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Unique commodities

Senior trio takes very different paths to West Ranch volleyball

Posted: March 30, 2009 11:34 p.m.
Updated: March 31, 2009 4:59 a.m.

From left to right: West Ranch's Frankie Madero, Kulwinder Singh and Jeff Zepp could give the Wildcats the boost they need to move to the top of the Foothill League standings. The trio of left-handed seniors are a unique commodity and a reason the West Ranch faithful might have high expectations this season.

One tried out for volleyball in the spur of the moment. One hasn't stopped playing volleyball for the past four years. One had never touched a volleyball until a few weeks ago.

West Ranch seniors Frankie Madero, Jeff Zepp and Kulwinder Singh all took different paths to joining the boys volleyball team, but now that they're together, the trio has one goal in mind.

Beat Valencia.

"It would mean a lot," Madero says. "We'd bring our first Foothill League title to our school and make history."

Valencia is the defending national champion according to, and has won four of the past six CIF-Division II championships and every Foothill League title since 2001.

The Vikings lost seven Division I commitments from last year's team, however, and will trot out a younger squad in 2009.

West Ranch, which finished second in league last spring, is hoping to take advantage of the opportunity.

"Everyone sort of assumes that if you can beat Valencia, you can win league," says West Ranch head coach Nate Sparks, who is in his second year as varsity coach and played for Valencia until 2003. "It'll be their reward for working so hard."

One of the reasons Valencia is so tough is the amount of players that also play club in the offseason.

Zepp is one such player.

The senior setter has played for Legacy Volleyball Club for four years, which he credits for helping him become the only junior starter on West Ranch last season.

"It definitely steps up your game," Zepp says. "You see people with great skill, and then once you get to high school, you're prepared for it and you know what's to come."

As the most seasoned player on the team, the Wildcats look up to Zepp, who also helps get them fired up to play with Madero.

"We just pump up the team before each game," Zepp says. "We get in our huddle and tell them to get excited and be able to play and want to be there."

Although Madero and Zepp team up to lead the pregame ritual, Madero and Singh are actually closer off the court.

Madero moved to Santa Clarita Valley from the San Fernando Valley in sixth grade, and he lived just a few doors down from Singh. The two used to play pickup basketball in front of his house and formed a sync that has held up.

"I personally set better for Kulwinder because I know where he's going to be," Madero says.

Unlike Zepp, Madero only started playing volleyball last season at the whim of a friend.

"My friend tried out," Madero says. "He was kind of shy, so I said, ‘I'd try out with you.'"

After watching from the bench last season, Madero is now one of the team's vocal leaders.

Singh, on the other hand, tries to lead by example and doesn't speak much.

Maybe it's because he had never played volleyball before tryouts a few weeks ago.

The 6-foot-5-inch Singh played for the West Ranch basketball team, and after the season ended he jumped right into volleyball.

"It was my senior year and I really wanted to try another sport, and I fell in love with volleyball," he says. "Mostly I like the hitting. I just love the energy that comes through me when I hit." Because of his basketball experience, Sparks taught Singh the fundamentals of the game using basketball terminology.

"What I told him is do it like you would for a slam dunk when going up to hit," Sparks says. "I'm trying to use it in terms that he would relate to."

Singh acknowledges similarities between the two sports.

"In both games you have to have balance," he says. "You have to get your defensive stance before you jump, get your hands ready. The hardest part about volleyball is there's a lot more jumping than basketball."

But Singh has rounded into form quickly, and now West Ranch has three tall, athletic players who are also left-handed and therefore can confuse other teams on the attack.

"It's really hard to get one (left-handed player) in the program, and we have three," Sparks says. "It brings a different type of hitting to the court. Their swing is different and they're turning the ball a different way."

With such an arsenal at its disposal, West Ranch is hoping to turn the Foothill League a different way this season.

Valencia Boulevard, not Valencia High School.

"As of late, we've started getting stronger together and we're coming along really nicely," Madero says of himself and Kulwinder. "Jeff and I are the setters and we're involved in every play. We know when it's crunch time and we need a big kill, we try to set one another because we know we'll get the job done.

"At first, we were feeling each other out, but it came naturally. We showed each other. We developed a trust in each other."



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