Griffin girls look solid on volleyball court

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With five starters returning from a 30-9 team that went to the CIF-Southern Section Final, hopes are high for another successful season for the Los Alamitos girls volleyball team.

Fourth-year Head Coach Dave Huber said practice began in the first week of August and are going well. He had a chance to observe his squad during a preseason tournament in Hawaii last month. Huber said while it’s still early, his Griffins have some things to work on.

“We didn’t do as well out there,” Huber said. “We need to work on our focus. We have the talent. We just need to get it honed.”

While Hawaii was somewhat disappointing, Huber knows his girls will be ready to go come crunch time.

“We have the talent to go as far as we did last year,” Huber said. “The girls definitely have the want to. It means something to them to get back to where they were last year.”

Battles with fellow Sunset League foe Newport Harbor were a highlight of the 2009 campaign, which ended with a loss to the Sailors in the Section Final.

Huber said last year was simply that and the girls aren’t dwelling on the past.

“We’re not going to let Newport determine our season. They look at them as a solid team that you want to beat. Nothing more,” Huber said. “Our girls are simply trying to build on the precedence set here. We’ve won a number of league championships (eight in a row heading into 2010.) All we want to do is set the standard high and not do anything different.”

After returning from Hawaii, the squad has been going full speed in preparation for the Sept. 10 opener in the Gahr Tournament. One more scrimmage Sept. 7 vs. Long Beach Poly and Canyon will give the Griffins a chance to see where they are at.

“Right now we’re simply trying to clean things up and try and make our schemes smoother,” Huber said.

Leading the way for the Griffins will be senior outside hitter Jane Croson. She is joined by fellow senior Halli Amaro out of the middle blocker position. Junior returners  will be Alijah Gunsaulus at outside hitter, Lindsey Lawmaster at libero and Rachel Fattal at setter. Sophomore Justine Wong-Orantes returns after a solid freshman year, also at the setter spot.

One of the Griffins’ strengths is having a big and athletic team wanting to play physical volleyball. Huber said showing discipline on defense and playing within themselves will be something Los Al will be working on throughout non-league play.

Huber says with 18 girls on the varsity and an 8-9 player rotation, fighting for playing time will be very tough.

“We have some new girls who will have to step it up (to see playing time),” Huber said. “We’ve seen some players that have turned it up in practice and we might be able to use her.”

A solid non-league slate includes play in the Dave Mohs Tournament in Huntington Beach as well as the Durango Tournament in Las Vegas, which Huber says is one of the top national tournaments.

Those, along with a dual match vs. Mira Costa, will prepare the team well for Sunset League play, which begins at league newcomer Huntington Beach Oct. 5. Edison and Huntington Beach will compete for playoff spots as well as Los Al and Newport Harbor. All four teams are very talented, Huber says, and should be ranked in the county Top 10.

With all the previous success and a definite want to keep the drive alive, it’s no wonder the squad is ready to start the season.

“We know what level we have to compete at to reach the playoffs,” Huber said.

Griffin girls look solid on volleyball court