By Ryan Menzie
Signal Sports Writer
In the previous four seasons, Hart High School has held at least a share of the league title, with West Ranch High School owning the other half for the past two seasons. This season, the rest of the Foothill League teams look to get their hands on the league title and eliminate the stranglehold Hart and West Ranch has had on the league.
Here is how the season is going so far for the girls’ volleyball Foothill League teams:
West Ranch High School
The West Ranch Wildcats hold a 9-3 overall record as of Wednesday, according to MaxPreps. The Wildcats played their preseason in the Ann Kang Invitational in Hawaii playing against some of the top schools in the country, including three top schools from Hawaii.
Fifth-year head coach Jamey Ker is grateful for the experience they got in the tournament and being able to find out what works and learn rotations before the season starts.
“We go each year with one goal and that’s to win the league championship,” said Ker. “We talk about this every season about how hard it is to do. In order to win the league, we need to go 12-0. We had split the league title with Hart the past two seasons so we expect to go undefeated this year to win the league outright.”
The Wildcats are led by their senior captains, libero Kaitlyn Jizmejin and outside hitter Kiley Gustin. Jizmejin, who has played all four years of high school, is hoping to win the league title this year and reiterates that this year is a senior-run team so they want to go out with one last hoorah and win a solo league championship.
“This year is our last chance to win it all,” said Jizmejin. “We’re definitely going to take it seriously. Our coaches are holding us accountable. Every individual is putting in a lot more effort. One hundred percent effort in every play and make the most out of every moment.”
Gustin has also been on the team all four years of high school and believes this year’s team is one of the best teams she’s had so far. Gustin is looking forward to seeing how far they can go this season.
“We had a shortened season last season so we had to do a lot of training in a short amount of time,” said Gustin. “This is one of the best teams we’ve had so far. We just got to go into every practice and game with 100% focus and give as much effort as we can and we’ll be in good shape.”
Valencia High School
The Valencia Vikings hold a 5-7 record as of Wednesday after coming off a 3-1 win against Canyon High School. Senior outside hitter Ally Young leads the team with 29 kills on a 34% kill rate and junior middle blocker Brooklyn Cohen right behind with 28 kills and a 42% kill rate.
Third-year head coach Kristin Dolan just wants to see the kids compete and give it all out on the floor in each game moving forward.
“We’ve been in this COVID situation for quite some time now,” said Dolan. “There’s a lot of excitement around the team knowing that we’ve finally been able to play. We just have to keep preparing as much as we can in order to be competitive in a tough league.”
Canyon High School
After a 3-0 start, the Canyon Cowboys have a 5-4 record as of Wednesday after a 3-1 loss to Valencia High School. Second-year head coach Samantha Holcombe’s goal for her team is to be better than last year and end up with a winning record.
The Cowboys continue to rebuild their program.
“We just got to get better every single game,” said Holcombe. “Get better every single game. Learn from our mistakes. Look to grow and get better. I just hope their hard work pays off.”
The Cowboys are led by their senior outside hitters Naomi Phillips and Emily Guluzza. Phillips, who has been on the team all four years of high school and plans on playing at the collegiate level after talking to multiple schools, is hoping her team makes the playoffs and believes the team they have this year is a good one. Phillips believes they have a legitimate shot of making it far in the league this season.
“I think our whole goal is to try to play our best at the level that we can play at all times,” said Phillips. “Sometimes teams play more physically. If we play as well as we can, we can succeed and get really far in the league. Just because we don’t go to schools with division one athletes doesn’t mean we can’t compete at the same levels as them.”
Guluzza also agrees with Phillips and believes they have a great team this season. Phillips, who has only been on the team her sophomore and senior year, believes if they can put in a good fight each time they go out, they will have a legitimate shot at the CIF playoffs.
“We do best when we are confident,” said Guluzza. “We want to stay focused and work as hard as we can do. no matter if you win or lose. If we play to our full potential and play our hearts out, the outcome will surely be positive.”
Hart High School
The Hart Indians sit at the top of the Foothill League with a 3-1 record entering Wednesday coming off a 3-0 victory against Saugus. The Indians have had at least a part of the league title for the past four seasons and head coach Mary Irilian says she looks to keep the same winning tradition going this upcoming season.
Irilian enters her 16th season as a head coach this season.
“The implication is to continue the legacy this season,” said Irilian. “We are always continuing to strive for excellence and holding ourselves accountable. One thing that sets us apart from everyone else is that we are relentless and we play with max effort. We wanted to be the challenge for teams to beat us so we instilled that mentality.”
The Indians are led by their seniors outside hitter Kylie Tengberg and middle hitter Audrey Welch. Both Tengberg and Welch have been on the team for all four years of high school and have won the league title in each of their seasons. Tengberg has her eyes set on another league title.
“We’re going for league,” said Tengberg. I’m super excited to get back into a normal season and just compete. We’re gonna go try and win.”
Welch has the same expectations of winning league and focuses on being relentless during practices which translates into games.
“No matter where our skill level is, we push ourselves to the next level,” said Welch. We manage to push through because of our effort and that is what we will need to make it to the next level. We gotta keep the unity from within our team to propel us moving forward.”
Saugus High School
The Saugus Centurions hold a 7-3-2 record after a 3-0 victory against Golden Valley as of Wednesday. Junior middle blocker Naomi Greer leads the team with 80 kills in 30 sets played with a 41% kill rate and also leads the team with 22 aces. Sophomore outside hitter Taylor Treahy sits right behind with 68 kills in 27 sets played with a 43% kill rate. Junior middle hitter Shelby Scott leads the team with 19 total blocks.
Zachary Ambrose enters his 18th season as the Centurions’ head coach, but keeps his values the same since day one: Learn from every game to make yourself better.
“We’re right there in the top half of the league talent-wise,” said Ambrose. “We got some good experienced juniors. We have some really dynamic freshmen and they’ve been putting time with the starting unit. We just have to be ready with anything that comes at us.”
Castaic High School
The Castaic Coyotes enter their third season as a volleyball program with head coach Taylor Schubert having been the coach all three seasons. The Coyotes hold an 0-3 record as of Wednesday after a 3-0 loss to Santa Clarita Christian.
“For us, the main goal is to start building the program,” said Schubert. “Wins are going to be new based on us being a new varsity team. I want the girls to work as hard as possible. We’re trying to be realistic but have high expectations when going out there and playing good defense. We all just need to gel together as the season goes on.”
The Coyotes are led by junior outside hitter Peyton Schneider. Schneider, who has been on the team for all three years, is looking to build the program for years to come and just wants to have good team bonding this year.
“I’m hoping to get more experience,” said Schneider. “Stay positive through the ups and downs. We are pretty young as a team so we just need more practice.”
Golden Valley High School
The Golden Valley Grizzlies hold a 3-10 record as of Wednesday after a 3-0 loss to Saugus.
Grizzlies head coach Sean Parchejo has two jobs on his mind for this season: To rebuild the program and to set the girls up for success in the future. Parchejo enters his first season as a head coach.
“I expect to do better each match and fight against the understandably bigger schools with more club players,” said Parchejo. “I’m proud of the girls for keeping each other accountable. I’m happy to be their coach. I’m so proud of their progress and, overall, I’m just so proud of them as human beings.”