There are several physical changes that took place going into the 2019 South Coast Conference women's volleyball season, but even more of a change is what is developing in the early pre-conference play as a few teams broke out of the gate strong while two perennial powers stumbled slightly. What it all means is the SCC is still a mystery as far as who will come out on top this year.
Let's start with the fact that the SCC is back to being one 8-team conference after playing in 5-team divisions the past few seasons as Chaffey was reassigned to the newly-formed Inland Empire Athletic Conference while LA Trade Tech's program has been ended along with its aquatics program. In a new adopted format, for the first time in SCC volleyball history, the title will be decided in a post-round robin, conference championship tournament.
The eight teams will play 14 round-robin matches to create a seeding for the tournament that features each team playing three contests as the squad that can finish 3-0 will capture the '19 South Coast crown. One more change is the way the state will decide on postseason playoff seedings as RPI has been adopted to ultimately place all at-large teams in the Regionals based on power points. The only automatic playoff seeding goes to the conference champion, making the tournament a big deal and a big prize for the team that wins out.
Pasadena City College, the North Division champions in both 2017 and 2018, is off to the program's best start in six years. The Lancers are 6-1 thus far and were ranked No. 9 in the first CCCWVCA State Top 25 Rankings released Monday night. PCC has victories over #10-ranked Cypress and #15 San Diego Mesa and almost upset #4 Bakersfield before falling in five sets on Sept. 7. The Lancers are paced by the play of returning All-SCC outside hitter Janell Currier and Grace Crawford at libero.
Another team off to a tremendous start is Rio Hondo College. The Roadrunners are 5-1 overall and defeated three straight opponents from the usually strong Orange Empire Conference. Setter Aliah Trujillo was named CCCWVCA State Southern California Player of the Week on Monday. While Rio Hondo just missed being state ranked, it is on top of the Best of the Rest as a program on the rise.
El Camino, winners of a remarkable 17 conference titles in the last 18 years, is ranked #18 in the state but only 3-3 overall. The Warriors have losses against Cypress, #11 MiraCosta, and #17 Moorpark, but does have a win over SD Mesa. ECC recently needed five sets to beat Fullerton, a team that Rio Hondo was able to down in four. One player who has been outstanding and could be a conference MVP candidate is sophomore OH Mikayla Clark, who averaged 23 kills and 16 digs in three matches last week.
At #21-ranked, Long Beach City College, a co-champion the past two years with El Camino in the South Division, also has struggled at times with a 3-3 record. The Vikings were upset by now #20 Chaffey in the season opener in five sets and has a loss to SD Mesa. Led by sophomore OH Anisa Lopez (19 kills), LBCC showed potential by stretching Bakersfield to five sets before losing at the Santa Barbara Quad on Saturday.
In the SoCal ratings, PCC is at #4, El Camino #10, Long Beach #12 and Rio Hondo is at #15. Another team that is getting more competitive by the season is LA Harbor, a team that is 2-2 including a hard-fought 5-set loss to Chaffey and a 4-set win over San Diego City. The Seahawks feature a big hitter in Rohyn Huss, who had 72 kills already in four matches. East Los Angeles is 4-3 and has shown to be a tough opponent the past few seasons. Finally, Cerritos (2-2) and Mt. San Antonio (1-3) will likely improve as they play more non-conference matches.
The conference season begins on Wednesday, Sept. 25. The SCC Championship Tournament runs Nov. 13 to Nov. 19 with the title match hosted at Long Beach City College.