Recognize: Greater Los Angeles
ESPN RISE takes a look at the teams to watch this month in the greater Los Angeles area:
Football -- Mission Viejo
In coach Bob Johnson's first eight years at Mission Viejo, the Diablos only lost eight games. Last year, they went 6-4-1. Now in his 10th season, Johnson is expecting a return to glory. "Hopefully, the players have the same bad taste in their mouths that the coaches do," Johnson says. "Last year is just not acceptable. We're going to put it in the past and move forward." As the Diablos enter league play, they have plenty of weapons to make that happen. Johnson is known as a quarterback guru and he has another great one in Allan Bridgford. The Cal-bound senior is a three-year starter who threw for 2,508 and 22 touchdowns in 2007. Bridgford's favorite target returns in senior wideout Kevin Chandler, Orange County's leading receiver last year (935 yards). On the ground, the team uses a runningback- by-committee approach led by junior Jake Marshall and sophomore Dallas Kessman, with senior fullback John Akiba paving the way. The one question mark on offense was the line, which returned only one starter. But Johnson likes what he has. "We've got a real good group of competitive guys," he says. UCLA-bound safety Alex Mascarenas leads the way on defense. Seniors Josh Steinert and Erek Antis anchor the line, while classmate Colton Fitch helps in the backfield. Also back is Zach Hoffman. Add it all up and it looks like a season of redemption for the Diablos.
Girls' Volleyball -- Harvard-Westlake
The Wolverines cruised to the Division III state championship last fall, dropping only one game in its four-match playoff march to the crown. Key members of that squad like Katherine Sebastian (Stanford) and Cathryn Quinn (Princeton) graduated, but junior hitter Meg Norton and Boston College-bound senior middle Krystle Higgins return and that's bad news for opponents. Norton was named MVP of last year's state tourney.
Boys' Cross Country -- Loyola
The Cubs won the Division II state title last year thanks to great depth and consistent running, a perfect combination of quality and quantity. There's no reason to expect that to change in 2008, as three of the team's top four runners return eyeing a repeat. Elias Gedyon, now a sophomore, led the way with a seventh-place finish at state last year. Two runners who return for their senior years, Andres Diaz and James Slater, finished 13th and 24th, respectively.
Girls' Golf -- Cypress
It would be easy to predict a down year for the Centurions, who placed fourth at state last year and lost the Orange County Register's Player of the Year in Lalita Patipaksiri to graduation. But Cypress has plenty of talented players ready to pick up the slack. It starts with senior Amelia Ek, who placed sixth at the state meet last year and was an Orange County Register second team All-County pick. Also back is junior Kristina Nhim.
GIRLS' CROSS COUNTRY -- EDISON
Hillary Hayes sets the pace for a team that returns six of its top seven runners.
FOOTBALL -- LAKEWOOD
Eleven starters return, led by ESPN RISE All-Area senior LB Trevor Erno.
GIRLS'VOLLEYBALL -- REDLANDS EAST VALLEY
Senior Victoria Brummet, junior Kyle Orapeza and sophomore Krista Vansant all return.
BOYS'WATER POLO -- MATER DEI
Seniors Zach Wherry, Colin Carrol and Ryan Gladych are seeking Division II title.
ESPN TOP HEADLINES
- Florida, Zona, Wichita, UVa get No. 1 seeds
- No. 6 UVa tops No. 7 Duke to reign in ACC
- Florida holds off Kentucky to win SEC crown
- Michigan St. drops Michigan to claim Big Ten
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