2018 Prep Girls Volleyball Preview: SP, Mary Star & POLA All Aim High

The 2017 San Pedro Prep Girls Volleyball season was paced by San Pedro High making the inaugural CIF-Los Angeles City Section Open Division playoffs, which automatically qualified them for the CIF State Southern California Regional playoffs.

Mary Star Of The Sea was the only one of the three schools in town to once again win a league championship as even with three losses, they still managed to capture a fourth consecutive Santa Fe League crown.

Port Of Los Angeles continued their consistency of reaching the postseason as they reached the CIF-LACS Division III playoffs.

As the 2018 season has already begun, experienced San Pedro is already off to a 4-0 start with the seemingly never-ending hope of regaining the Marine League championship considering after winning five straight league titles from 2005-2009, it has been all Carson ever since as the Colts have won the last eight league crowns in a row and have won 52 straight league matches, 44 of them ending in a three-game sweep, none going the full five sets.

Even so, all three schools have promise going into their respective league seasons, and Mary Star is already 6-2 while POLA officially begins their season on September 12.

Here's a preview on the Pirates, Stars and Polar Bears on what you can expect for 2018.

SAN PEDRO (15-12 overall, 9-3 in Marine League in 2017) - San Pedro was the only team to take a set off Carson in Marine League play last season and even though all four All-Marine League selections are gone by graduation or transfer, two more all-league selections still remain in senior outside hitter Sara Peterson (pictured) and senior middle blocker Lauren Sutrin.

Co-coaches Chris Ceballos and Gerald Aquiningoc will lean heavily on the leadership of Peterson and Sutrin but they are not the only ones who can make an impact for the Pirates.

Sophomore setter Gabriella Edwards, junior outside hitter Isabella Emerson, junior middle blocker Samantha Rapp and senior outside hitter Raelyn Sanchez come over from last year's JV team that went 12-0 in the Marine League, infusing new energy and enhancing the play of returning players such as senior OH/MB Sosha Williams, junior defensive specialist Georgie Smith and senior libero Hanna Gurrola, who is destined for a breakout year.

San Pedro lost to La Reina of Thousand Oaks in the CIF Southern California Division III regional playoffs in 2017 after going 1-2 in the CIF-LACS Open Division playoffs, winning in five sets at league rival Narbonne of Harbor City in the seventh place match, the second of two wins over the Gauchos in three meetings.

MARY STAR (12-15-1 overall, 7-3 in Santa Fe League in 2017) - Lauren Orebo returns for her second year as coach, and the Stars will now be tested making the move to the Camino Real League where they now deal with Bishop Amat of La Puente, St. Monica of Santa Monica, Serra of Gardena and Pomona Catholic after four years of ruling the Santa Fe League.

Senior libero Jena Denardo is the lone four-year player and three-time All-Santa Fe League selection. The experience she provides will serve Mary Star well as talented sophomores in the likes of all-league setter Lily Ruggerio and outside hitter Sammie Sabra (pictured) are a deadly combination. Ruggerio also has two more sensational hitters to feed the ball to in All-Santa Fe League returning junior Marina Erosa and the addition of All-Marine League sophomore Serena Ramirez, a San Pedro transfer and Arizona verbal commit.

Other key players for the Stars include senior middle blocker Melanie Morales, senior defensive specialist Bella Purves and junior outside hitter Sophia Jimenez. 

Mary Star is a designated Division 7 team in the new CIF-Southern Section playoff formats.

POLA (9-11 overall, 6-4 in Crosstown League in 2017) - It's a year of change for the Polar Bears in so many ways.

Brian Justiniano crosses over from cross-country to become the new head coach, and POLA also moves to a newly created league due to the CIF-LACS four-year realignment, the Imperial League, which also features four more schools who like POLA, are not coming off a league championship season in Jordan of Los Angeles (who leaves the Eastern League), Dymally (who like POLA leaves the Crosstown League) and the latter two in Washington Prep and King-Drew Medical who leaves the Marine League.

The new Imperial League gives POLA a chance at capturing their first league title since 2014 considering they're the only school in the league that had a winning league record in 2017, making them the prohibitive favorite.

Senior L/OH Ivy Santamaria is the most experienced of the bunch, plus the Polar Bears also feature rising sophomore outside hitter Lauren Brown (pictured), who's expected to have a lot more opportunities come her way due to the graduation loss of four-year veteran Areelle Navarro. 

Be sure to keep a close eye on the likes of junior middle blocker Kaylen Scott, who showed the most improvement of anyone in 2017. The only other varsity returners are seniors Julia Gersch and Harmony Sapitanan, along with junior Arelyz Matienzo. Tori Palomino, a junior all-league softball infielder, also makes her volleyball debut for POLA.

TOP FIVE MATCHES TO WATCH IN SAN PEDRO

Narbonne at San Pedro (September 11; 5 pm)

St. Monica at Mary Star (September 18, 6 pm)

Carson at San Pedro (September 20; 5 pm)

King-Drew at Port Of Los Angeles (September 24; 5 pm)

San Pedro at Carson (October 8; 6 pm)

'TOP TEN' PLAYERS TO WATCH

Sara Peterson (San Pedro, sr.)

Serena Ramirez (Mary Star, soph.)

Lauren Sutrin (San Pedro, sr.)

Sammie Sabra (Mary Star, soph.)

Jena Denardo (Mary Star, sr.)

Lauren Brown (Port Of Los Angeles, soph.)

Ivy Santamaria (Port Of Los Angeles, sr.)

Hanna Gurrola (San Pedro, sr.)

Lily Ruggerio (Mary Star, soph.)

Sosha Williams (San Pedro, sr.)

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