Corona del Mar
Coach: Brian Ricker (10th year)
Players to watch: Lauren Thaxter (Sr.); Riley Gerdau (Jr.); Kenzie Purcifull (Sr.); Shelby Anderson (Jr.); Siena Sharf (Soph.); Taylor Fogarty (Jr.); Kimmia Naaseh (Sr.); Erica Chen (Soph.).
You should know: This is the deepest Sea Kings team that Ricker has had in years. CdM returns seven of nine starters from a year ago, when CdM finished second in the Pacific Coast League and advanced to the CIF Southern Section Division 1 quarterfinals. Ricker said there also is a strong freshman class, which contributes to the depth.
Fresh off a summer full of tournaments, Thaxter headlines the returners, coming back for her third year at No. 1 singles. She advanced to the league semifinals last year. Ricker said she is doing better than ever at managing her atypical migraine headaches. Chen is a talented player who won the JV league singles title last year and got moved up toward the end of the year.
Purcifull and Gerdau played at No. 1 doubles last year, but Ricker said the plan is to move Gerdau back to singles, where she played as a freshman. The Sea Kings have the doubles depth to do so.
The Pacific Coast League again appears very strong. Beating University will be a challenge, but Ricker believes CdM could be No. 2 in the league again, and could start the year as high as No. 5 in Division 1.
— Matt Szabo
Coach: Rachel de los Santos (13th year)
Players to watch: Kinley Ohland (Soph.); Slade Garnett (Jr.); Doris Corona (Sr.); Morgan Miller (Jr.); Eden Speel (Soph.); Mai Le (Jr.).
You should know: The Eagles lost several seniors from last year's team, which tied for third in the Orange Coast League and advanced to the CIF Southern Section Division 2 playoffs. But a young nucleus will help Estancia, as it again tries to finish top-three in league and advance to CIF.
Ohland returns as the No. 1 singles player, and de los Santos praises her natural talent. Ohland will have a busy fall, as she also is a varsity cheerleader for Estancia.
Garnett, a lefty transfer from Texas, also will help Estancia, as will the Eagles' other top singles player, Corona. De los Santos plans to play Miller and Speel at No. 1 doubles, and they are an aggressive team with good volleys at the net. Le is a three-year varsity player who adds depth.
De los Santos said she doesn't mind being in the same league as defending champion Laguna Beach, as it gives her girls something to work for. She hopes that her team can also be more competitive this year against Calvary Chapel, the second-place finisher from last year.
Corona is the only senior starter, so the future also appears bright for the Eagles.
— Matt Szabo
Coach: Kristen Case (seventh year)
Players to watch: Kate Knight (Sr.); Peyton Espley-Jones (Soph.); Reagan Rutter (Sr.); Annie LaGrandeur (Jr.); Kendall Cosenza (Soph.); Anna Burke (Soph.).
You should know: Case said this year's Sailors are very hard-working. That is perhaps embodied by Knight, a four-year varsity player who will be in her second year at No. 1 singles. Knight and Rutter, who will be playing doubles with LaGrandeur, are co-captains this year. Case called Rutter one of the most positive people she's ever worked with, while Knight has steadily improved during her high school career.
The other two returning starters are Cosenza and Burke, the two sophomores who are a returning doubles team. Cosenza is the younger sister of Kaitlyn Cosenza, who led the team last year with fellow graduate Megan Bathen. Overall, Newport Harbor has five returning varsity players.
Case said confidence will be key for her team. The program has done big things in the past, making the CIF Southern Section Division 2 title match in 2010 and '11, but the Sailors had their four-year Sunset League title run snapped last year by Los Alamitos.
The Griffins were young last year and again should be very formidable this year, but Newport Harbor will again strive to finish top three in league and advance to the CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoffs.
— Matt Szabo
Coach: A.G. Longoria (13th year)
Players to watch: Amira Tarsadia (Jr.); Natalie Meltzer (Soph.); Celine Wang (Soph.); Jaclyn Gerschultz (Soph.); Katelyn Harvey (Soph.); Marina Anderson (Soph.); Tess Alexander (Jr.); Lauren Fishman (Fr.); Abby Ruck (Jr.).
You should know: The Lightning return four starters from last year's squad, which captured its first Academy League title since 2007 and advanced to the second round of the CIF Southern Section Division 2 playoffs. Tarsadia, Meltzer, Wang and Gerschultz come back as starters, but overall the 2013 Sage squad is very young, as there are no seniors projected to start.
Longoria said that he's lost 10 All-Academy League players in the last two years. He believes Crean Lutheran and St. Margaret's have the edge in the league this year. But his young squad should continue to grow throughout the season, and for the next couple of seasons as well. A goal could be finishing top three in league and making it back to the playoffs.
There are three talented freshmen on the team, including Fishman, Crystal Yu and Paige Reyna, who moved to Corona del Mar from Las Vegas. And Longoria is feeling lucky because he has one of his former players, Jaclyn Smrecek, back as an assistant coach this year.
— Matt SzaboCopyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun