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VOLLEYBALL PREVIEW : Roosevelt Still Tough Despite Key Losses

August 29, 1993|CHARLES SMITH | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Last season, Ken Maki and his Roosevelt High girls' team were the center of all area volleyball talk.

A year later, not much has changed.

"Maki is the big daddy of the area . . . always has been, always will be," Bell Coach Mike Mayfield said. "Roosevelt is still the team to beat."

Although Roosevelt has been an area juggernaut during Maki's 12-year coaching tenure, graduation has put a few sizable dents in its armor this season.

The Roughriders, who finished 7-1 in the Eastern League and 17-2 overall, graduated four of their top six players from last year's team.

Jackie Villegas, Erica Vargas, Gabby Gallegos and Lisa Jacobs, the Eastern League Most Valuable Player, have all left a squad that was four points away from playing for the City Section 4-A Division championship. (Roosevelt lost to University 15-5, 15-8, 7-15, 9-15, 15-11 in the semifinals.)

Where setter Gallegos embodied the team's spirit as a vocal leader, Jacobs' hitting power and all-around ability served to establish Roosevelt's commanding presence and dominance.

"It's a big blow to lose a player of Jacobs' caliber," Maki said. "You can't replace talent like that."

Jacobs' athleticism transcended the volleyball court as the 5-8, 140-pounder set school records in both the long jump (16 feet, 7 inches) and triple jump (33 feet, 8 inches).

But fortunately for Roosevelt, one Jacobs remains: Lisa's sister, Leona.

Other coaches are aware of Roosevelt's new trump card.

"Leona was not (as talented as) her sister last year, but this season she could be a dominant player," Garfield Coach Robert Dorn said.

Jacobs, along with Liz Ballesteros, will be the only returning players from last season.

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With Roosevelt's diminished attack, this season may be the best chance in recent years for other Eastern League teams to establish themselves as the new force in the area.

Bell appears to be the front-runner in the race to claim Roosevelt's title.

"We had a good team last season and we have a lot of key players returning," Mayfield said.

Outside hitters Rupi Purcell and Patricia Gonzales, both seniors, will be the featured players to watch. Rosa Delgado, who was the junior varsity Eastern League Most Valuable Player last season, moves up to the varsity squad to help solidify an already formidable lineup.

Bell, which finished last season with a record of 14-6 overall and 5-5 in league, lost in the first round of the playoffs to Palisades.

In July, the Eagles won the East Los Angeles High School Volleyball Tournament at East L.A. College. Bell's championship included victories over Sacred Heart, Pioneer and Bell Gardens.

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Another league power is Huntington Park, one of four Eastern League teams to make the playoffs last season.

But like South Gate and Bell, the Spartans were eliminated in the first round. Huntington Park was 8-6 overall and finished second in league at 4-2.

Setter Vicki Salgado, a first team All-Eastern League choice, will return to coach Don Patino's lineup. Joining Salgado will be seniors Veronica Baez (middle blocker) and Eugenia Loera (back row specialist).

"We finished in second place during a year that Roosevelt ran away with the title," Patino said. "This season, we have a pretty good shot (at winning it)."

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Garfield is looking to improve on a disappointing season in which the Tigers went 5-8 overall and finished last in the league at 0-8. Garfield's five wins all came against 3-A opponents.

"Last year was supposed to be our year with all of the seniors we had," Coach Robert Dorn said. "This should be a promising year because we do have players coming back and an influx of fresh talent."

Maria Amavizca and Sandra Vasquez will be among Dorn's top returnees. Gloria Nunez is expected to be an important newcomer.

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