Kirstin Olsen's CIF-SS volleyball scouting report (9/26)

BY foxsports • September 26, 2012

The theme of this season in girls' volleyball in the Southern Section is parity.

There are eight teams in the top 10 that you could honestly drop into a hat and pick any team as the best in the CIF-SS. It will be a long season of upsets, but the team with the most heart when it counts will win it all. I like the size and firepower of Corona del Mar and the heart and defense of Redondo. I like each of them to win their division but the wildcards are a plenty for teams that grovel for every point like Mater Dei and Marymount, so it really is anyone's year.

1. Redondo Union (Redondo Beach, Calif.) 16-3
The Redhawks get off to one of their strongest starts with a third-place finish at the heralded Durango Classic Tournament with losses to Xavier Prep (Phoenix, Ariz.) and tournament champion Torrey Pines (San Diego, Calif.) and a Dave Mohs Championship title over Mater Dei. The lineup this year consists of UCLA-commit outside hitter Skylar Dykstra (SR., 5-9), Virginia Tech-commit opposite Briana Lanktree (JR., 5-10) and freshman standout 5-10 setter Norene Iosia, who is currently being looked at by UCLA, Hawaii, etc.  The Redhawks are deep this season, balanced on offense and play great defense.

2. Corona del Mar (Newport Beach, Calif.) 7-4
The Sea Kings began the season with a good showing at the Durango Classic with a fourth-place finish with losses to Assumption (Louisville, Ky.) and No. 1 Redondo Union. The Sea Kings are the most talented team in the OC this season. Sophomore 6-2 outside hitter Hayley Hodson has matured nicely from her first year of varsity and is a definite go-to for stand out  Stanford commit setter Kelsey Humphreys (SR, 6-0). With Stanford commit Grace Kennedy (SR., 6-3) opposite Hodson and sprinkle in Washington commit opposite Alexis Cage (SR., 6-2), the Sea Kings have an unstoppable attack. If they can stay healthy, they are a definite frontrunner this season.

3. Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) 11-4

The Monarchs began the year with losses to Liberty (Bakersfield, Calif.) and Harvard Westlake (North Hollywood, Calif.) at the Durango Fall Classic, where they finished 17th overall. They then lost to Redondo Union twice - once in the Dave Mohs Championships - but just beat Marymount (Los Angeles, Calif.) in a thrilling five-set match. They boast UCLA commit outside hitter Frankie Shebby (JR, 6-1), USC Sand commit right side/setter Sara Hughes (SR, 5-11) and junior 6-1 right side Jaden Pickell, who can easily carry the load for the team plus a bevy of bench players who are scrappy and can contribute easily. This team has their bouts in having a consistent serve receive but has the ability to grind matches out.

4. Marymount (Los Angeles, Calif.) 6-3
The Sailors lost a few gifted seniors last year but are stocked and ready to make another run at a state title. They finished sixth at the Durango Classic losing to Redondo Union and Horizon (Scottsdale, Ariz.) and they lost a barn burner this week to Mater Dei in five sets. This season the Monarchs reload with Wyoming commit and middle blocker Kaity Edwards (SR, 6-2) and Georgetown commit and middle blocker Ashlie Williams (SR, 5-11) leading the way. The Sailors' defense is the anchor of their team and led by Yale commit libero Tori Shepard. Sophomore outside hitter Yasmeen Akounou (6-4) is a force to be reckoned with on the outside and once she gets comfortable out there with junior jump serve bomber and setter Reni Meyer-Whalley dishing her the sauce, it will be scary.

5. Los Alamitos (Los Alamitos, Calif.) 19-4
The Griffins had an early preseason loss to Iolani (Honolulu, Hawaii) and a disappointing 25th finish at the Durango Classic with some losses to some good teams like Horizon (Scottsdale, Ariz.).  They finished third in the Dave Mohs Invitational losing to Mater Dei in the semis. Hawaii commit and senior setter Justine Wong-Orantes (SR, 5-7) will be dishing the sauce to the likes of middle blocker Crissy Jones (JR., 6-2) who was a force in the middle last season. Jones can take over matches with her blocking and hitting, so if the Griffins can feed her they are a definite contender.

6. Vista Murrieta (Murrieta, Calif.) 9-2
The Broncos have a loss to Mater Dei and Orange Lutheran on their record but are dominating their league otherwise. They bested the field of 100 at the Beach City Invitational downing Dana Hills (25-23, 25-23) in the Gold Division final. Middle blocker Alyse Whitaker (6-2) is one of the top unsigned middles in the country and a usual kill leader for the Broncos. They are a well-groomed team and if they can run a fast-paced offense they can get a lot of teams in trouble.

7. Newport Harbor (Newport Beach, Calif.) 11-3
Under the tutelage of Dan Glenn - who has coached the likes of three time gold medalist Misty May-Treanor and silver medalist April Ross - the Sailors are always in the mix. Newport Harbor had a disappointing 33rd finish at the Durango Classic, but won the Classic division. Since back in Cali, they lost to Redondo in the quarterfinals of the Dave Mohs Invitational.  Look for middle blocker Carolyn Bockrath (JR., 6-2) to be a big contributor this year and the Thompson twins Tristen (outside hitter) and Torey (setter) to provide stability to the offense and defense.

8. Tesoro (Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif.) 11-1
The Lancers have had a great run this season with a third-place finish at the Dave Mohs Invitational after a loss to No. 1 Redondo Union. Senior middle blocker Sarah Krufta made the all-tournament team and along with Mackensie Bates will be key contributors this season. As the Lancers first season in the CIF SS 1AA division, this will truly be a test for them. If they can serve tough and play good defense they will surprise some teams and stay in the top 10.

9. Orange Lutheran (Orange, Calif.) 10-4
The Lancers began the season with a fifth-place finish at the Dave Mohs Invitational where they lost to Los Al in the quarterfinals. It is a rebuilding year with only four seniors but they also return three varsity starters. USC commit outside Taylor Wheatley (JR, 6-0) will be a big contributor for the Lancers this year as well as senior middle blocker Reegan Dennis, junior outside hitter Kaitlyn Gibbons, junior setter Emily Blair and senior libero Hollie Bowers. The Lancers are young but have some experience to build on.

10. Santa Margarita (Santa Margarita, Calif.) 11-2
The Eagles are one of the top teams in Orange County this year behind new head coach Katy Daly. They finished third at the Archbishop Mitty Invitational and then they recently fell to Tesoro at the Dave Mohs OC Invitational. The Eagles are led by USD-commit outside hitter Sofia Lavin (SR, 6-2), middle blocker Brittany Ptak (SR, 6-1) and outside hitter Claire Archibald (SO., 5-9). If the Eagles can sideout and keep momentum going, they are a definite candidate as a top team in the OC.