Surprise, Surprise!

November 21, 2009 by  

Bell-Jeff volleyball team hoping to capture program’s first CIF title. Listening to Bellarmine-Jefferson High girls’ volleyball Coach Miguel Segura talk, one might be convinced that he actually thought the Guards had the talent to reach a CIF Southern Section championship match this season.

But with just three returning players from last season on a team that started just two seniors, and the fact that Bell-Jeff had never advanced past the quarterfinals, the odds on that actually happening were overwhelming. 

Many around the Bell-Jeff program likely felt like sophomore opposite hitter Breanna Pedron about the team’s chances of getting to the championship contest.

“At the beginning of the season, I think a lot of us would have been surprised that we could make it all the way,” said Pedron, one of the team’s captains. “In the beginning, everyone was still developing as a team and we were still coming together.”The development took shape a breakneck speed, as the Guards won their fourth straight Santa Fe League title and sliced through the playoffs.

To the surprise of many — except maybe Segura — Bell-Jeff has achieved the remarkable, and will be playing for its first CIF volleyball crown.

The Guards will take on No. 1 seed Upland Christian Academy at 1 p.m. today at Cypress College in a Division IV contest.

A title for Bell-Jeff would be the first for the school in a sport other than girls’ basketball.

In a sport that relies greatly on height, Bell-Jeff has been able to be successful despite not having a player taller than 5 feet 9.

“When we go into games, we already know that the other team is going to be bigger than us,” Segura said. “So, we don’t even worry about that. We know that [Upland Christian] is going to be bigger than us.

“But we’re hitting our peak, we’re going to go over there and we’re going to play.”

The Guards (23-8) have sailed through the playoffs. Along with earning sweeps against Duarte and Santa Clara, they only had to go to four games to beat Twentynine Palms in the quarterfinals and earned a sweep against Desert Hot Springs in the semifinals.

Likewise, Upland Christian (24-3-1) — the Arrowhead League champion — only dropped a single game in its road to the final.

Because Bell-Jeff is not one of the top four seeds in the division, Segura said he knows his squad will be the underdog for the match.

But, that’s OK.

Segura said because the Eagles are the top seed, the pressure is squarely on the opposition.

“I don’t want us to feel a lot of pressure,” he said. “They have already accomplished a lot. We just want to go out there and play our best, and hopefully that will lead to championship.”

The Guards have their share of standout players this season, led by a sophomore outside hitter Jocelyn Cervantes. Cervantes, a team captain, possesses a booming swing and a maturity that surfaced last year during her freshman season.

Cervantes said the team is ready for today’s match.

“We’re all just really excited,” she said. “We know no other team has made it this far, so we’re just going to play really hard.”

Cervantes is not the only talent on the Guards’ squad. The team also has standouts in Pedron, senior libero Kim Van Dyke, freshman outside hitter Taryn Nelson, senior middle hitter Julie D’agostaro and junior opposite hitter Stephanie Linares.

The title run is particularly special for Van Dyke. A four-year varsity starter, Kim’s two sisters — Julie and Gina — played in the Bell-Jeff program.

Kim Van Dyke also has known Segura for years. As early as second grade, she would play in the gym while Segura coached her sisters.

“My sisters weren’t able to get this far and they had great teams,” said Van Dyke, the team’s third captain. “Just to grasp the idea that I’ve been able to get this far is unbelievable.

“To get to do this in my final year is just amazing.”

Another family element for the Guards lies with their coaching staff. Segura has sisters Debbie and Rene as his assistant coaches. All three get support from mother, Kathleen, who helped run the successful volleyball program at St. Robert Bellarmine elementary school.

“It’s really nice to have them along with me,” Miguel said about Debbie and Rene, who played at Bell-Jeff under coach Hal Krug. “They know what to expect from me.”

In the Guards do notch their first CIF crown, Miguel Segura will have bragging rights, along with a hearty “I told you so” mixed in.

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