Palisades High School Fall 2016 Season Sports Preview

By Laura Carr
Special to the Palisades News

Girls Volleyball

Pali’s girls volleyball team finished the 2015 season with a 12-0 record in Western League play and trounced its first two opponents in straight sets in the City Section tournament.

However, the Dolphins fell to eventual City champion El Camino Real in the semifinals, 3-2. El Camino routed Carson, 3-0, in the finals.

The Dolphins finished the season with an overall record of 22-2.

This season, Pali will be working with a young varsity lineup. Only four players return from last year’s team, including middle blocker Angel Echipue, opposite hitter Emma Simms, libero Taylor Slutzker and outside hitter Maddie Fowler.

Coach Carlos Gray said that new contributors to watch include sophomore outside hitter Alex Latia and middle blocker/opposite hitter Chloe Pettigrew.

“We are very much a work in progress,” Gray said. “It won’t be how we’re playingin September that matters. Watch us in November!”

The Dolphins will open their season at Brentwood School on Sept. 13. Their home opener will be September 16 against El Camino Real. JV plays at 2:30 and var- sity at 4 p.m.

Cross Country

Palisades High School’s boys and girls cross-country teams hope to capitalize on the confidence they gained last season by capturing back-to-back L.A. City Section team titles.

According to San Pedro Coach Bruce Thomson’s pre-season rankings on the City Section track and cross country forum (nilstrom.com), both Pali teams are the top seed this coming season.

The Dolphin girls return five of last year’s top seven runners, including sopho- more Brittany Darrow, who placed seventh at the 2015 City championships, junior Kimia Samandi and seniors Shannon Lee, Tatum Colby and Chelsea Levi.

Darrow and Samandi are also regarded as contenders for the individual City title. Head coach Bob Macias said that an incoming freshman, Sarah Bentley, should add depth to the team. Bentley is a product of coach Paul Foxson’s distance program at Paul Revere, and Macias predicts that with

further training, she will turn heads. The Dolphin boys return their entire 2015 City championship team. Three of those runners, senior Jakob Pollack, sophomore Brent Smith and junior Ben Hamer, placed in the top eight at city finals. Seniors Jack Hockley, Hunter Parker and Jonathan Flores, plus junior Jake Greanias, are also returning. Parker, the team’s sixth runner at City finals, qualified for the State meet in the 800 meters this spring after finishing third in the city meet.

Hamer, Smith and Pollack earned a nodin the individual preseason rankings. Newcomer Alec Stewart, a freshman, should shake up the varsity lineup.

Macias said that both teams have good freshman classes, although the boys usually take longer to develop.

Boys Water Polo

Coach Adam Blakis and his team were the subject of a query in an L.A. Daily News water polo story on Aug. 30, when sports writer Tom Ciniglio asked: “Can Birming- ham reclaim the L.A. City glory?”

He then answered his own question. “That’s a tough road to hoe. Palisades has captured four consecutive L.A. City Section crowns, including a 19-3 victory over Birmingham in last year’s final.”

The water polo program at Palisades High School is only six years old, but Blakis has seen his team claim five league championships, as well as four City titles.

Although Zach Senator graduated and is now playing water polo and swimming at Pomona College and Kian Lofti has enrolled at Loyola Marymount, Blakis still has a strong starting line-up. With the exception of one sophomore, Theo Trask, every starter is a senior, including Isai Elias, Lucas Silva and Gabriel Feizbakhsh. Playing goalie is Brandon Epp, another senior.

“They’ve been playing together for four years,” Blakis said. “They are a cohesive group and know how each other plays.”

As in many sports, Palisades dominates the league, which includes Banning, LACES, San Pedro and Venice. So Blakis seeks out tournaments to challenge his players and keep them sharp for the playoffs. The first of three tournaments is the Conejo Classic at Thousand Oaks this weekend, followed by a tournament in Malibu September 15-17.

On Oct. 14-15, Pali travels to a South Bay tournament at Mira Costa.“We’re one of the first L.A. teams to compete on a competitive level outside of the City,” said Blakis, who is joined by assistant coach Kirk Lazaruk.

The Dolphins’ first home match at the Maggie Gilbert Aquatic Center is Sept. 26 against San Pedro.

Girls Golf Gears Up

When Palisades High School’s long-time boys basketball coach James Paleno got off the court and onto the golf course, the winners were Dolphin golfers.

Three years ago, Paleno started a girls golf team at Pali. Two years ago, the Dolphins finished third in the Western League. Last season, they finished second in league— and qualified for the City Section finals.

(Left to right) Carly Weitz, Melanie Matayoshi and Camila Paleno are three key returnees for the up-and-coming PaliHi “Golfin Dolphins!”

(Left to right) Carly Weitz, Melanie Matayoshi and Camila Paleno are three key returnees for the up-and-coming PaliHi “Golfin Dolphins!”

This year, 32 girls tried out for team and Paleno had to cut to 18 because of space and funding limitations.

He said that seniors Sophia Eberlein, Camila Paleno and Carly Weitz are returning, along with two sophomore returners—Abby Brown and Melanie Matayoshi. “I also have three promising freshmen— Spencer Kellen, Mariana Paleno and Lillia Wiesmuller,” Paleno said.

His predictions for this year? “Our expectations are to win our league; compete in City ad have some qualifiers for the SoCal Regionals,” he said. “We have some very dedicated young ladies who aspire to play golf in college. I am very proud to coach them.”

The Dolphins’ first match will be Sept. 9 against at Penmar in Venice.

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