The highest of highs belonged to Mary Star High girls volleyball, as they overcame a rough start and a tough schedule during the year to once again win a share of the Santa Fe League championship, doing it in impressive fashion by way of a sweep of nemesis St. Genevieve of Panorama City on November 3, and once again making it to the second round of the CIF-Southern Section Division 4-A playoffs, where they bowed out in four sets to Fontana on November 12 at home.
One of the biggest reasons why the Stars (17-11 overall in 2015) were successful once again was junior outside hitter Ally Spillane.
Even though she led the team in kills, was always one of the top servers, and is a great all-around talent, Spillane never forgets how blessed she is to be a part of such a special team, and a great program ever since Tyler Jaynes took over as coach in 2014.
"We are a tight knit group," says Spillane, the 2015 San Pedro News Pilot Prep Girls Volleyball Player Of The Year. "Some of my teammates are closest friends and I have known several of them for many years. As a result, we have a unique bond and are on the same page when it comes to winning back-to-back league titles."
Spillane made one of the more critical plays that helped her maintain her edge as a rising talent, even in a loss.
Against El Segundo in early September, Spillane dug low to serve receive, an Eagles player smacked the overpass right back at her, and while still on her knees, Spillane showed her quick instincts to dig it right back up, leading to a kill by junior teammate Lexi Andrie. Not much was required for Spillane to keep her focus.
"Whatever it takes to keep the ball in play, as a result, I spend a pretty good amount of time on the floor," Spillane said.
Of course, her kills reverberate over time.
Against Fontana, Spillane delivered four of her match-high 17 kills that were so emphatic, it drew a raucous cheer and chorus of 'oooh's' even from the visiting Fontana fans. Spillane had a reason and a purpose for why those spikes from her right arm were so devastating, brutal and downright scary.
"Collectively, we as a team had an extremely disappointing first game against Fontana, and I was understandably frustrated with such a poor performance in a second round match," Spillane said. "I knew I had to immediately re-focus and raise my game and intensity level. I knew my teammates would follow. No doubt, my kills from that point were the result and I wanted to win just like my teammates did. That was all the incentive I needed."
Spillane, now a back-to-back SPNP Prep Girls Volleyball MVP, is one of six Stars who made the All-Santa Fe League team, making first team along with Andrie and junior setter Angela Pisano. Freshman Jena Denardo and juniors Gianna Fletcher and Ticela Molio'o made second team all-league.
Meanwhile over at San Pedro, second-year coach Chris Ceballos inherited a young team after losing nine seniors and even with a young squad, they still had their highest finish in the Marine League since claiming their fifth straight league title in 2009.
The Pirates finished 13-11-1 overall, and 9-3 in league tied for second place with rival Narbonne, even defeating the Gauchos in a five-set classic to open league play in September, and finally winning a road league match at King-Drew Medical, a troublesome place for San Pedro in recent years, to end a four-game losing streak at The Drew. San Pedro, despite a first round loss to Hamilton in the first round of the CIF-Los Angeles City Section playoffs, was able to avoid being swept for the first time in six years.
Ceballos, the 2015 San Pedro News Pilot Prep Girls Volleyball Coach Of The Year, will return a solid nucleus back for 2016 to challenge CIF-LACS D-1 runner-up and league champion Carson, including All-Marine League selections sophomore libero Alison Lyons, junior OH/S Katie Bentovoja and fabulous freshman outside hitter Sara Peterson.
Also thanks to Ceballos and her own improvements, San Pedro senior outside hitter Brianna Corallo came up with her best season yet in keeping the Pirates' ship afloat for all the veterans while being a guiding force for the young players, and is the 2015 San Pedro News Pilot Prep Girls Volleyball Most Outstanding Player. Not bad for someone who's only 5'4'', a height in girls volleyball normally reserved for defensive specialists.
"For me personally, Chris has really made me see what I can do in this game," Corallo said. "He finally gave me opportunities to play front row that I had been asking for in my whole volleyball career but never actually gotten due to my height. He is a coach that is open to changes, and that is really important for a team because he was able to see that those changes could be what our team needed even if it didn't seem logical in the beginning. I believe he is what our team needs to continue to be successful in the future."
In spite of her height, Corallo stood tall no matter how tight a match got, especially in tense Marine League matches against Carson, Narbonne, King-Drew and Harbor Area neighbor Banning.
"This year was probably my best year at Pedro, and I feel like that showed a lot in the second home match against Carson," Corallo said. "That was the first match I played after switching from a defensive specialist to an outside hitter, and even though I was really nervous, I didn't let my nerves get the best of me. I've always been someone to play up to a challenge, this year it just showed a bit more."
Port Of Los Angeles (9-17), who wasn't able to win a fourth straight Crosstown League title but still finished as runner-up, still reached the CIF-LACS Division IV playoffs.
Sophomore outside hitter Areelle Navarro showed great poise and great all-around skills to become the 2015 San Pedro News Pilot Prep Girls Volleyball Most Improved Player.
Here is the full 2015 All-San Pedro News Pilot Prep Girls Volleyball Team
Lexi Andrie (Mary Star, junior)
Angela Pisano (Mary Star, junior)
Alison Lyons (San Pedro, sophomore)
Sara Peterson (San Pedro, freshman)
Jaida Nabayan (POLA, senior)
Katie Bentovoja (San Pedro, junior)
Ticela Molio’o (Mary Star, junior)
Abrie Trivison (POLA, senior)
Julia Gersch (POLA, freshman)
Jena Denardo (Mary Star, freshman)
Sachi Verner (POLA, sophomore)
Selene Ramirez (San Pedro, sophomore)
Gianna Fletcher (Mary Star, sophomore)
Hadley Grooms (San Pedro, freshman)
Player Of The Year: Ally Spillane, Mary Star, junior.
Most Outstanding Player: Brianna Corallo, San Pedro, senior.
Most Improved Player: Areelle Navarro, POLA, sophomore.
Coach Of The Year: Chris Ceballos, San Pedro.
SAN PEDRO NEWS PILOT PAST PREP GIRLS VOLLEYBALL PLAYERS OF THE YEAR
2011: Fina Ojeda, San Pedro
2012: Susana Sanchez, Port Of Los Angeles
2013: Angela Wade, Port Of Los Angeles
2014: Allison Kittell, San Pedro & Ally Spillane, Mary Star