Spartans, PVL must overcome Camarillo’s on-court chemistry

Girl is hitting a ball.
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© Iris Smoot/Acorn Newspapers
Rio Mesa High defensive specialist Joy Lester crushes the ball during Wednesday’s practice session. © Iris Smoot/Acorn Newspapers

Girls’ volleyball is just about back at Camarillo and Rio Mesa high schools.

Both teams expect to contend in the Pacific View League. While the Scorpions have secured three straight league crowns, including an outright title in 2010, Rio Mesa has been steadily improving.

The Spartans have made the playoffs three straight years.

Here’s a closer look at both teams entering this season:

Camarillo Scorpions

A good team just got better.

For the rest of the league, that’s a scary thought.

“This is the deepest team I’ve ever coached,” said Camarillo head coach Rob Vandermay.

“ Boys, girls, club, high school—anything.”

Camarillo won a Pacific View championship last fall, the program’s first outright title since 1977, according to Vandermay.

All 13 varsity players contribute and all 13 could start.

“The difference between my starting players and backup players is very small,” the coach. “It’s as small as it’s ever been.

“I have to keep them all motivated and interested. I have to constantly try and evaluate the best players to put the best group on the court at any given time.”

In addition to athleticism and talent at every position, this is a scrappy, hardworking bunch that showed an ability to overcome deficits in summer matches.

The Scorpions think they’ve shored up middle blocker and opposite, positions that revealed vulnerabilities at times in 2010.

Dani Helland leads ACHS.

A senior setter, Helland is a cerebral and savvy student-athlete. She can dish pin-point sets to her front-row hitters and handles awkward passes with ease.

“She’s been great since she was a freshman,” Vandermay said of Helland. “She was one of the best players in the program. She continues to improve each year with all her skills.”

Senior outside hitter Noelle Berry shared team MVP honors with Helland last season. Berry’s a talented striker who finds great angles to put the ball away.

“When she’s on, she’s very difficult to stop,” the coach said. “She hits as hard as anyone on the team.”

Before she was injured last fall, Hannah Kimball patrolled outside hitter. The big hitter’s moved to opposite, and her passing skills will give the team an added dimension.

Caitlin Pirruccello also missed most of last season with an injury. The senior outside hitter hopes to make an impact after improving her passing and hitting skills.

Senior libero Erin Skoblick is a deft passer.

“She’s made steady improvement each year. She’s made the biggest stride improving between her junior and senior year,” the coach said of Skoblick.

“That’s going to earn her playing time. She’s earned a niche for herself.”

Jo Rosario earned All-Pacific View first-team honors last year. The senior setter/opposite has great hands and can power home kills despite her modest stature.

Seniors Leah Ramsaier and Abby Beillen add depth at middle blocker. The varsity veterans are quick hitters who speed up the offense.

“Leah has a high reach and is a strong blocker,” Vandermay said. “Abby has pure strength. She hits as hard as Noelle. She’s also a good line-drive server.”

In her first varsity game midseason against Agoura, Jenna White led Camarillo in kills.

“It showed she wasn’t afraid,” the coach said.

White, a junior outside hitter, is fighting for playing time.

Ashley DeWolfe, Michelle Valovcin and Alex McGinley add depth at middle blocker.

Sophomore libero Shannon Hill is the youngster. Matt Dawson, Steve Yoshimoto, Jon Ballard and Bryan Staples are assistant coaches.

“This year we definitely would love to win the league again,” Vandermay said. “We know it’s going to be a battle.”

Rio Mesa Spartans

The rebuilding phase was over a few years ago.

Rio Mesa is ready to contend for its first Pacific View championship.

“We’re at least in the mix,” said fifth-year head coach Jeff Holloway. “We’ve been in the playoffs for three years. We want a home playoff match.”

The Spartans are no longer under the radar after splitting two matches against the Moorpark College women’s volleyball squad this summer.

Rio Mesa won’t overwhelm foes with bone-crushing kills. The Spartans wear out opponents with long rallies and a desire to capture each and every point.

“We’re definitely not a flashy team,” the coach said.

“We have a solid group. All the girls play really hard and play really well together. We’ll be really competitive if we play to our full potential.”

Five Spartans have solidified spots in the rotation.

Riley Abraham is a force at middle blocker. The senior is also a basketball standout.

“She’s very aggressive,” Holloway said of Abraham.

“She’s tenacious. She has a nose for the ball.”

Mikayla Philips uses her speed and athleticism to make plays at libero. The senior is a three-sport standout who stars in basketball and softball. Her softball skills, particularly reacting to where a ball is being hit, translate to volleyball defense.

Mackenzie Kytlica is a savvy junior outside hitter.

“She’s a very smart player,” the coach said of Kytlica.

Raegan Nizdil, who reached the track state finals in the high jump this spring, makes an impact at opposite.

“She’s a phenomenal athlete,” the coach said of Nizdil, a junior.

“Her jumping ability is such a huge asset for us on the block on that side.”

Laura Price is a player to watch.

The senior middle blocker made big improvements this offseason. A solid all-around player, Price will play a pivotal role for Rio Mesa.

“She’s now our most consistent hitter and our most consistent blocker,” the coach said of Price.

Opposite Angie Solloa, setters Gabrielle Casey and Kacie Marzcuk and defensive specialists Joy Lester and Ariel Castro are juniors who provide depth.

Outside hitter Katelynn Womack is the lone sophomore on the varsity team.

“ We’re capable of great things,” Holloway said, “when the girls are on and fighting with enthusiasm.”

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