The 2023 girls’ volleyball season is officially underway, and all nine local teams will look at least a little different, but all have one common goal in mind.
Some teams have even picked up right where they left off with a few hot starts.
Here’s everything you need to know about the 2023 girls’ volleyball season in the Santa Clarita Valley:
Saugus comes out smoking, hungry for repeat
The Foothill League and CIF champs have entered 2023 just like last year, red-hot. The Centurions are riding an eight-game win streak and a Varsity Tustin Tournament gold bracket championship just ahead of league play starting on Wednesday.
Saugus (8-0) is filling some holes with the departure of Milani Lee, Shelby Scott, Naomi Greer and Taylor Treahy, but with its young core returning for their junior seasons, the Centurions remain on course for success.
Leila Ballard finished second in kills in 2022 with 258. Morgan Guardado tallied 192 kills as an outside hitter last season but will now move to the setter spot, filling the shoes of the Long Beach-bound setter Lee. The back row will be anchored for the third straight year by all-CIF libero Gabriela Cascione.
The three were crucial to Saugus’ CIF run last year.
“Leila was our top outside hitter last year and she’ll continue in that role and expand her responsibility,” head coach Zach Ambrose said. “Morgan is now setting. She’s doing a great job distributing. She’s a real smart kid. Gabby is the best libero in the league and she’s only gotten better since last year. We’re going to have to lean on those three a lot. They’ve got that experience from last year and the other girls will play off their energy as well.”
In the middle, Ayden Jacobson and Taylor Lane have both looked solid so far and have impressed Ambrose with their blocking skills.
Madison Andrews and Caitlin Nelson are likely to battle it out for the lead opposite hitter spot.
Hart loaded for 2023
The Indians will return nearly every key player from last year’s successful 15-6 season. Hart is loaded with talented seniors like Madison Maxwell, Alexis Holloway, Morgan Dumlao and Maiah Jiz.
Hart coach Mary Irilian has mostly seniors starting for her 2023 team so far but Olive Moore, Ally Wackowski and Martina Neveleff are also expected to be in the mix on offense.
Maxwell and Jiz will again be the team’s outsides. Maxwell, a Long Beach commit, arguably has the biggest swing in the Foothill League and will look to win her first league championship before heading down Interstate 405 next year.
Dumlao will run the team’s offense from the setter spot while Holloway anchors the back row. The three were dangerously close to some school records last season and will likely carve their names in Hart history some way or another when the season is said and done.
“Just like any other team, they want to finish first,” Irilian said in a phone interview. “It’s a nice way for seniors to end their volleyball careers at the high school level. They’re very excited and we have a good group of girls. We are senior-heavy so they are very determined.”
Hart opens up league play on the road at Valencia on Wednesday at 5:30 p.m.
SCCS reloading but ready
Santa Clarita Christian will look a whole lot different in 2023 with just two returners from last season’s CIF semifinal and state quarterfinal finish.
Outside hitter London Steele and setter/opposite hitter Evie Frields return for their senior seasons.
Filling out coach Darcy Brown’s roster is the other setter/opposite Sabrina Banke, middle Vivian Granger, and back row anchors Kylie Webster and Camila Alvarado.
Brown is no stranger to winning the Heritage League or any postseason accolades, as the Cards are just two years off a 37-0 league, CIF and state title.
“They’re a pretty competitive bunch,” Brown said in a phone interview. “If they can just keep their energy and competitiveness at the forefront of their mind, they’ll be a pretty scrappy team, and that’ll make it fun.”
Filling out roster spots after a talented senior class can be difficult but Brown has a good problem with plenty of options this season.
“The good and the bad of having a large senior class is we had a really strong JV last year. Most of them should’ve played varsity,” Brown said. “It helped make the postseason competitive, some of those girls got that experience playing with the older girls.”
SCCS starts league play on the road on Thursday, Aug. 31, at the Palmdale Aerospace Academy at 5 p.m.
Trinity amped for more
Trinity is hot off a 20-win season that ended in the CIF quarterfinals, but the team is looking for more.
Knights head coach Rebecca Peluffo will lead Trinity again after seven seniors departed the program.
“We have just a few returners but it’s a newer roster this year,” Peluffo told The Signal in a phone interview. “We replaced seven girls but I’m excited about this group. They’re starting to really play together and run our system. I have seen them work towards the goal we have for the season.”
Middle blocker Jordan Hahn returns to Trinity for her senior season. Hahn led the Knights’ offense and will look to do the same in 2023 alongside outsides Emerald Lipis and Bethany Sedy.
Peluffo has a deeper roster this season and is still trying to find the right fit at setter and libero. Whoever she chooses for those positions will be tasked with guiding the team, which should look a little quicker in 2023.
“I think the pace is going to be picked up,” Peluffo said. “Our serving is aggressive and more consistent. I think once we get our system connecting with our setter, our hitters are gonna have a fun time ripping away at balls but also playing smart volleyball.”
The Knights head into Heritage League action on Tuesday, Sept. 5, at home against SCCS.
New-look Valencia coming along nicely
Vikings head coach Kristin Dolan has for the most part been pleasantly surprised by her new varsity squad.
Valencia has had a bumpy start to the season with some tough opponents, but Dolan has seen her team, which rosters three returners from 2022, showcase some lengthy highs.
Luca Heerlein and Elena Hernandez will be two all-around outside hitters to keep an eye on in 2023. Landon Poirier has shown Dolan some solid blocking skills and will start at opposite. Makayla Garcia and Olivia DeBoni will fill out the middle spots while setters Cayden Hobrecker, a sophomore, and Sienna Macaluso, a junior, will run the 6-2 offense.
Dolan isn’t too concerned about other teams coming out strong and only wants Valencia to focus on being the best it can be in order to return to the playoffs.
“It’s been a process, but we played a lot in the summer,” Dolan said in a phone interview. “I keep reminding them it’s all about growth … The biggest goal will be trying to get back to the playoffs again, our league is exceptionally tough yet again. We just want to make the goal more about our team than anyone else, competing at the highest level we can compete at.”
Valencia opens up league play at home on Wednesday against Hart at 5:30 p.m.
West Ranch aiming high
West Ranch is well on its way to flying by last year’s 10-12 finish. The Wildcats, who are also replacing two huge middle blockers, have posted five wins so far and finished atop the Lakewood Tournament.
Kennedy Osunsanmi, a UCLA commit returns for her senior season. Osunsanmi has displayed fantastic skills on the net since entering the program and will look to lead the team in kills for the third straight season.
Sophomore setter Dani Clewis returns to West Ranch and has already showcased massive improvements from her freshman campaign.
Jadyn Tunnell, Joeleen Reynolds, Tahlia Dennis and Lexi Seres will all be names to keep an eye on. The Cats will also add Grace Kelley, a sophomore transfer from Trinity, to add some help in the middle after her sit-out period ends.
Head coach Jamey Ker has been pleased with his team’s start to the season and believes the Foothill League is completely up for grabs.
“I think this is one of the most even the league has been in years, in fact one of the most even I’ve seen it since I’ve coached,” Ker said. ”I don’t think we have any holes and we have a lot of people who know how to do their jobs. If we just stick to the plan, do those jobs, let our superstars shine while our role players role-play, we’ll be hard to beat.”
West Ranch starts league play on Wednesday against the Coyotes at Castaic High School at 5:30 p.m.
Young Canyon team on the rise
Canyon is off to its second 3-0 start in three years. The Cowboys graduated seven seniors but a good group of returners have head coach Samantha Holcombe feeling excited ahead of league play.
Outside hitters Parys Taylor, a sophomore, and Layla Tejeda, a junior, return for Canyon. Holcombe has seen Taylor discover her swing’s power this summer while Tejeda looks like the team’s best all-around player.
Libero Theone Nguyen will handle the back row and control the game against opposing serves and hits.
A new name to keep an eye on will be freshman middle Olivia Turner, who has shown Holcombe great athleticism and consistent development in the game.
Holcombe knows the Foothill League will be tough and will aim for a playoff seed after a one-year hiatus.
“All summer and preseason we’ve been working on the little things to push us to be better and better every game,” Holcombe wrote in an email. “I think every year we have the team goal of making it to playoffs. This year is no different. Foothill is obviously a tough league and we want to challenge every team in every game this season.”
Canyon opens up league play on Wednesday at Saugus.
Castaic enters Year 3 of varsity
The Coyotes graduated their first-ever senior class in 2022 but are still looking improved heading into this season.
Castaic head coach Taylor Schubert has seen her team take early strides in her fifth season, making it to the Providence Tournament finals last weekend.
Riley Shaffer returns to the team at the opposite hitter spot while junior Jasmine MacNicoll is looking like one of the team’s top outside hitters.
Schubert’s team will run a 6-2 offense with setters Claudia Martinez and Ava Hamilton. Freshman Leyla Buela will also be a name to look out for in the next four years.
“The goal is to win some matches and make some games close against the big ones in league,” Schubert said in a phone interview.
Castaic hits the court on Wednesday at home against West Ranch.
Golden Valley ready to make a jump
The Grizzlies will also look to replace some key graduated talent from 2022.
Golden Valley will be replacing now-collegiate setter Mae LeGaspi and middle blocker Miranda Dahl, but coach Sean Parchejo has some talent on his new roster.
Junior Megan Moreno returns to the team, and showed some stellar talent as a sophomore last year. Marina Miranda and Sophie Smith also return at the outside hitter spot for the Grizzlies.
Golden Valley jumps into Foothill League action on Wednesday, Aug. 30, at home against Castaic.