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September 18, 1987|STEVE ELLING | Times Staff Writer

After a six-year absence, Steve Berk has returned to coach the girls volleyball team at Chatsworth High. It didn't take long for him to notice the changes.

Chatsworth and Kennedy, which for the past decade have battled it out in the North Valley League of the City Section, no longer will be able to continue their rivalry.

And while it might not have been the Dodgers and Giants, in terms of Valley volleyball, Kennedy and Chatsworth were the big-league teams among the City's serve-and-spike set.

The schools are separated by only a few miles and matches between the two usually drew large crowds. But, this season, Kennedy and Chatsworth have been placed in different leagues, the result of off-season realignment.

City administrators restructured the leagues because they wanted to place University and Palisades, the perennial powers from the City West League, in different leagues. Except for 1982, Palisades has won the 4-A title each year since 1976. University was a semifinalist from 1982-86.

Kennedy has been placed in the G League, with Palisades, Birmingham, Monroe and Roosevelt. Chatsworth is in the F League, with University, Canoga Park, Taft and El Camino Real.

The leagues will be assigned names today. Play in all divisions begins Monday.

"There are good points and bad points," Berk said. "First, it makes us work that much harder to win a league title because we'll be facing either University or Palisades in league play. Before, all we ever wanted to do was beat each other. That was our main goal, just to win the league.

"The bad news is, we lose the rivalry the schools have always had."

Maybe Berk has good reason to see the silver lining--Chatsworth won't have to face Palisades in league competition. Kennedy will.

Kennedy Coach Mike Stanton acknowledged the end of the rivalry. "It means that the games we played with Chatsworth, which drew around 200 people, are history. Now we'll be driving down to Palisades to play. Who's going to follow us all the way out there?

"Uni and Pali played each other in the finals every year anyway, so why bother putting them in different leagues," Stanton said. "They had a natural rivalry, and so did Kennedy and Chatsworth."

Stanton also had another reason to question the move--Kennedy won the North Valley title from 1976-85. Last year, however, Chatsworth won the league.

"Just when there was starting to be some competition in our league, they change everything," Stanton said. "Logistically, with the drive and everything, it's hard to understand."

Kennedy might have the talent to make a run at Palisades. Blockers Jennifer Bennett and Diane Jacobo form the middle of the Golden Cougar attack. Veronica Sanchez (setter) and Christine Na (back row) are the team's best at their respective positions.

Chatsworth has an easier league schedule and, should the Chancellors make the playoffs, Elizabeth Darcy, a 6-3 hitter and a Division I prospect, will play a large part. Other contributors should include outside hitter Stephanie Ellis and middle blocker Jennifer Mischler.

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