The Redondo Union girls’ volleyball team remained unbeaten after winning at Bishop Montgomery 25-20, 25-18, 25-21 in Torrance last Tuesday to improve to 13-0 on the season. They have only dropped one set all season.
“We’ve never been 13-0 at this point,” said Redondo Union head coach Tom Chaffins, who started with the Sea Hawks in 2001.
He said his team has impressed him with their “volleyball IQ.”
Redondo Union has 10 players that are committed to play volleyball or sand volleyball in college. Chaffins pointed out that “all 10 cannot play” at the same time.
“We have to battle and support one another-that is one of our maxims-and the kids have been awesome at that,” Chaffins said. “They try to beat each other up in practice but then they support each other in whatever Tiffany (Rodriguez, assistant coach) and I roll out.”
The first CIF Southern Section girls’ volleyball poll was released September 3 and Redondo Union is tied with Mater Dei at No. 1 in Division 1/2.
Chaffins says his team is ranked No. 1 nationally in the PrepVolleyball.com and USA Today Super 25 girls’ volleyball rankings. MaxPreps.com just updated their poll this week and now has Redondo Union also the No. 1 team in the nation.
They are all first for Redondo Union, but the coach is not reveling in it too much.
“We can’t control what others think,” Chaffins said. “We just try to enjoy the journey.”
“I’m not sure how it feels,” said the coach of being on top. “I really try to pride myself that I don’t let outside influences affect what I do.”
After a 35-4 record a season ago and nationally ranked all year, this year the Sea Hawks are looking to win some important hardware that alluded them a year ago. The did not make it to the CIF Southern Section championship or state finals.
“We never got that big road win last year,” said Chaffins, who hopes that will change.
This year’s team is led by junior setter Kami Miner, who is on the U.S. Youth National Team for the second year and is on the road with them currently.
Joining Miner are seniors Laila Ricks, opposite; Nalani Iosia, libero; Jody Smith, middle blocker; Maya Harvey, outside hitter; Lauren Osborne, outside hitter; Batai Rostshtein, outside hitter.
“I can rely on everybody,” said Ricks on when she is not playing at her highest level that other players can soften the drop off. “Other players on the court help pick me up.”
“The girls have so much experience,” said Chaffins of his senior class.
Junior contributors are Ava Kirunchyk, outside hitter; Jesse Szymanski, middle blocker.
They also have one of the best freshmen in the country in Mele Corral-Blagojevich, outside hitter. Another freshman, Nicole Lankton is also a contributor.
One of their reasons for their high ranking is they won the Ann Kang Invitational in Honolulu, Hawaii in August. They went 9-0 in the tournament and did not drop a set.
“We played so good,” Iosia said. “I didn’t know how we would do, I had no expectations on how we would finish. After the first day, we were able to really come together as a team.”
“We beat some great teams,” Chaffins said.
They beat the host team, Iolani, in the semifinals and the top team from Texas, Bryon Nelson, in the championship match.
“They have pretty much every position locked down, every position,” said Bishop Montgomery three-year starter TaKenya Stafford, who is an outside hitter and a junior.
She said it was a good challenge for the Knights in their nonleague match. Bishop Montgomery pushed Redondo Union to a 20-20 deadlock in the third set before the Sea Hawks won the pivotal points to close out the match.
“I feel like today we really worked hard defensively,” Stafford said. “We had a lot of energy and played our hardest.”
The Sea Hawks have a chance to beat one of those nemesis this week in Mater Dei when the Monarchs come to Redondo Beach Thursday for a 6:30 p.m. match.
“We definitely have a chance to take them down if we are on our ‘A’ game,” Ricks said.
Within the week they will also play Cathedral Catholic at home and travel to Torrey Pines. A match with always highly-ranked Marymount is also coming up. They will travel to Nevada again for the Durango Fall Classic on September 20 and 21 where Kentucky’s Assumption High School will be looming.
After their win over Bishop Montgomery, former Redondo Union player and current Bishop Montgomery head coach Tiffany Morales spoke about the Sea Hawks.
“Redondo is a very strong team,” Morales said. “We knew that going in and we grinded tonight.”
Bishop Montgomery dropped to 6-2 overall on the season. Last year Morales led her team to a 23-14 overall record.
As for Redondo Union, with more practice and time it should be able to take it up a notch.
“I think we have a lot of room to get better,” Ricks said. “It’s just practice. We can just keep pushing harder to get better and then I think that will translate on the court and it will show when we hopefully win.”
The rest of the team includes seniors Kaila Siu, Emma Kelley, Schaela Nielsen and Madison Schonberg and juniors Wakaya Wilson, Arianna Franklin. Gianna T’agoai is one of three freshmen.