Girls’ volleyball: Year of the Freshman arrives in City Section

Anabelle Redaelli jumped and struck again, the match hanging from her right arm. After falling back to the hardwood with another kill, her Palisades bench broke into a serenade.

“That’s a fresh man!” they chanted.

newbie, yes True, but only in name. Beyond her years, Redaelli was an offensive pivot in Palisades’ 25-17, 25-18, 5-25, 27-25, 15-12 rivalry win over Venice on Thursday night, raining shots from all angles and firing from behind for the match clinch kill.

She wasn’t alone. Three freshmen filled a spot with two of the best teams in town. A total of six were on the list. Across the city, the rich are only building more generational wealth, with newcomers making significant contributions in four of the section’s undisputed top five teams.

“They always come in waves, and it looks like the freshman wave is happening at a lot of these schools right now,” said Chatsworth coach Sina Aghassy.

Granada Hills (18-6) has Alexis Cuan, an underdog with impressive athleticism. Cuan has been receiving heavy minutes since summer shows, notching 10 kills in a big win over Woodland Hills Taft on Tuesday.

Woodland Hills El Camino Real (17-9) have Anika Bernardo, who stepped into the all-city gap at the setter by graduated Larissa Dakoske and has an “aggressive serve that can turn the tides of close games,” head coach Alyssa said Lee.

Venice (36-7) have Samantha Lortie, a beach player who switched to setter and made some nice plays against Palisades on Thursday.

And palisades (28-9) In addition to three other newcomers, Redaelli has an outsider, whom Venice coach Raul Aviles has already described as “one of the best all-rounders in the section”.

About five years ago, Lee said, she had a freshman or two with solid volleyball experience. Now she has four or five. It’s a trend endorsed by coaches in the section – especially as many believe girls’ volleyball is gradually becoming an elite competition on par with soccer and basketball.

“I compare it to the 11- and 12-year-old kid that has the quarterback coach,” said Palisades coach Carlos Gray. “Young children are specializing. And it’s a blessing and a curse.”

When he coached at Malibu High a decade ago, Gray said half of his players were multi-athletes. Well, he estimated he had three in the entire Palisades program. The expansion of club volleyball, which may require winter and spring commitments, reinforces this pure volleyball focus.

“I’ve found that even a lot of the people I’ve played against at club my age group have made teams better,” said Redaelli.

A shadow lurks on the horizon of the youth boom. Some top teams – like Venice and Palisades – have built the programs to attract club talent while also being supported by feeder programs. Redaelli played middle school volleyball at Paul Revere Charter and said most of that team is now at Palisades at the JV level.

Other schools in the city aren’t so lucky, as they face declining enrollment, Venice assistant coach Allen Hunt said. It’s already a hotly debated topic in football: once touted programs are crashing with no influx of talent. Reckoning could follow in volleyball.

“Some of the programs that these club kids don’t have,” Hunt said, “are left behind.”

Mira Costa reigns

Kill every doubt. Eliminate any uncertainty. After beating Redondo Union 25-10, 25-20 in the championship of the Molten Power Classic on Saturday, Manhattan Beach Mira Costa is the clear top seed heading into the Division 1 Playoffs pool game.

Birmingham in excitement

Ahead of the season, Lake Balboa Birmingham head coach LeAnne Bennett-Riley expressed hope this was the year her program in the city’s stacked West Valley League climbed out of the basement.

On Tuesday, the Patriots upset Chatsworth in five sets and are now fourth in league play at 14-9 overall. Not impressive until you look at Birmingham history: The Patriots haven’t had a successful season in more than a decade.

“It’s kind of like, ‘Eh, Birmingham, we don’t have to worry about her,'” Bennett-Riley said. “And then we just keep getting better and better.”

They certainly deserve consideration for an Open Division spot – except with that strong Top 5, Bennett-Riley doesn’t want to move up and prefers to fight for a Division I championship. Girls’ volleyball: Year of the Freshman arrives in City Section

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