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California volleyball: Under-the-radar surprise teams from each section of 2022

Undefeated Serrano of Phelan is among the biggest surprises in the Golden State at 18-0

None of the following 10 teams may win a state title, but they are surprising many. 

These are 10 of the most surprising, under-the-radar squads in the Golden State. We've listed one team per section.

All records are thru Oct. 5

Serrano-Phelan (Southern Section, 18-0): In the high desert of southern California, close to the Cajon Pass, is the town of Phelan and they love their Serrano Diamondbacks. Serrano leads the Mojave River League and showed they can compete with powerhouses of the section when they defeated Etiwanda 25-19, 14-25, 26-24, 25-20, behind 19 kills from Madison DiGiorgio and 12 from Lauren Gott. Libero Kelsey Gomarko leads the defense and setter Mary Kavanaugh directs the offense.

Santa Cruz (Central Coast Section, 15-5): The Cardinals have a strong athletic program but in volleyball, neighbors Aptos and Soquel have dominated the Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League. Coach Lina Manley-Diaz has her squad pursuing their first league title since 2001-2002 and they are tied for first with Harbor-Santa Cruz. The attack is led by Gigi Brown, Sadie Jeffrey and Hannah Fleming. SCHS swept Soquel 25-21, 25-22, 25-17 early in the season and pulled out a dramatic comeback victory in the recent rematch on the road, 14-25, 7-25, 25-20, 25-22, 16-14, which included scoring the final five points in the fifth set.

University-San Francisco (North Coast Section, 17-5): The Red Devils are on fire this year, with an 8-0 mark in Bay Counties League play. Last year, University was just 20-15overall and 7-3 in league. Big wins this season include smacking Marin Catholic-Kentfield 25-22, 14-25, 25-20, 25-21, and a sweep of prominent neighbor St. Ignatius-San Francisco 25-20, 26-24, 26-24. One of the few losses was to powerful Tamalpais-Mill Valley in five tight sets 18-25, 19-25, 25-19, 26-24, 15-13.

Sierra-Manteca (San Joaquin Section, 14-1): The Timberwolves have a history of weak seasons, including recent overall records of 8-12, 5-13, 4-12, 2-18, 3-16, 6-17 and 4-19. After an 8-8 campaign a year ago, they are rocking now and leading the Valley Oak League with a 4-0 mark, led by outside hitter Zoe Kossart with 4.4 kills per set. The only loss for Sierra was a superb fight at unbeaten Escalon, where they lost 22-25, 25-19, 25-11, 27-25. 

Sutter (Northern Section, 22-4-1): The Huskies were just 17-16 last year, 8-4 in the Butte View League, but are rolling and lead the Pioneer Valley League with a 9-0 record, all in sweeps. Mia Minard and Jaycee Lee set the attack, which features Torrence Harter and Ashley Hudson up front, and Natalee Gardner heads the defense. 

John H. Francis Polytechnic-Sun Valley (Los Angeles Section, 17-6): The Poly Parrots were just 14-15 last year and Verdugo Hills-Tujunga was the East Valley League favorite this year. However, the Parrots and Dons are tied at the top at 7-1, having split their two matches. Coincidentally, each team won the contest at their home in five sets, with the decider going to a 15-12 score. The Parrots are led at the net by Hannah Lising and Heart Lising, with setter Dennise Fonseca and libero Cassidy Sanfilipo.

Arvin (Central Section, 28-3-2): Just east of Highway 99 and past the town of Weedpatch, on the north side of CA-223 is Arvin High. The Bears were just 17-13 last year but are flying high with Lucely Parra and Jecenia Fuentes leading the attack. Aaliyah Ayon is the sole setter and Brandi Flores spearheads the defense. Arvin leads the South Yosemite Horizon League with a 3-0 mark.

Del Norte-San Diego (San Diego Section, 20-4): Though falling behind tough San Marcos in the Palomar League, the Nighthawks are having a spectacular year. The ledger includes wins over La Costa Canyon-Carlsbad and Torrey Pines-San Diego. Del Norte is led in front by Jillian Neal, Haley Keller and Ashley Cook. Avery Basinger sets her attackers and gets passes from libero Kiana Olalia. 

Balboa-San Francisco (San Francisco Section, 11-5): The Buccaneers are often slotted in the SFS rankings behind Lowell-San Francisco and that appears to be the case again this year. But Balboa’s fine performances entail a callout. Recent loss to Lowell was just 25-18, 25-21, 25-22, and Bucs fell to CCS power Hillsdale-San Mateo by only 25-23, 25-15, 25-17.

AIMS College Prep-Oakland (Oakland Section, 7-1): The Golden Eagles are shining in the small Oakland Section. They recently defeated Cristo Rey De La Salle-Oakland 25-20, 25-20, 25-18, and that result puts them second in the OS behind Skyline-Oakland. AIMS College Prep is led by setter Susan Narankhuu and outside hitter Ojiugo Egeonu.

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