Minutes before the annual Alumni Game Monday evening, the girls on Mira Costa’s varsity volleyball team sat in a circle with pensive looks on their faces. Their opponents were hugging, laughing and joking around. The teenagers didn’t know what to expect.
After this year’s Mustang squad was introduced it was the alumni’s turn. The list of accomplishments could have filled a wall in Fisher Gym: CIF, State and National champions. College All-Americans. Standout players at the Division 1 level.
The varsity team stood silent as their predecessors were recognized. While they may have been in awe, they certainly were not intimidated.
The young girls showed their elders, including their head coach Lisa Arce-Zimmerman, a thing or two about Mira Costa volleyball defeating the Alumni 25-22, 25-23 in a best 2-out-of-3 game series.
“It’s always fun to see how they play which is different than how we play,” said Katie Warshaw, one of three captains on this year’s Mustang team. “The alumni know all the shots because they’ve played in college and on the beach so it’s much different than playing against girls our own age. Coach Lisa did all the shots and serves that we work on in practice.”
Warshaw said she is honored to be a captain in a program with such deep tradition.
“To think that I’m behind all of those players who have done it before adds a little pressure,” Warshaw admitted. “But its fun and we’re looking forward to a very successful season.”
After greeting her former players with pre-match hugs, DaeLea Aldrich sat with the alumni team, reliving memories of her head coaching career at Mira Costa which spanned from 1984 to 2007. Her 669-76 record included 14 CIF titles, six State Championships and three National titles.
“This is so much fun,” Aldrich said. “They’re so grown up and many of them have had girls so we can keep this tradition going for a long time.
Although she is technically retired, Aldrich remains involved in the Manhattan Beach community.
“I’m working a little bit for the MBUSD as an educational advisor,” Aldrich said. “But I’m really enjoying golf and water skiing. Life is good.”
Arce-Zimmerman, who took over the reigns after serving 16 years as an assistant coach with Aldrich, was pleased with her varsity team’s effort and more delighted with the turnout of alumni.
“We have a good mix of different age groups and it’s really about just getting together and enjoying each other,” said Arce-Zimmerman, a former AVP star. “I’m more used to playing on the sand than indoors so it was a little different.”
Returning to the site where they spent countless hours practicing that produced a multitude of victories were: Kim Grouwinkel Willeman (1973), Debbi Black (1983, Hawaii), Lee Hoven (1983, Pepperdine), Scotti Wells (1985), Lisa Arce-Zimmerman (1987, UC Berkeley), Megan McCallister (1987, USC), Kristal Attwood (1990, Hawaii), Amy Banachowski (1990, UC San Diego), Rainy Chrisman (1990, Pepperdine), Cindy DeGarceau (1991), Ann Windes (1993, Pepperdine), Paige Nelson (1995, Washington State), Ashley Bowles (1998, UCLA), Teryn Spragg (2002, UCLA), Renee Siemack (2003, UCLA) and Sydney Donahue (2004, Arizona State).
Willeman will join Aldrich as a member of the CIF-Southern Section Coaching Hall of Fame when she is inducted next month. Willeman led Bishop Montgomery teams to seven CIF titles, three State championships and was named CIF Coach of the Year six times.
Also keeping the Mustang tradition alive was Judy Jackamer who has refereed at Mira Costa for 33 years.
Although she had limited experience as a setter, Windes refused to let an injury keep her out of the match.
“Ironically, I suffered an Achilles injury in the Pepperdine Alumni Game,” Windes said. “My jumping is not so good but I got out there. I’ll probably be sore for about two weeks. There’s such an amazing spirit with Mira Costa’s history that I want to be a part of it and come every year.”
Paige Nelson was disappointed the match ended in two games.
“It feels good to get dirty and sweat,” Nelson said after varsity players thanked the alumni for their effort. “I’m pretty tired. I’m bruised and skinned but it was well worth it. I would have played another game but the young girls wanted to quit.
“I have a lot of pride for this school and a lot of pride for Mira Costa volleyball. Everything that DaeLea put in place and Lisa has been able to keep going has built such a strong tradition that I’m just so happy to be a part of. I’ve played in the Alumni Game the last three years and it’s a great experience. It’s nice not only to be recognized, but to see the next generation of players. It’s great to see how the South Bay community really gets behind the sport of volleyball.”
While the alumni recover and treat sore muscles, the varsity players will turn their focus to this weekend when they will join South Bay representatives Redondo, Palos Verdes and South Torrance at the Durango Fall Classic in Las Vegas. The 48-team tournament includes 11 of the top 100 ranked team in the nation and five of the top 10 teams in the CIF Southern Section Division 1-AA.
In its first regular season match Mira Costa could not capitalize on a two-game lead, falling at Edison 23-25, 30-32 25-12, 25-20, 15-13. Edison is ranked No. 4 and Mira Costa No. 6 in the Division 1-AA poll.
Corie Bain paced the Mustangs with 32 assists, 25 digs, 11 kills, three blocks and two aces against the Chargers who were champions of the prestigious Ann Kang Invitational tournament in August where they beat Mira Costa 25-22, 25-22.
Gracie Chavers had 12 kills, Grayce Campbell recorded 11 kills, Kelsey McIntire had seven kills, Lexi Millington added six kills and Katie Warshaw recorded 20 digs for Mira Costa.
If opening the season on the road against Edison and facing the high caliber of opponents in the Durango Fall Classic isn’t tough enough, the Mustangs come home to host the division’s top ranked team, Los Alamitos, in a 5:15 p.m. match on Tuesday, Sept. 20 and Marymount (No. 1 in Division 1-A) on Thursday, Sept. 22.
“We’ve been playing this type of schedule for the last seven years or so,” Arce-Zimmerman said. “It just happens that this year those teams are ranked ahead of us. Usually it’s the other way around.”
Redondo, ranked No. 3 in Division 1-AA, began its regular season with a sweep over visiting Harvard-Westlake. Replacing older sister Lara who is now at the University of Nebraska, Skylar Dykstra led the Sea Hawks with 12 kills and six aces in their 25-20, 25-21, 25-16 victory.
Setter Olivia Bustamante recorded 35 assists and two of Redondo’s 13 aces. Brianna Lanktree had five kills, Hannah Mosebar contributed four kills, Devon Bogart added three kills and two blocks and libero Tiffany Morales had 12 digs in the win.
After returning from Las Vegas, the Sea Hawks host Orange Lutheran Tuesday in a 6 p.m. match.