Graduation has gutted several volleyball teams in the SCVAL De Anza Division, putting the league title “really up for grabs,” according to Los Altos High coach Peter Kim.
So can the Eagles – with five returning starters – grab it?
“I’m hoping,” Kim said. “We have a lot of experience and talent. It’s one of our goals – we’d definitely like to be in the mix.”
Los Altos returns nine players in all, many of whom contributed to last season’s playoff team, which finished fourth in the league and 22-15 overall.
Returnees include senior setter Hanna Koehler and junior outside hitter Carmen Annevelink, who earned first-team all-league honors a year ago, and senior libero Katie Tritschler, a second-team selection. Seniors Meghan McDermott (outside hitter) and Michelle Albright (right-side hitter), along with juniors Jenna Hoover (middle blocker) and Joyce Christiansen-Salameh (setter), are also back after playing significant roles last season.
The Eagles have added just five players to the roster, including talented transfer Megan Wilhelm from powerhouse-program Mitty.
“She’s in the race for playing time,” Kim said of the 5-foot-9 sophomore, who plays right-side and outside hitter. “But that’s going to be hard to get for some of the nonstarters.”
As new starters go, Los Altos has one for sure – 5-10 junior Kristen Liu, who Kim said will play alongside the 6-1 Hoover in the middle. Christiansen-Salameh may join the starting lineup as well, teaming with Koehler at setter if Los Altos opts for a 6-2 offense.
“I’m leaning toward it,” the coach said of running a two-setter system. “It frees up three hitters consistently in the front row and gives Hanna more of a chance to pass and hit.”
Koehler and McDermott have been named co-captains of the team.
“Hanna is the perfect captain – she’s always upbeat, has a great attitude and is a good athlete,” Kim said. “We’re also going to lean on Meghan’s leadership. She’s super competitive and super consistent.”
Tritschler – whose sophomore sister Sarah is on the team as well – “is one of the better liberos in our league,” the coach said. “She gets a lot of balls, reads offenses well and is competitive.”
Kim also had high praise for outside hitter Annevelink, the team’s tallest player at 6-2.
“She’s our best hitter,” he said. “I expect big things from her this year. She should be one of the strongest players in the league.”
On the right side, 6-footer Albright “has gotten a lot better over the years,” Kim said, and “her blocking is really important” to the team’s success.
The coach expects two other players to bring the blocks as well. Middle blockers Hoover and Liu “will be super important to what we do,” Kim said.
This weekend the Eagles get a chance to show what they can do. They open the season at Spikefest I, an all-day tournament scheduled to begin 8 a.m. Saturday at Independence High in San Jose.
“I’m very fired up to get this season started,” Kim said. “We want to start off running and build as much momentum as possible.”