ST. MONICA — With nine seniors set to graduate this spring on a roster of 12 girls, it seems this is the year for the St. Monica High School varsity girls’ volleyball team to reclaim the Camino Real League crown.
“We are taking this season one game at a time but I think we’ll be solid,” said third-year head coach for the Mariners, Allison Rivera. “And with so many girls graduating this year, we are going after the league championship, that is our goal.”
St. Monica opened the season on Tuesday with a non-league game against the Buckley School from Sherman Oaks. Starters for the Lady Mariners included senior co-captains Cory LaGuardia and Athena Nestoras, seniors Emily Fuentes, Zaykia Moore, Shaina Hernandez and sophomore Cambria Lagana.
The Lady Mariners won with a clean sweep against the Buckley School Griffins, winning three games to none. The girls looked dominant in winning the first two games with scores of 25-14. However, the Buckley School at one time briefly held the lead in the third game, before succumbing to the barrage of hard hits and relentless defense of the Lady Mariners and ultimately losing 25-19 in the final game to end the match.
Buckley’s head coach, Tanner Ragland, was impressed with the strength of St. Monica’s seniors and admits they were a tough matchup for his girls.
“They’re always a great team and they are loaded this year with a lot of girls who play club ball year round,” Ragland said. “They will be hard to beat, that’s for sure.”
The girls have tournaments coming up this weekend and next weekend which will help get them prepared for league play, which begins Oct. 5 with a matchup against Serra High School. But Coach Rivera and the two co-captains admitted one of their biggest games of the year is tonight’s matchup against the school’s most heated rival — Mary Star of the Sea High School, located in San Pedro.
“In pretty much every sport our school has an intense and passionate rivalry against Mary Star, so Thursday is the big game of the year for us so far,” said the tallest member of the team at 5 feet, 11 inches, co-captain Cory LaGuardia.
Last year, St. Monica beat Mary Star early in the season, handing them their only league loss. But, St. Monica suffered a devastating 0-3 loss just before the playoffs and ended up losing league to the Stars by one game. Despite the fact that the two teams are now playing in separate leagues, the heated rivalry still lives on.
Co-captain Nestoras, who has been playing volleyball since the fifth grade and plays year-round for a club team, says she loves the sport and that she expects great things from St. Monica’s team this season. But, she admits she has really been looking forward to tonight’s game against the Stars.
“It’s always been between us and them for the league title, we’ve always had to beat them — and last year they beat us when it counted. So this year we’re looking for revenge,” Nestoras said.
The St. Monica girls’ volleyball team plays in the California Interscholastic Federation Southern Section in the Camino Real League, along with Serra, St. Bernard, St. Paul and Cantwell-Sacred Heart High Schools.
The team finished last season with a record of 19-9, and finished the Camino Real League with a 6-2 record before going on to lose in the second round of the CIF-SS playoffs to St. Margaret’s of San Capistrano.
St. Monica takes on its biggest rival, Mary Star of the Sea High School, tonight at 6 p.m. at St. Monica.