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Guards looking to continue reign

The four area squads, which all made the playoffs last season, look to continue postseason push.

August 27, 2011|By Jeff Tully, jeff.tully@latimes.com

There are always high expectations at Bellarmine-Jefferson High when it comes to girls' volleyball.

The past few years, the Guards have emerged as the premier program in the city, winning league championships and making deep CIF Southern Section playoff runs.

Last season, Bell-Jeff continued its dynasty in the Santa Cruz League by securing its fifth straight title. In addition, the Guards advanced to the Division IVAA semifinals, losing to No. 1-seeded Hemet, 25-16, 25-11, 25-14.

In 2009, the Guards advanced to the first CIF Southern Section championship in program history. Unfortunately for Bell-Jeff, it fell in the title contest, 25-22, 25-23, 25-23.

This season, Bell-Jeff is already garnering its share of respect, as the team is ranked No. 2 — behind top-ranked Hemet — in the Division IVA preseason poll.

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Along with Bell-Jeff, the other three local teams — Burroughs, Burbank and Providence — qualified for the playoffs in 2010.

Here is a look at how the teams are shaping up.

BELLARMINE-JEFFERSON¿

The Guards (17-7 last season) have their share of returning talent from last season's group, but the team did lose some starters who transferred.

"We did lose some key players, including our starting setter," Coach Miguel Segura said. "And breaking in a new setter is always tough. But we have some transfers of our own and we have a big addition from the basketball team who should help us out."

The program's most potent returning weapon is senior Jocelyn Cervantes, who has been a driving force for Bell-Jeff for three seasons.

Cervantes, who has made a name for herself with her powerful kills and deceptive serve, put up monster numbers for Bell-Jeff in 2010, earning a second All-CIF Southern Section award as well as being named the Santa Cruz Player of the Year. Along with 317 kills and a 52% kill percentage, Cervantes also had 44 aces, 22 blocks, 165 digs and 30 assists.

In her three year-career at Bell-Jeff, Cervantes has tallied 731 kills and 166 aces.

"Being a senior, she's ready to go," Segura said of Cervantes. "She knows that this is her senior year and it's her last chance to do something at Bell-Jeff."

Another key returner is junior outside hitter Taryn Nelson. Last season, Nelson had 169 kills, a 42% kill percentage, 57 aces and 103 digs to earn all-league first-team honors.

One of the new additions is junior middle Mirah Bankhead, a 6-foot-1 transfer from Idaho. Segura said he expects her to be a force at the net.

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