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The Foothill preview: Could it end this season?

League rivals look to finally end Valencia’s league winning streak

Posted: March 21, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: March 21, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Golden Valley’s Alec Schlossman hits the ball during a match on March 15, 2011. Schlossman, a Harvard University commit, will be a key part of the Golden Valley team this season as it tries to for a top three finish for the third straight season. Golden Valley’s Alec Schlossman hits the ball during a match on March 15, 2011. Schlossman, a Harvard University commit, will be a key part of the Golden Valley team this season as it tries to for a top three finish for the third straight season.
Golden Valley’s Alec Schlossman hits the ball during a match on March 15, 2011. Schlossman, a Harvard University commit, will be a key part of the Golden Valley team this season as it tries to for a top three finish for the third straight season.

No Foothill League coach was willing to say that dangerous phrase.

“This is going to be the year …”

Not so fast.

This country has been through a war and two recessions since the last time Valencia lost a Foothill League boys volleyball match, and no one will dare pick against a team that has won a state-record 102 straight league contests.

Valencia did graduate some players in key positions and is operating with a new head coach, but 11 years of dominance didn’t come without having to deal with a little adversity along the way.

Each year, the league has at least one experienced squad that gives the Vikings something to worry about.

Saugus likely fits that mold this season, but Hart — despite losing two of the league’s best players from a year ago — isn’t far behind.

Then again, West Ranch and Canyon are two teams that bring back mostly the same group of players from last season and they’ll try to stand in the way of Golden Valley, which is trying for a third straight playoff appearance.


The pressure of breaking a state record for consecutive league wins doesn’t have to weigh on Valencia anymore.

The CIF-Southern Section Division II fourth-ranked Vikings broke the record last year. Loyola High of Los Angeles held the previous record with 96.

Yet with new head coach Kevin Kornegay, who is taking over the program after Mark Knudsen stepped down, the bar is set as high as ever.

“There’s a lot more pressure, obviously, because we have the streak going and ultimately it’s going to fall sometime,” said Kornegay, who was also Valencia’s head coach from 1997-2001. “We’re going to do all we can to make sure it doesn’t happen.”

Fortunately for the Vikings, the one of the league’s best hitters, Eric Ensing, and best liberos, Griffin Ender, are back to lead the 11-time reigning Foothill champions.

Ensing will be counted on for most of the team’s offensive production after losing big hitters Broc Oppler and Kurt Fults to graduation.

The most difficult void Valencia has had to fill is the one left by departed setter Shane Nazarian.

So far in preleague play, the Vikings have settled into an offensive system that rotates two setters, Jake Ferry and Cody Souisa.

“There is a learning curve with those kind of things,” Kornegay said. “I think the (preleague) experience has made a stronger team, but obviously time will tell.”

Valencia is 3-8 against a loaded preleague schedule that has included multiple teams ranked in higher divisions.

The Centurions will be tough for any defense to stop given their mixture of power and versatility.

Outside hitter Matt Coleman and middle hitter Colby Wilson provide a strong offensive duo for a team that didn’t suffer much from graduation losses.

Sophomore Max Nua joins the varsity program and will add another weapon to the Centurions’ arsenal.

The setter position is where Saugus (15-5) lacks experience, with sophomores Grant Spooner and Zech Lee fitting into the two-setter rotation.

Given success in preleague play, head coach Barry Nua is feeling increasingly comfortable with the pair of newcomers.

“I’m putting a lot of pressure on them to step up to the varsity level and they’re working hard,” Nua said. “They’re really working hard.”

In three tournaments this season, the Centurions have turned in three strong performances, including a victory in the Camarillo Tournament.

Saugus also finished as a runner-up in both the Arcadia and Clovis West tournaments.

How that all translates to league play is anyone’s guess.

“I think we all have our strengths and we all have our weaknesses,” Nua said of his Foothill counterparts. “But I think it’s a more level playing field than it’s been in the past.”

It’s an all-new Hart team this season.

New players and a new head coach.

Star hitter J.J. Mosolf graduated and is now playing at University of Hawaii, and middle blocker Taylor Gregory has moved on to Long Beach State University.

Despite the lost firepower, first-year coach Kevin Ker has all the pieces in place for another solid Indians team, which is ranked 10th in the latest CIF-SS Div. II poll.  

“We’re playing our best volleyball so far than we’ve played all year,” Ker said. “We’re starting to get into a little bit of a groove.”

The Indians (6-4) will look to junior Tanner Tengberg as the primary outside hitter and Jared Turner will work the opposite side.

Starting setter Chris LeClair returns to the team after running the offense as a sophomore last year. He brings stability and experience to the team.

Senior middle blocker Rhett Almond will be an important element in keeping the offense balanced.
That will be key for Hart, which has been Valencia’s toughest competition for the past two years.
“If we can continue to get one percent better every day, we’re going to get where we need to be, and so far, we’ve stuck to that principle,” Ker said.

Golden Valley
The last two seasons have been groundbreaking for the Grizzlies, who have finished third twice in a row to earn their first two trips to the postseason in school history.

Now, for the first time, the program will be tested in its ability to rebuild.

“You have to kind of hit the ground running and it’s actually been good,” said head coach Jeff Cody. “Those guys know they have big shoes to fill and they’ve done a great job.”

The losses are undeniable. Golden Valley (7-3) lost six out of seven players in last year’s starting rotation with senior outside hitter Alec Schlossman represented the lone returner.

Granted, Schlossman is among the best hitters in the league and a Harvard University commit.

“He’s really taken ownership of it and knows it’s his team,” Cody said of Schlossman. “It’s really no mystery about it that he is going to be our team leader and he’s going to be our go-to guy.”

Fellow senior and starting setter Zach Pearce will have to help, as will senior libero Oscar Ricaladay.

The Grizzlies will count on sophomore Tristen Murachanian to supplement Schlossman in the hitting category.

West Ranch
The biggest advantage for the Wildcats might simply be the ability to slip under the radar.

West Ranch returns nearly every starter from the 2011 team and, after finishing in fifth place last year, isn’t viewed as a major threat.

Head coach Nate Sparks feels differently.

“When times get tough and it’s down to crunch time, the teams that have been there and done it against tough teams will come out ahead,” Sparks said.

At setter, the Wildcats (8-3) are starting senior Anthony Hanna, whom Sparks considers the best setter in the league.

Hanna will be feeding a lot of his sets to 6-foot-9 junior outside hitter Tanner Scabelund.

Together, they might make up the Foothill’s most potent setter-hitter combination.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg for a team returning eight players with significant varsity experience.

“The way we’ve been playing lately, the past few weeks, nobody is going to be thinking of us doing anything,” Sparks said. “But the way we’ve playing lately, I have no doubt that we’ll be in contention for playoffs, if not for a league championship.”

As difficult as last year was for Canyon, second-year head coach Andrew Spackman was ready for it.

Coming off a sixth-place finish in league, he’s hoping his preparation will pay off this time around.

“It’s definitely going to be interesting this year, but our main focus right now is to win five (matches),” Spackman said. “If we win five (matches), we’ll go to playoffs.”

The Cowboys (7-2) graduated a player at every position, but Spackman anticipated the losses and intentionally gave underclassmen extra playing time in 2011.

Now, Canyon is left with a more experienced team filled with players like outside hitters Danny Daniyelyan and Michael Foster and libero Victor Miranda.

The team is switching from a three-setter system to a more typical strategy centered around a single setter, junior Andy Kern.

“We’re trying to control the game,” Spackman said. “We are a smaller team, but we’re trying to get (opponents) to do what we want to do. We don’t want to be constantly reacting to their game plan.”


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