF State Division 2 championship. The victory extended the program’s state-leading count to 11 titles overall.

It was Mitty’s third in a row as well, the second time that’s happened (1993-95). Since Mitty won its first state championship with Bret Almazan-Cezar as coach in 2001, it’s been to the state finals 11 times in 14 seasons.

Eight of those trips have ended in victory.

“This was a group that was pretty diverse at the beginning of the year,” Almazan-Cezar said. “They figured out how to maintain a value system that allowed them to be successful in the long run. When adversity happens, you saw you it out there. That game was a microcosm of our season. We get in situations where we make a lot of errors, but then we figure out that we’ve been here before and let’s do it the right way.”

Mitty has been so strong in the state finals recently that South Torrance was the first opponent to take a set in Mitty’s last five victories.

Mira Costa is the last team to defeat Mitty in a state final, in 2007. It was Costa’s third consecutive state victory over Mitty. That win gave Costa seven state titles and kept Mitty at six. Since then, Mitty’s five state titles have it two ahead of the next closest programs in Francis Parker and St. Francis of Mountain View with nine.

Like Almazan-Cezar quipped postgame, “We can say 11. That’s what it comes down to. We can say three in a row. We have three players that have won three in a row. Not many teams can say that.”

Those would be seniors Alexa Dreyer, Brittany Latigue and Natasha Kosowicz.

While Mitty owns state history, South Torrance had never been past the state quarterfinals before this season.

Of South Torrance’s eight postseason victories – including sectional and state playoffs – to get here, four came in five games. After falling behind 2-0 and then taking the third set, South found a glimmer of hope.

“For sure before Game 3 we talked about it,” South coach Robert Kutsch said. “Out of all the five-game matches we won, we have never been down 0-2 and come back and won. We haven’t done that yet.”

Three Things:

1. Pick your poison. That is what South Torrance was left with. The balance for Mitty was so good that it was impossible for South to take away all the options.

“Serve receive was awesome,” Almazan-Cezar said. “The setters were making good choices. In Game 1, it was about Merin (Kolte). Then by the end it was all about the middles. That is the system this year. We don’t know who the kill leader is going to be but someone is going to hit .500.”

The .500 club belonged to Dreyer on Saturday.

The senior middle finished with 10 kills on 19 swings and hit .526. Kolte on the right wasn’t far off. She finished with a match-high 16 kills and hit .406. It included five kills apiece in sets one and two.

Junior outside Julia Chizanskos was a force as well, collecting 13 kills and hitting .370 on the left. She also scooped up 14 digs.

Kosowicz put down 14 kills and Latigue five.

Through the first two sets, Kolte, Kosowicz and Chizanskos combined for 45 attempts. In that span, the middles had just 13 attempts.

By the end of the match though, the middles had 33 swings, meaning Mitty went to them almost twice as much in the second half of the match.

Mitty hit .387 in Game 1, .371 in Game 2 and .389 in Game 4. In Game 3, Mitty hit .118 with seven of its 17 hitting errors coming in that frame.

Mitty was good defensively as well, with senior libero Gabriella Carta-Samuels making 17 digs and junior setter Tessie Powers 14 digs.

“I thought South had a great crowd and their coach did a good job of making adjustments,” Almazan-Cezar said. “South, I thought their libero (Alison Prunauer) was incredible, I just thought ours was better.”

Prunauer led South with 14 digs.

Senior setter Kori Kutsch finished with 12 digs to go with 36 assists and five kills. Junior outside Karly Eastly led South with 12 kills, while sophomore outside Gina Cortesi had 11 kills.

2. Winning differently but the same. Coming to Mitty means one thing and it’s what took place Saturday. When the season started and the team came together to talk goals, Carta-Samuels had a short list.

“I said we are winning state,” she said.

The common denominator in the state streak has been Almazan-Cezar.

Dreyer almost broke into tears talking about what it means to be part of the Mitty legacy and she said much of it has to do with their coach.

“It’s an amazing program and a lot of it has to do with AC,” she said. “He creates this culture. I love being part of it. I love everyone and it’s just been an amazing season and an amazing four years.”

A change this season from the past though was Mitty’s move to a 6-2.

Almazan-Cezar said the last time Mitty ran one was in 2005 with Kelly Schmidt and Emily Burke. This season Mitty went with Powers (28 assists) and Lauren Speckman, who had 21 assists.

“We haven’t run a 6-2 in a decade but this year we had the parts to do it,” he said. “It was fun to watch. Each row had its different personality.”

In the early 2000s, Mitty won with a middle dominant approach.

That shifted to a high-ball offense in ’08 and ’09, but this group was more diverse Almazan-Cezar said.

3. Quick rundown. Mitty dominated the first set, going up 14-5 and never slowing up. South was toe-to-toe with Mitty in Game 2 until Mitty pulled away late. South was as close as 18-17 but Mitty used a 7-1 run to go up 2-0.

South played an impressive third set, taking the lead at 12-11 and not letting Mitty catch up from there. The biggest gaps came at 21-17, then 23-19 and 24-20.

South was up early on in Game 4, leading 8-7. Mitty went up 9-8 and South didn’t lead again. Mitty was up 17-16 and again closed strong. Mitty went on an 8-3 spurt to clinch it.

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[event] => stdClass Object ( ) [postType] => [link] => /girls-volleyball/high-schools/item/30276-mitty-in-familiar-spot-after-taking-care-of-south-torrance [featuredIntroImage] => /media/k2/items/src/a7ffb56c87a37b2d8ccbc555f2290562.jpg [featuredImageThumbnails] => stdClass Object ( [image_620x340] => media/k2/items/cache/620x340_a7ffb56c87a37b2d8ccbc555f2290562.jpg [image_290x160] => media/k2/items/cache/290x160_a7ffb56c87a37b2d8ccbc555f2290562.jpg [image_140x90] => media/k2/items/cache/140x90_a7ffb56c87a37b2d8ccbc555f2290562.jpg [image_50x50] => media/k2/items/cache/50x50_a7ffb56c87a37b2d8ccbc555f2290562.jpg ) [featuredIntrotext] => Trees in a forest, Archbishop MItty in a California state final. A seemingly permanent fixture... [numOfComments] => 0 ) [4] => stdClass Object ( [id] => 30275 [title] => Sacred Heart Cathedral sweeps SVC for 1st state title [alias] => sacred-heart-cathedral-sweeps-svc-for-1st-state-title [catid] => 10 [published] => 1 [introtext] =>

It took 11 years and five trips to the finals for Sacred Heart Cathedral and coach Margi Beima to breakthrough but the wait is over.

The program can finally be called a state champion.

The heartbreak included three consecutive losses in the state final from 2007-09, as well as the first loss in 2004.

On Saturday though, it was Sacred Heart’s time to revel in victory after sweeping Saddleback Valley Christian, 25-15, 25-19, 25-23, for the CIF State Division 3 championship.

“I can’t say they surpassed my expectations, because I knew they could come together and do anything,” Beima said. “The focus they have. The girls do so well listening to the coaches and working on improving. I’m so proud of them for taking it all the way.”

While no current players were part of the previous loses, there was a sibling connection.

Current senior opposite Madison Murtagh’s older sister, MacKenzie, was on the losing end in 2008-09. It was hard to tell if this year’s Sacred Heart (37-3) unit was a state contender or not after falling in four games to Valley Christian in the CIF Central Coast Section Division 3 final.

“We have a retreat at the beginning of the season and over the course of it we talk about our little goals and big goals,” Madison Murtagh said. “We lost in the CS finals but we were willing to overcome that loss and focus on the overall big goal.”

Saddleback Valley Christian (33-6) advanced farther than it ever had.

It was the underdog against Sacred Heart and needed to perform better than it did to give itself a shot at the upset.

“The game tonight was probably not our best, but that’s OK,” SVC coach Carmen Stratton said. “(It’s) the first time in our school history that we’ve got this far and I’m proud of them.

“Three years ago in CIF, we kind of did the same thing, where we kind of freaked ourselves out. Tonight was the same type of thing that got the better of us. Emotions, maybe a little bit of nervousness, not talking, just stuff that we know can do a little better.”

Three Things:

1. Getting it done. Sacred Heart junior outside Kayla Yew is listed at 5-foot-6. SVC’s junior middle Shannon Geraty (6’4) and senior opposite/setter Heidi Dyer (6’2) put up a big right-side block. That is what Yew found herself hitting into at times.

It’s asking a lot from Yew, but she finished with a match-high 18 kills and hit a remarkable .471 in the process. She tossed in 11 digs as well.

“My height is a big disadvantage,” Yew said. “I was hitting against six-foot blockers. The sets really helped me and so does the defense. Even if I get blocked, I feel like they’ll keep getting it up.”

Murtagh was the only other player in double digit kills with 10. Sophomore Isabella Dominici and senior Kaitlyn Jochum ended with eight kills apiece. Sophomore Mary Tran had five aces.

Dyer led SVC with eight kills. She also had 15 assists and nine digs.

Senior outside Jaelyn Greene had seven kills and 14 digs. Geraty had seven kills as well, while junior libero Kaitlin O’Brien had 19 digs.

2. Digging in. Sacred Heart’s defense was strong, with four players finishing in double digit digs.

Yew was one, while junior libero Alexis Dirige led the team with 15. Senior setter Amanda Santa Maria had 11 digs, while junior setter Maia So-Holloway had 10. So-Holloway also had 20 assists and Santa Maria 18 assists.

It wasn’t surprising afterward then to hear Beima talk about the reliability of her defense.

“We can always count on our defense to keep us in games,” she said. “We passed well too. We passed a 2.1. Our defense helps keep us in rallies. Our hitters are smart. They don’t try to put dents in the floor. They move the ball around.”

3. Quick recap. SVC was getting better and better as the match wore on, but it wasn’t enough to prevent a sweep. In fact, Geraty scored on a quick attack to put SVC ahead 23-22 in the final set.

That forced a Sacred Heart timeout and out of the break the Fightin’ Irish responded. Dominici recorded back-to-back kills before Jochum ended an exciting rally on match point by scoring from the right side for the clincher.

SVC was looking good in the second set, going up 13-11. Yet, Sacred Heart went on a 7-0 run to take over and lead 18-13. SVC did close to 20-18, but Sacred Heart was up 24-19 soon after.

The first set was all Sacred Heart.

The match started with SVC winning the first point before Sacred Heart reeled off nine consecutive and led 9-1. SVC showed spirit, closing to within 18-14. However, Sacred Heart closed on a 7-1 run.

“They are a scrappy team that didn’t give up,” said Beima of SVC. “They stayed determined. We just focused on what we could control. We made smart choices and played with a lot of heart.”

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