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2014 GIRLS VOLLEYBALL PREVIEW Artesia hopes to climb out of basement with new head coach

ARTESIA PIONEERS
1-16 overall last season, 0-12 in the Suburban League, seventh place
15-78 overall last five seasons
Head coach: Mailelei Penn (first season)
Last time made the playoffs: 2010
Key loss: Daisy Briseno
With the exception of a postseason appearance in 2010, victories have been hard to come by at Artesia. Gone is Micah Burpo, who had coached the Pioneers the past six seasons. Enter Mailelei Penn, who was the program’s freshman/sophomore coach two years ago before going on maternity leave last year. This is Penn’s first head coaching job anywhere but she has vast knowledge of the school as well as the Suburban League. Penn played at Mayfair High School in the late 1990s under Roger Goodwin.
“I am very excited,” Penn said. “I am excited about this team. Actually, the varsity players right now were my players when they were on the frosh/soph team. So I’m very familiar with them.”
The Pioneers return five players with outside hitter Martina Kim as the lone senior with varsity experience. Penn has already tabbed her as the team’s captain and she is expected to be the go-to player. The other returning players, all juniors, are middle blocker Brianna Garcia, libero, Janette Lee, outside hitter Julianne Ramos and setter Jessica Suarez
“I’m actually not concerned with that,” Penn said of the number of returning players. “We have players who are stepping up from j.v. last year who have played club and who have played all year long and have pushed themselves over the summer.”
One of those newcomers is freshman middle blocker Kumari Small, whom Penn says is a wild card but has the athleticism and height. Penn added that she wants to push her on varsity. The other newcomers will be senior middle blocker Carla Torres, senior libero Angelica Rivera, junior right side hitter and backup setter Tamia Rhodes, sophomore middle blocker Michaela Rotondo and sophomore outside hitters Chelsea Santos and Denise Tuquero.
One advantage that the Pioneers will have is the fact that Penn teaches at Artesia. In the past, the Pioneers have had walk-on coaches.
“I think it’s going to make a difference seeing them all day,” Penn said. “I’m a teacher on campus. I can work with them year-round. I have them scheduled in a class with me; seventh period. So I think that’s going to make a huge difference. I’m just going to build stronger players throughout the year.”
When you’ve won just two matches overall in the past three seasons and have gone 1-35 in the league during that time, winning a league championship may not be on the immediate radar. But for this season, all Penn wants is the team to win some sets. Of the 55 sets played last season, the Pioneers were on the winning side just seven times. If anything, Artesia may be the fittest team in the league by the time early November comes.
“My big thing is conditioning,” Penn said. “I have close friend, Chuck Kuuapali, who coached for 25 years in Orange County in both club and in high school and I was mentored by him. He is a big advocate for conditioning and athleticism. I really want to see these girls not be tired at the end of first or second match. I’m also a big advocate for commitment. I want to see them every day at practice and starting on time.”