Corona del Mar Sea Kings
Coach: Steve Astor (first year)
Players to watch: OH Hayley Hodson (Jr.); Opp. Jules Pouch (Sr.); OH Katie Craig (Jr.); S Jessica Harris (Soph.)
You should know: Astor is well aware of the high expectations at CdM, ranked No. 3 in the CIF Southern Section Division 1AA preseason poll.
The previous two coaches, Marissa Booker and Darryl Gan, led the Sea Kings to section title appearances, only to lose each time, Booker in 2011 and Gan in '08 and '09. They both left, citing family.
Volleyball is Astor's life. The 28-year-old takes over his first girls' program after he spent the past two years as the boys' coach at rival Newport Harbor.
The Sea Kings lost 13 players to graduation. The team's lone returning starter is Hodson, an All-CIF Southern Section Division 1AA selection last year as a sophomore. Hodson helped the U.S. girls' youth national team win the silver medal at the FIVB Volleyball U-18 World Championships in Thailand in August.
Outside of Pacific Coast League play, the Sea Kings have a challenging schedule. They opened the season Thursday with a big win at Los Angeles Marymount, the defending CIF Southern Section Division 1AA and CIF State Division I champions.
The Sea Kings' second match is at home against No. 7 Mater Dei on Sept. 11. They will compete at the Dave Mohs Championships (Sept. 13-14, 16), the Torrey Pines California Challenge (Oct. 11-12) and the Santa Barbara Tournament of Champions (Nov. 1-2).
Astor returns to Newport Harbor on Sept. 28. He will get to experience what it's like to be on CdM's side during the Battle of the Bay rivalry match.
— David Carrillo Peñaloza
Costa Mesa Mustangs
Coach: Todd Hanson (first year)
Players to watch: OH Danielle Obong (Sr.); S Jayme Krohnfeldt (Sr.); MB Stephanie Willett (Jr.); Opp. Natalie Tetreault (Jr.)
You should know: Hanson is the Mustangs' latest hire and he hopes to stick around after the program has gone through eight coaches in the last nine years.
Hanson comes from Fountain Valley, where he said he coached the boys' team for 13 years and the girls for four years. Hanson said he led the girls' team to its best finish in 10 years, finishing 11-13, 2-8 in the tough Sunset League.
At a smaller school like Costa Mesa, which has an enrollment of 1,051, compared to Fountain Valley's 3,503, Hanson, a walk-on coach, said he has to find ways to attract students to play volleyball. He said he's carrying all 36 girls that came out for the Mustangs' three-level teams, varsity (12 players), junior varsity (11) and frosh-soph (13). At Fountain Valley, Hanson said 110 girls tried out and he cut almost half of them and still had enough players to form four teams, one for varsity, one for JV, and two for the frosh-soph level.
Hanson said Obong and Krohnfeldt are Costa Mesa's only returning varsity players.
The program to beat in the Orange Coast League is Laguna Beach, which has won the league every season since its inception seven years ago. Hanson said Laguna Beach is the Newport Harbor or Los Alamitos of the Sunset League.
— David Carrillo Peñaloza
Coach: Paul Muñoz (fourth year)
Players to watch: MB Abby Griffith (Sr.); L Kai Huber (Sr.); OH Chloe Davis (Sr.); MB Dominique Kemp (Sr.); OH Lehua Alama-Jordan (Sr.); OPP Eliza Jason (Jr.)
You should know: Muñoz said this is the year the Eagles challenge Laguna Beach for Orange Coast League supremacy.
Estancia, which is coming off a second-place finish in league, boasts a talented staff with Muñoz, a former U.S. national men's volleyball player, and he hired two assistants, Ricardo doMonte, who has coached volleyball for 32 years on the professional, collegiate, high school and youth levels, and Miles Evans, who played with the UC Santa Barbara men's volleyball team. DoMonte previously coached at Costa Mesa.
Muñoz has guided the Eagles to the CIF Southern Division playoffs in each of his seasons, but they have never gotten out of the opening round. They have also never topped powerhouse Laguna Beach in league. The Breakers are the league favorites and they're ranked fifth in the Division 1A preseason poll.
Muñoz scheduled a couple of tough nonleague matches to get Estancia ready for Laguna Beach. The Eagles' first two matches are against Marina and Tustin and they will compete at the Dave Mohs Championships (Sept. 13-14, 16) for the first time under Muñoz.
Estancia plays host to its second annual Benny Rose Classic on Sept. 28. Muñoz named the one-day tournament after his father, Benny, and mother, Rose.
— David Carrillo Peñaloza
Newport Harbor Sailors
Coach: Dan Glenn (28th year)
Players to watch: MB Carolyn Bockrath (Sr.); S Logan Grove (Jr.); OPP Remy Wilson (Soph.); OH Gabby Shelley (Jr.); MB Sara Button (Sr.)
You should know: In his 28 years in charge of the Sailors, Glenn cannot remember the time he only had two seniors on a team.
This year Glenn has just two seniors. Those two players are middle blockers, Bockrath and Button.
Bockrath, a second-team All-Sunset League performer last season, will be the Sailors' main offensive weapon. Glenn said the team would go as Bockrath goes. Ball control will be important to get the 6-foot-2 Bockrath quality hits.
Glenn said his team wouldn't be a strong tournament team because of personnel. The Sailors are still going to compete at tournaments, the Dave Mohs Championships (Sept. 13-14, 16), the Las Vegas Durango Invitational (Sept. 20-21) and the Santa Barbara Tournament of Champions (Nov. 1-2).
The Sailors' strength of schedule is robust. They opened the season Thursday at Long Beach Poly, ranked fifth in the CIF Southern Section Division 1AA preseason poll, then they have a nonleague match at No. 8 Orange Lutheran (Sept. 24) and the Battle of the Bay at home against No. 3 CdM (Sept. 28), before they open league at No. 10 Huntington Beach (Oct. 3).
Glenn's team placed third in league last year and reached the second round of the CIF Southern Section Division 1AA playoffs. With Los Alamitos, ranked eighth, and Huntington Beach in the same league, the Sailors will mostly like battle Edison for third.
— David Carrillo Peñaloza
Sage Hill Lightning
Coach: Dan Thomassen (10th year)
Players to watch: OH Halland McKenna (Jr.); S Maddy Abbott (Jr.); OH Kekai Whitford (Jr.); MB Juliette Singarella (Sr.); Opp. Sophie Gordon (Sr.); MB Sophia Mossman (Soph.); OH Emily Lassiter (Fr.); L Allie Mowrey (Sr.)
You should know: Sage Hill returns all of its starters from last season, except for one, and it expects to contend for a CIF Southern Section championship for the third straight year.
Sage Hill is coming off a Division 3A runner-up finish in 2012 and a Division 4AA title in 2011. Thomassen said McKenna, Abbott, Whitford and libero Claudia Noto are three-year starters.
Thomassen said Sage Hill is coming off its best summer in terms of the players' commitment to the upcoming season. The Lightning competed at the prestigious Ann Kang Invitational in Hawaii in August, earning the silver division title in the program's first appearance during the summer tournament.
Sage Hill is ranked No. 2 in the Division 3A preseason poll, behind Academy League rival St. Margaret's. The two programs have faced each other in the past two section finals.
Sage Hill and St. Margaret's can meet for a third straight time. Thomassen said the team to beat in league is St. Margaret's, the reigning league champion.
Thomassen's team opened the season on Wednesday with an impressive sweep of Santa Margarita, which finished second in the Trinity League and reached the second round of the Division 1AA playoffs last year.
— David Carrillo PeñalozaCopyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun