For nearly a half-decade, the Bellarmine-Jefferson High girls' volleyball team has been the most successful of the four programs in the city.

Under coach Miguel Segura, the Guards had a streak of seven straight Santa Cruz League championships and a league unbeaten string that has swelled to 52. In addition, Bell-Jeff advanced to the CIF Southern Section quarterfinals for five straight seasons.

But Segura, who helped the Guards advance to Division IV-A championship game in 2009, has departed to take the head girls' and boys' volleyball jobs at rival St. Genevieve.

Taking over at Bell-Jeff is Brandon Johnson, who has extended experience coaching in the Santa Clarita Valley.

At Providence, a familiar face returns to head the program. James Jimenez, who left the school four years ago and has coached at Holy Family, is back in the fold. He helped guide the Pioneers to a share of the Liberty League championship in 2008.

Burbank comes into the season after winning a share of its first league championship in 37 years, and is hoping keep that success going.

For Burroughs, it is coming off a season in which it advanced to the CIF Southern Section Division III quarterfinals.

Here is a look at how the teams are shaping up.


Johnson spent the last two seasons as the head boys' and girls' coach at Canyon Country Canyon. He was also a junior varsity coach at Saugus for three years and an assistant for three years at College of the Canyons.

"I know this program has been very successful the past few years," Johnson said. "And we are looking to continue that tradition and try and expand even further. I have been with them only for about three weeks, so it hasn't been a lot of time, but we are coming along."

With a solid group of returners from a team that went 17-10-1 last season, Johnson said he likes what he sees with the players who will take the floor for the Guards.

"They have been working very hard these past few weeks and they have been very receptive to what I'm doing as a coach and how I approach things," Johnson said. "I tell them if I ask you to do something new, just try it and see what happens. And they've been very good with that.

"I realize that they had a different coach for their years here and it's tough sometimes to listen to something new or do something a different way. But I have been working for them and they have been working for me, and so far it's worked out fine."

Johnson takes over a team that lost its best player to graduation. Taryn Nelson, the Guards' go-to offensive weapon at outside hitter, was selected to the All-CIF Southern Section Division IV-A first team and was named the Santa Cruz League Player of the Year. She tallied 315 kills, 89 aces and 282 digs.

Taking up the slack will likely be a pair of seniors — outside hitter Briana Hillo and opposite specialist Liz Fundora — who were all-league second-team selections last season. While Hillo tallied 169 kills, 14 aces and 33 blocks, Fundora had 89 kills, 28 aces and 120 digs.

Another asset Johnson said he is happy to have is senior Amanda Maalouf, who is in her fourth season as the team's setter. Maalouf, a first-team all-league selection, touched the ball more than any other Guard last season, tallying 575 assists, 52 aces and 192 digs.

"We have the core group of seniors who we are going to rely pretty heavily on," Johnson said. "They have the experience and they know what is expected of them. But we also have some younger players and it's going to take some time to get them to where we want them to be.

"But having a returning setter like Amanda is key. I know how important it is to have a good, experienced setter. Having a senior setter is key. It's like a quarterback in football, because the setter runs things on the floor."

Another player who Johnson expects good things from is junior middle Clarissa Cabrera.