⬛ High School Girls’ Volleyball
The CIF Southern Section has not released its preseason polls yet but it did list the teams to watch in each division on Monday.
San Marino, the reigning Rio Hondo League champion, is one of the programs listed in Division 4 along with rival South Pasadena, which drew a mixed reaction from head coach Joseph Rios.
“I’m glad we’re getting recognition,” said Rios, who guided the program to its best campaign in decades last season. “I felt like we were slighted last year by not getting any recognition in the preseason poll. This puts a crosshair on our back.”
SMHS is a target this season despite losing three seniors to graduation, including league MVP and All-CIF standout Keila Barra, who is currently playing for USC.
“Obviously, it’s tough losing a Division I player like that but her legacy remains,” Rios said. “The gritty attitude she brought to the program stayed with this year’s team. I’m not concerned about this season.”
San Marino’s toughness remained long after the team’s season ended against eventual champion Quartz Hill in the CIF-SS Division 4 quarterfinals. The underclassmen developed a chip on their shoulder, something the coach didn’t notice in last year’s squad until league play began.
“These girls are definitely ready to prove themselves,” Rios said. “They’re learning to use their emotions to their advantage.”
Barra’s graduation and Madison Kaufman’s transfer to Mayfield Senior in Pasadena are tough losses for the program. However, Rios is confident the returning Titans will fill the holes, especially those that involve a leaders.
“I think we have a possible league MVP in Erin Hill,” Rios said. “She has been learning a lot this summer and is embracing the leadership role.”
Hill is one of two All-Rio Hondo League players returning. Leela Anvekar, who received an honorable mention, is expected to have a breakout season after missing key matches last year because of the CIF-SS transfer rules.
“She didn’t play the beginning of league with us because it was a transfer year for her,” Rios said, “but she really is one of the best middles in this league. She really wants to leave her imprint.”
The Titans will open the season with a nonleague match at Arcadia on Tuesday, Aug. 20, at 3:30 p.m. San Marino will have its home opener against Pasadena Poly on Thursday, Aug. 22, at 3:30 p.m.
“The girls really do believe this year,” Rios said. “They have a determination to get to the same platform and come away with a different result that is not negative. The [historic season] taught them they can achieve great things.”