The 2016 girls’ volleyball season was one of the best in the history of the Trinity League.
Santa Margarita was largely responsible.
The Eagles, led by standout outside hitter Meghan McClure and libero Julianna Reisinger, won the league title with an 8-0 record. They didn’t stop there, toppling league rival Mater Dei to capture the CIF-SS Division I championship and marching all the way to the CIF State Open Division finals.
Even though McClure will soon pack her bags and head north to Stanford and Reisinger to Purdue, the cupboards are hardly bare at Santa Margarita.
The Eagles are expected to be the team to beat again, as Orange County Register first-team all-county selections Sarah Ciszek and Devon Chang return for their senior years, as well as second-teamer Haley Carmo.
But the Eagles can expect another big push from Mater Dei, which returns a host of talented players who provide an edge in overall depth.
Kyla Waiters is a 6-foot-2 middle blocker who made second-team all-county as a junior last season. The Monarchs will also have one of the top defensive players in the league in senior libero Kelsey Campeau and another steady outside hitter in Abby Van Winkle, both of whom committed to UCLA last summer.
Kristina Pepek, a junior middle blocker, Natalie Berty, a junior outside hitter, and Mia Tuaniga, a sophomore opposite hitter, also turned heads as underclassmen last season and the trio should take on even bigger roles this fall.
Santa Margarita, Mater Dei and JSerra will remain in Division I for the postseason, Orange Lutheran will stay in Division II and Rosary in Division III.
Orange Lutheran, which reached the quarterfinals in its division last season, seems to have the best shot at knocking off Santa Margarita and Mater Dei in league play. The Lancers will be led by 6-5 senior setter Courtney Buzzerio, who has committed to Indiana.
Santa Margarita and Mater Dei will have short summers, as they’re scheduled to open their seasons at the Ann Kang Invitational in Honolulu, a 16-team tournament scheduled Aug. 10-12. Santa Margarita won the tournament in 2015 and finished second last year.
The Eagles and Monarchs could also collide at the Durango Classic in Las Vegas in mid-September, but they’ll definitely meet in a Trinity League match Sept. 21 at Santa Margarita and again Oct. 10 at Mater Dei.
McClure, who was the Division I player of the year last season, will be the toughest player to replace in the Trinity League.
She finished her senior season with 483 kills, 233 digs, 61 blocks and 24 aces. She was a valuable starter all four years on the varsity and her experience and encouraging voice was a calming influence in big matches.
Ciszek will be counted on to fill some of that void at the net. She showed she can put up good numbers, finishing with 205 kills, 22 blocks and 21 aces last season.
“She was a force at the net,” Santa Margarita coach Katy Daly told the Register. “She was a go-to player for the Eagles and really stepped up and had a tremendous season.”
Ciszek will benefit from having one of the top setters in the nation in Chang, a four-year varsity starter who has committed to California.