Sports

Eagles eye league title


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Senior Hanadi Nassif, going for the kill in a match last year, “will be a person we lean on quite a bit,” Eagles coach Peter Kim said.

Although the Los Altos High girls volleyball team’s starting lineup has drastically changed, the Eagles’ expectations haven’t as they embark on the 2017 season.

“We strive to win league every year – no matter who we have and who’s coming back,” said coach Peter Kim, whose squad finished tied for second in the Santa Clara Valley Athletic League De Anza Division last season.

Los Altos has 10 players coming back, but only two of them have extensive experience starting at their current positions: seniors Hanadi Nassif (outside hitter) and Jamie Kesten (middle blocker). Nassif, a first-team all-leaguer last year after leading the Eagles in kills, “will be a person we lean on quite a bit,” Kim said.

Tori Hausch – who started alongside Kesten at middle blocker last season – has moved to right-side hitter, where Kim expects the 5-foot-11 junior to excel.

“She has pretty good size and speed to be a good opposite (hitter),” the coach said. “She’s played well in practice and at the (season-opening Spikefest) tournament; it’s just a matter of her getting comfortable there.”

Junior Kaitlyn Wong is the starting libero, a role she played part time last season.

Senior Nicole Baxley is one of two new starters at setter (Kim has switched to a 6-2 offense this year); the other spot is up for grabs.

“It’s competitive – we have an abundance of setters,” the coach said. “That (position) and outside hitter are deep.”

Katie Kishton, a 5-foot-11 sophomore, starts on the outside with Nassif.

“I think we will count on Katie a lot,” Kim said.

The coach added that Kishton performed well Aug. 26 at Spikefest, where Los Altos went 3-2 and placed 18th.

Spartans shoot for first

Rival Mountain View High placed 14th at Spikefest, a solid showing for a team that finished last in the SCVAL De Anza Division a season ago.

The Spartans have been demoted to the SCVAL El Camino Division this year, which “wasn’t fair,” coach Dave Winn said, “but the only way to prove it wasn’t fair will be to do very well in El Camino and earn our way back up.”

Mountain View lost only one player to graduation, though starting setter Samantha Shaffer will be “tough to replace,” Winn said. However, he noted that junior Ashley Kane and sophomore Logan Winn (the coach’s daughter) “are doing a nice job climbing the learning curve.”

Expect 6-foot-1 opposite hitter Eleonore Johansen to again lead the Spartans in kills. The senior notched 385 of them last season and finished second in blocks to Kyra Palmbush, a 6-1 junior who returns at middle blocker. Outside hitters Payton Shaffer (Samantha’s sister) and Aidan O’Leary are back as well, along with fellow senior Lauren Price in the middle.

With so much experience, Winn has lofty expectations for the Spartans.

“Winning league and making it past the first round in playoffs are among our goals, with a very big stretch goal of reaching the CCS finals,” he said. “We have a lot of getting better to do between now and then.”

Lancers start strong

St. Francis High “is off to a great start,” coach Mike Rubin said, after finishing fourth at Spikefest. The Lancers went 2-2, beating Notre Dame-Belmont and Valley Christian.

St. Francis followed that by sweeping Menlo-Atherton Aug. 29.

“The girls are playing hard,” Rubin said. “This team works very well with each other and the effort level has been great so far.”

St. Francis has six seniors, including standout Mollie Ebertin. The 6-foot-1 outside hitter topped the team in kills last year and earned second team all-league honors.

Rubin listed Ebertin as one of the Lancers’ leaders, along with seniors Rachel Hunsaker (outside hitter/opposite hitter), Gabbie Heller (outside hitter) and Lizzie Ciari (libero).

All of them helped St. Francis reach the Northern California Division II final last year after finishing third in the West Catholic Athletic League.

Can the Lancers top that this season?

“It’s hard to know our expectations this year because the WCAL is so tough,” Rubin said, “but we do have the right team to compete on a daily basis with some of the best teams in the state.”

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