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Eagles plan to build from breakout year

VOLLEYBALL: Estancia had 20 wins last season with a good showing in playoffs, and coach predicts another big year.

September 05, 2007|By David Carrillo PeƱaloza

COSTA MESA — Jim Huffman searched everywhere, the annals, trying to learn how good Estancia High was last year compared to the past.

Some girls’ volleyball records were missing, making it hard for Huffman to figure out the truth. Two years in the 1970s, Huffman said nothing came up. Five in the 1980s, he said forget about it.

One season Estancia won’t disregard in the record books is last year, when it finished 20-10 overall, 6-3 in the Orange Coast League.

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Huffman is counting on this year to be historical, too.

“It was the best season and farthest we have ever gone [in 12 years], the deepest, getting to the second round,” said Huffman of last year’s CIF Southern Section Division II-AA playoffs. “We lost two starters and six seniors, but I think we can end up being better because we’re deeper.”

The Eagles start the season Tuesday against Irvine, the perfect opponent to Huffman. On the road, a place where they’ll figure out if they’re ready to make a run at surpassing last year’s finish.

Beating those marks will be a challenge for sure. Knocking off powerhouse Laguna Beach from the top of league is a long shot, so much so that Huffman’s practically giving up. Laguna Beach is the defending section champ.

“They beat us [easily],” he said of last year’s matches between the two schools in the inaugural OCL. “We did take a game off them. All it does is [upset them]. We can do something against them, but they’re just deeper than us.

“We got to get that second spot [in league] or you don’t go to the playoffs. We’ll get it, though.”

The fifth-year coach has good reason to be confident about finishing second again and ahead of cross-town rival Costa Mesa and Calvary Chapel. One of his stepdaughters will set the offense again.

This time it won’t be Stacie Watson. She graduated. Welcome Amanda Watson. The sophomore is poised to take over the responsibility of making sure the offense is in sync and setting up last year’s kill leader, junior outside hitter Annie Tomasek.

“She was kind of hesitant because you hate to follow in a sibling’s shoes,” said Huffman of Amanda, who will try to lead Estancia to its third straight postseason appearance. “As a sophomore, she’s farther along than Stacie was as a sophomore.”

Besides seeing Stacie go, Estancia lost Newport-Mesa Dream Team pick Jaye Hellmich to graduation. Senior Olivia Schow takes over, along with Madeline Stack, a junior, who moves over from the right side.

Huffman said senior outside hitter Sarah Braunsdorf is coming off an anterior cruciate ligament surgery and is now 100 percent.

“She’s not even playing with a brace,” said Huffman, sounding as excited as he is about the team’s depth. “We got 12 kids on the court, where we can scrimmage now. Top to bottom there isn’t a gap.”

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