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Girls volleyball preview

Seasoned Costa squad shoots for pinnacle; young Redondo team looking to improve

Junior middle blocker Kristin Nelson (#9) will team with Ashleigh Turner to make Costa very strong in the middle this year.

Mira Costa's girls' volleyball team opened its season Tuesday with a three-game rout of undermanned El Segundo. It's a story that head coach Dae Lea Aldrich expects to be replayed all year.

"I think we're going to be really strong," she said.

With the exception of all-CIF setter Whitney Donahue, now playing at Northern Arizona University, all major contributors return from last year's sophomore-laden squad, which finished 28-5 last year and lost in the semifinals of the CIF Division 1-AA playoffs.

The Mustangs are a maturing team that should get better and better as the year goes on. Defense and ball control should be their strong suits. A deep and talented bench loaded with interchangeable parts gives Aldrich the flexibility to pick and choose the right combinations for any given situation.

The team is not very tall, meaning the Mustangs aren't going to overpower many teams.

"For us, it has to be ball control and hitting," Aldrich explained. "We can't hit into blocks. We won't kill many balls. What we want is for the other team to err against us."

On the outside, junior Brooke Donahue and senior co-captain Denelle Smalley return. The strong Donahue, a second team all-CIF selection last year, has a good arm swing and has improved her vertical leap from last year. Smalley is a terrific athlete with a great vertical who shared time last year with the since-graduated Jessica Johnston. Junior Kristen Anderson is being moved from the middle outside to spell the pair. Co-captain Nicki Gregoire also will see time on the outside, as will smallish junior sparkplug Jamie Grass, who had such a good beach season that she may have graduated from a spot in the back row to some full-time rotational duty.

Junior Lexy Beers returns to set for the Mustangs. The tall, graceful floor leader has star written all over her.

"Lexy is real solid, she's going to be great for us," Aldrich said.

When the Mustangs go to a 6-2 set, talented senior setter Tawni Schulte will join Beers on the floor. Sophomore Nora Pirzynski also is a capable setter off the bench.

All-CIF performer Ashleigh Turner returns for her senior season in the middle. With all-league junior Kristen Nelson, they form a stellar defensive middle. Junior Claire Gillespie, a star on last year's junior varsity, and six-foot sophomore Teryn Spragg will vie for time in the middle, possibly pushing Nelson to the outside.

In the final analysis, Costa fans should expect another unbeaten season in the Bay League and a trip to the CIF finals for the Mustangs. And perhaps their first CIF banner since 1995.


Senior co-captain Nicki Gregoire will play a key role for the Mustangs on the outside in 1999.

Over at Redondo, coach Loreen Trevino has the tough task of rebuilding the Sea Hawks, who have just one returning starter and five other varsity players from last year's injury-laden team, which suffered through a disappointing 9-9 year and a second-round loss in the CIF Division II playoffs.

The team is small and inexperienced. It must play well defensively to have any success in the tough Bay League, which, in addition to Costa, also boasts tough Peninsula and South Torrance teams. A team grade point average of 3.5 is one thing that sets Redondo apart, Trevino said.

Diminutive Tawny Peters, a three-year starter, is back for her senior year. Her effective passing and strong serving should keep the Hawks in games. Her heart and defensive ability should help win them a few as well.

Sisters Brittney and Courtney Spainhour will help Peters on the outside and defensively in the back row. Freshman Danielle Pratt is an up and comer.

The Hawks should be tough in the middle with six-foot power hitter Sarah Bosch and versatile senior Lindsey Deierling, the team's best leaper.

The setter position is unsettled. Trevino is looking to ninth grader Liz Stein to captain the team. Capable setters Megan Meenan and Jessika Togut will also see action at the position.

Fifty girls are in the program, giving Trevino hope for a bright future. Trevino said the team's goal for 1999 is to make the CIF playoffs, but after an 0-3 start to open the campaign, it looks like the young Redondo team will first have to endure some growing pains before achieving consistent success on the court. ER

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©1999 Interface Intl. Communications • ©1999 Easy Reader, Inc., Used by Permission

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