Local High Schools Hoping for Successful Season

(Photos by Sebastian Moore / Burbank Leader) - JBHS junior Tawnie Ohrt will be a key offensive player as the Bears look to repeat as undefeated Pacific League champions.

First published in the Aug. 20 print issue of the Burbank Leader.

The girls’ high school volleyball season is starting up at both Burroughs and Burbank High. Both squads are in the Pacific League, where, for the second straight season, all the schools will be playing each other once and then be separated into upper and lower tiers for the second round.

It’s something of a science project at Burroughs as the Bears prepare for the season.
“One of our major goals is communication, on court and off court, just playing more together. We had quite a few kids come up from the JV team, and they aren’t used to playing with each other; we’re trying to get that team chemistry going,” Burroughs coach Edwin Real said.
Along those lines, the Bears’ practice jerseys read: “We are better… TOGETHER.”
Although the Bears lost a lot to graduation, there is a wealth of talent coming back, especially up front.
“One strength would be our net play and making some good decisions up there,” said Real, who took over as head coach at the school in 2003. “The kids that are returning are net players, so they have experience playing at the net: setting up the block, attacking at the net, making good choices swinging, where to hit and I see a lot of good blocking where we can play defense around the block.”
Burroughs will be counting on its top outside hitters in senior Janessa Wareebor and junior Tawnie Ohrt, who “swings really hard.” Also, returning is Kara Aldana-Pere, who is a leftie and plays on the right side.
“When she is consistent, she is pretty good,” the coach said.
In the middle of the court for Burroughs will be junior Sadie Lomet, who is in her third year as a varsity player but lost last season to injury, making Real “excited to see her play this season.” Also a middle blocker is senior Elizabeth Johnson, who is being elevated from the JV and “has really come a long way.”
Instrumental in the back row will be a trio of seniors: Jessica Real, Aixees Acevedo and Vanessa Lopez. The role of the libero is yet to be claimed, but these are the likely suspects. Also in the back row will be a newcomer Nadia Aguilar, a junior and soccer player who will be playing volleyball for the Bears for the first time.
At setter will be Caitlyn Mendoza, who “is a hard worker. She’s always trying to get better and make sure there is a good connection with the hitters.” Also in the mix at setter will be senior Bri Munoz, who was a varsity player last season. Junior Emelia Hill is another who is “fighting for a spot.”
It’s a senior-heavy group with 11 on the varsity roster, inlcuding Lopez, Real, Caitlyn Lugo, Acevedo, Johnson, Lomet, Destiny Helligar, Munoz and Wareebor.
“I can’t look at my group of seniors and say this is going to be the rebuilding year. We’re still going for the championship. We’re still going hard in practice. We are still trying to make this year our year,” Real said. “I don’t believe in rebuilding. I believe in reinforcing.”

Burbank’s Liana Issaian, one of two right-side hitters on the team, will be a focal point of the Bulldogs’ offense this season.

A new face will be leading the Bulldogs this season as Burbank welcomes head coach Art Garcia.
“Learning to play at another level and gaining experience will make the program that much stronger so, to me, that’s what success is,” Garcia said.
So far the first-year coach likes what he sees.
“It looks very promising. We’ve got a lot of eager players [and] quite a few returners on varsity that will provide some really good leadership and enthusiasm,” Garcia said.
Garcia’s background in volleyball is exclusively as a coach, and he considers himself a student of the game. He has coaching experience in recreational, with a club he established, community college, elementary, middle and high school, as well as spending time volunteering for the men’s national volleyball team.
“I would say that that the two most important basic fundamentals at this level, even at the highest levels with our men’s national team, are serve and pass,” Garcia said. “If we serve well then we can get our opponents out of their offensive scheme. If we can pass the ball well from their aggressive serves then we can run our offense.”
Garcia is new to the Pacific League, so it will be a learning process as he learns the strengths and weaknesses of his opponents. He is ready to navigate the scheduling format and has a simple and straightforward objective for league play.
“Our goal is, let’s make the top tier,” he said.
The Bulldogs’ 16-player varsity roster consists of 11 seniors and five juniors. Garcia says the “varsity is a good machine and I’d like to help tweak it.”
The role of setter will be played by Isabella Barska and Alyssa Ponsones. At libero will be Ani Movsisyan, Jolene Ngo and Olivia Romagnino. Outside hitters will be Jazmine Cobb, Samantha Arteaga, Yara Khozahi and Alison Molloy. Having a presence in the middle will be Quinlan Cramer, Raquel Fox, Astoria Torres and Addison Ritner. Slated solely for the job of right-side hitter are Liana Issaian and Sara Aslo. Brianna Kashany will be a defensive specialist.
“The two most important things are what you have learned and the friendships you’ve made,” Garcia said.