St. Anthony head coach Alicia Lemau’u is going into her eighth year coaching the Saints, and she’s excited about this season. Her team returns most of its core from last year’s CIF-SS Division 5 semifinal run as well as a second-round state tournament appearance, and they’re hungry for more success.
“My focus is just on our mentality and our consistency,” said Lemau’u. “We have more depth than we’ve had in the past, some really good all-around volleyball players, club players. So now it’s about who’s separating with their mentality. We can do some things that we couldn’t do in the past.”
The linchpin for the team is senior captain Isabella Bareford, a four-year starter for Lemau’u who led the team to a CIF-SS title as a freshman. Bareford is committed to LMU, but wants to leave an even greater legacy with the Saints before she goes.
“I love playing with these girls, it’s so much fun,” said Bareford. “We’re really versatile–a lot of players can plug into different spots, they’re not just one position, I think that flexibility will really help us.”
The Saints are an unusually athletic team for the lower divisions, and there are some excellent pieces around Bareford, including outside hitter Tiare Jennings, who is also a senior and a four year contributor. Jennings is a softball star who’s committed to Oklahoma, and she brings a high level of competitiveness to the volleyball team.
On the right side of the net, the Saints have junior six-footer Jaena Bell, with senior Gabby McPherson locking down the middle. That gives Bareford three legitimate, athletic six-footers at the net to choose from, as well as a formidable block. The team’s success last year earned them a bump up in division to Division 4, but Lemau’u still expects them to be one of the more physical teams in their playoff bracket.
“We’re starting to see the physicality where we’re a little taller, a little stronger,” said Lemau’u. “They’ve been working, and it’s paying off.”
Lemau’u also has options in the back row, where junior Mariella Vergara and sophomore Antonia Bareford (Isabella’s little sister) are both more than capable.
With the knowledge that this year’s team was ready for an extra work load, Lemau’u assembled a challenging schedule that includes a trip to Arizona for the Nike Tournament of Champions. Her hope is that her team will be ready to go for a run in the Del Rey League, and then another deep trip into the postseason.