No clear favorite in Foothill League volleyball this season

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With turnover in both the players and coaches categories this season, Foothill League volleyball, which begins tonight, almost has a new car smell.

West Ranch and Golden Valley both have new coaches in Jamey Ker and Jack Johnson, respectively. Almost every team has lost key seniors.

The race to the top of the Foothill League was tough last year, and Valencia coach Ray Sanchez doesn’t see a clear top team this year, either.

“I think a lot of the teams in the league have the same situation we’re in,” Sanchez said. “There was a lot of turnover in terms of seniors graduating and that stuff. It’s hard to know.”

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The Vikings return senior outside hitter Lauryn Shockley at outside hitter and sophomore Kaelyn White, who started for the team last year as a freshman.

Lauren Russ, a senior, is also back after being sidelined for all of last year due to injury.

They also have two new faces who are already making an impact. Alyssa Grodell and Jessica Throckmorton, who didn’t pick up volleyball until this year, have both been contributing.

West Ranch is a top challenger for the Vikings this year, although the Wildcats have lost a few key players to graduation. Tasha Skabelund, Katie Jacobs and Kaitlin Schultz are all gone, leaving room for recent UCLA commit Allison Jacobs to lead the Cats.

Hart and Saugus will be tough competitors, too.

The Indians are without now-graduated Madi Fay’s aggressive play, but return some fiery players in Ashley Soto, Makenna Fall, Delaney Gibbs and Ashley Cosey.

As for the Centurions, Caitlin Liebe, who had 304 kills in 92 games last season, and Holly Piroli, a defensive specialist, are back for their senior years.

Each of the above can be expected to have an expanded role and be tested in new ways this year.

Sanchez views the uncertainty of this season as an advantage.

“I think a certain level of uncertainty is always there,” he said. “But it makes it fun to know that there’s a chance you could win league, there’s a chance you could finish third in league. It gives you the incentive to stay focused.”

Valencia will play at Canyon for its Foothill League opener tonight. Hart will be at Golden Valley and Saugus will be at West Ranch. All games start at 5:30 p.m.

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