By Justin Vigil-Zuniga
Signal Sports Writer
The 2022 girls’ volleyball season is getting under way with hype surrounding several local teams. Three Santa Clarita Valley teams were named to the CIF’s preseason watchlist, but they may not be squads most would think.
Here’s a look ahead before these teams jump into league action:
Santa Clarita Christian School
Somehow the undefeated Cardinals filled with mostly returners were missing from the CIF preseason watchlist. SCCS (37-0,14-0) lost just four sets last season on its way to a CIF Division 8 and Division 5 state title.
The Cardinals will look for similar results in Division 6 this year.
SCCS graduated just three seniors and retained a great group of returners. Hannah Schaffer will return as a force at the outside spot. CIF Division 8 Player of the Year Kaysa Brown will also return for her senior year as the Cardinal setter. Head coach Darcy Brown will also need big plays from libero Chaney Brooks, outside hitter London Steele and opposite Evie Frields.
The team’s chemistry has been a big theme for SCCS in the last few years, and the 2022 squad isn’t showing any signs of change.
“Their teamwork, chemistry, camaraderie and their willingness to lay it all for each other is something you don’t see in every team,” said coach Brown. “Teamwork at its finest.”
SCCS should have a balanced attack with Kaysa spreading the ball around. The Cardinal pins will work to bring home yet another league title and possibly another big playoff run in coach Brown’s 29th season.
West Ranch is looking strong coming into 2022. The team lost quite a few seniors from 2021’s perfect season in league play but have a great core returning from last year. The Wildcats will return three of their four top hitters including junior Kennedy Osunsanmi and Baylor-bound Victoria Davis.
The two led their club teams to national titles this summer and are poised for big years in their varsity seasons. Head coach Jamey Ker is expecting a lot from his killer duo.
“It’s not that big of an argument that I have the two best players in the valley with Kennedy and Tori,” said Ker. “We certainly have the two most dominant. They’ve only increased their abilities this offseason.”
Osunsanmi registered 212 kills on a 51.3% kill rate while Davis slammed down 166 on 60.4%.
The new additions may have some impact as well, though.
“I’m feeling really good about the team this season,” said Ker. “I had a lot of girls really shock me this offseason with their progression.”
Outside hitter Jadyn Tunnell, middle blocker Sophia Lynch and outside hitter Bridget Conley could be some names to keep an eye on this year.
Hart has a solid chance to return to the playoffs this season. The team has a ton of talent and will drop down to Division 3.
The Indians have a deep team but have mostly impressed head coach Mary Irilian with their defense this summer.
“We have very scrappy, quick defensive players and they will work hard to keep us alive in rallies,” said Irilian. “In addition, we have some standout offensive players that are smart hitters and will find the way to execute the play.”
The Indians have a great bulk of returners who are nearing marks in school history. Setter and opposite hitter Madison Maxwell is looking to have another impact year for Hart. Maxwell may become the second Indian to eclipse 300 kills already in her upcoming junior season.
Libero Alexis Holloway is also nearing records for passing and digging in her junior season.
The team will feature two new pin hitters in Maiah Jiz and Allie Wieckowski. The two have already made solid progress and Ilian is excited to see what they will bring to the table.
“Our goal is always to finish with a league title,” said Irilian. “We also just got moved to Division 3 so we feel we have a better opportunity to make a CIF run.”
Hart was sent home earlier than expected last season after a second-round sweep from the CIF Division 2 runner-up Huntington Beach. Hart will aim for league first and look to rack up their first Foothill League title in four years.
Canyon has a young team ready to do some damage in the Foothill League and return to the playoffs for the second straight year. The team will showcase four underclassmen in the starting lineup.
Two senior setters, Alaina Vargas and Mae Acevedo, will run the 6-2 offense and have plenty of targets. At outside, the team will have some new but impressive players in Layla Tejeda and Parys Taylor. Taylor is a freshman heading straight for varsity but head coach Samantha Holcombe has been impressed with her daily strides. The back row will be locked down by libero Theone Ngyuen.
“I’m very excited for another season,” said Holcombe. “The girls have been working hard all summer, strengthening and learning to play together as a team.”
Canyon’s playoff appearance last year was the program’s first postseason berth in 14 years. The team may have the tools to reach the playoffs again but will have plenty of obstacles in their way.
“I would love to accomplish the goal of being top four in our very competitive Foothill league,” said Holcombe. “It won’t be easy, but I know the girls want to make it back to playoffs.”
Saugus has come out of the gate scorching hot at 8-0. The team is looking for its first league title in more than 10 years but the Centurions had recent success and will look to build upon their previous (22-7-2, 9-3) season.
The team only lost one starter to graduation. The upcoming team will have a ton of talent on the net and is featured on the CIF preseason watchlist in Division 4.
Setter Milani Lee is gearing up for her final year in white and silver before she heads to Long Beach State. Lee will have strong hitting at all positions starting in the middle. Senior Naomi Greer led the team in kills last season with 295 and will anchor the middle with fellow returner Shelby Scott.
Opposite hitter Taylor Treahy finished second in kills last season with 221 and is looking to have a strong junior year. Lastly, Morgan Guardado and Leila Ballard will be key as outside hitters for Saugus.
“One of our strengths is we can attack at every position,” said Centurion head coach Zach Ambrose.
The returners will hope to finish the job left undone from last season in the Division 4 CIF semifinals.
“Last year we were young and didn’t have experience,” said Ambrose. “We overachieved and definitely got further than I thought we would.”
The team is still mostly younger and has the chance to do something special in more than just the upcoming year.
“I’m excited to see what the ceiling is,” said Ambrose. “We know what we got and now it’s just a matter of putting it together.”
Valencia is looking to bounce back from last season’s subpar finish. The Vikings are looking strong and experienced so far as they enter the year on the CIF Division 5 watchlist with 16 seniors rostered.
Head coach Kristin Dolan is expecting her offense to be balanced with exceptional hitting coming from all over the court.
Outside hitter Hailey McKell will be one of the go-to hitters for setter Brooke Tynon, who is looking to run a fast-paced offense. The setter will also have Brooklyn Cohen in the middle and Tara Gaspar at the other outside spot.
“I don’t think it’ll be one hitter with 30 kills. All of our hitters are good,” said Dolan. “We should have five girls spread out the kills and attempts pretty easily. That sets us apart from other schools.”
Senior Makena Schaumloeffell will likely be the team’s anchor in the back row but the libero’s strong swing could earn her some playing time up front.
The Vikings know every league game will be a battle so the team is taking it one game at a time and adopting the theme of playing with pride, humility and resilience. Dolan still has big expectations for her talented team as they aim to return to the playoffs.
“Long term, we’re looking to play in that CIF Finals match,” said Dolan. “We’re still trying to take it one match at a time but come November that’s where we’re looking to be.”
The Grizzlies are still looking for the program’s first playoff berth. However, Golden Valley is the last SCV team on the CIF preseason watchlist in Division 6.
Second-year head coach Sean Parchejo has talent on his senior-loaded roster and is hoping the players can lock down the discipline needed to win in the Foothill League.
The team runs a 6-2 offense featuring setters Mae Legaspi and Emmy Hance. Legaspi is also a strong swing for the team at the opposite hitter spot. In the middle, Megan Moreno and Miranda Dahl are two tall and quick players who can hit well.
Sophomore Sophie Smith has also been a nice addition to the team with a big swing at the outside hitter spot. Libero Eunice Panganiban will be one of the team’s premier passers.
“They’re all intelligent athletes,” said Parchejo. “They’re all bought into a system and do their jobs.”
The players have built trust in one another due to the seniors playing together for so long. That being said, the hitting should be pretty evenly distributed between the middles, Legaspi and Smith.
The Grizzlies will have plenty of ground to cover before they near the top of the Foothill League but the pieces may finally be in place for Golden Valley to build something special.
Castaic is looking to improve heading into its second year of varsity. The program will have its first senior players on the team who will lead a bulk of new players into the war that is Foothill League volleyball.
Head coach Taylor Schubert believes her team has strong serving as well as great pin hitting. Captain Peyton Schneider will be a big part of the Coyotes’ success.
“Peyton is one of our captains,” said Schubert. “She’s been there since the beginning. We rely a lot on her and she’s done a great job on taking that load. We go to her in big moments.”
Riley Braxhoofden will also be a force for the Coyotes on the net. Libero Maegan Buela will be a strong presence in the back row along with defensive specialist Angeline Jaramillo.
Castaic will have quite the hill to climb as any new program can expect. Schubert knows the challenge ahead of the team but believes the program is shaping up well in just its second year.
“I think we are building something special,” said Schubert. “We finally have seniors, we finally have all three levels with JV and frosh. We’re getting girls who play clubs and talented new players. We’re going in the right direction.”
The Knights have a bunch of talent returning to the court in 2022. Head coach Rebecca Peluffo has liked the hard work and encouragement to one another showcased by her team so far.
Trinity will try to get everything out of every rostered player as they try to get back on top in the Heritage League.
“Every girl on the roster has an essential role on our team and will play a role in our success both off and on the court. As for the seniors, these girls have been strong players in our program over the years as well as encouraging and kind teammates.”
Middle blocker Jordan Hahn and outside hitter Emma Carver are two hitters on the Knights who could be poised for big years.
Setter Lily Caddow will again lead the Trinity offense while libero Viviana Haro will lock down the defense.
With a whopping 12 returners, the team will aim to get back to the playoffs as well as potentially dethroning the SCCS Cardinals.