As Jessica Eldridge skies for a resounding block, gravity suspends her pink-tinted hair for just a second, revealing a “7” tattooed on her nape.
It’s a smaller, permanent duplicate of the selection on her uniform. The Granada Hills Large center blocker began enjoying volleyball in the 3rd grade, she stated, mainly because of her mom’s encouragement. And her mom’s fortunate variety was 17, so Eldridge selected to put on No. 7 — in her younger mind the “little kid” of 17.
“It reminds me of my mother, and it’s a very lucky selection in a bunch of cultures,” Eldridge claimed of receiving the tattoo. “I wanted to honor that and respect that, and place some luck into my lifetime.”
About a decade afterwards, Eldridge has by no means worn a different selection. But this could be the very best variation of No. 7 Granada Hills has found — and it is a important reason why Granada Hills is The Times’ crew to view in the Town Part.
“Our middle this calendar year really should be potent,” longtime Highlanders mentor Tom Harp explained.
In summer season league games in opposition to Van Nuys Grant and West Hills Chaminade on July 18, Eldridge was all in excess of the court — achieving around the net to reject delicate attacks, climbing an invisible ladder to spike sets from the center.
With a lanky 6-foot frame, Eldridge was by now the team’s leading blocker previous year and has been doing the job on timing her assaults with setter Mason Kelly. If that connection blossoms and Eldridge can use her arrive at to regularly conquer opposing teams’ block, that’ll even further Granada Hills’ scoring alternatives.
“I truly feel truly lucky and blessed to be ready to have that chance to have these a big impression on the court,” Eldridge explained of manning the middle. “It’s a significant responsibility, unquestionably, but I’m all set to fill individuals footwear and content to.”
That would make her a player to check out in the Town Part, an region where powerful middles are much less and farther amongst, in accordance to Lake Balboa Birmingham mentor LeAnne Bennett-Riley. Of 28 Open up Division All-Town alternatives very last period, just a few were being center blockers.
“If you can quit the other team’s middles, you’re good,” Bennett-Riley explained. “If the other workforce does not have dominant middles, you have a probability.”
Granada Hills is stacked beyond the center, though. All-Town exterior hitter Hannah Bernstein and her arsenal of photographs is back. So, much too, is crafty senior setter Kelly and junior top server Valeria Bellodas-Lazo.
All six Metropolis Section coaches The Situations spoke with rated Granada Hills at or in close proximity to the prime of predictions for greatest groups this fall. On paper, the placement is very simple. Granada Hills returns a few to start with-team All-City picks from last calendar year — no other system returns additional than a single.
“Middle is sturdy. Outside is robust. Setter is solid,” Bennett-Riley said, chuckling. “They’re type of solid at each and every placement.”
“It’s constantly the best variation of Granada we’re going to participate in,” stated Woodland Hills Taft mentor Arman Mercado.
This year’s variation is especially inspired. They’ve created it to the Metropolis Segment Open Division championships two years in a row but fell in 2020 to Palisades and in 2021 to Venice.
Bernstein, a member of each groups, place a hand in excess of her heart when remembering the loss to the Gondoliers final 12 months.
“That a single hurt,” she mentioned with a pained smile.
As she talked about her team’s fortunes, lHarp — dressed to the nines in Granada Hills eco-friendly — ambled earlier.
“I hope you inform [The Times] we’re not incredibly fantastic but,” Harp instructed Bernstein. “I never want to be on other people’s bulletin board.”
He may well be seeking to stay away from a concentrate on, but even the stoic Harp expressed his optimism.
“My anticipations are very significant suitable now,” he stated.
Rounding out the rest of the best five ahead of the first contest on the Town calendar Aug. 12:
The senior duo of Prior Borick and Julia Bazylevych is ready to wreak havoc. The two gained the inaugural Metropolis Segment seaside volleyball pairs championship in the spring, and it’s helped their passing and shot range in the gym.
“Those two Taft women are going to result in a great deal of problems for the Metropolis Portion,” San Pedro coach Sean Zuvich reported.
The initial words and phrases out of mentor Carlos Gray’s mouth when asked about his crew appear tumble: “The rebuild is authentic.”
9 seniors graduated in 2022. But star outside the house hitter Ava Pearce will return following tearing her ACL in the initial match past period, and previous season’s kills leader Carly Bloom is back again. In addition, very well … it is Palisades.
“They’re usually someplace appropriate around the championship,” Harp mentioned.
4. Woodland Hills El Camino Genuine
The Royals ended up in a sound position final season — stocked with senior talent even though fielding a powerful junior class.
Some talent is gone, but returning opposite Grace Hazelton and setter Charlotte Wilson give mentor Alyssa Lee senior leadership and had been tabbed by Mercado as two of the ideal in the area to check out.
Can Venice run it back from last season’s championship-successful breakout? Likely not.
“For a method like Venice, for us to eventually win the prime division championship, it took a ton of dominoes to fall into the suitable places,” mentor Allen Hunt stated.
Powerful senior leadership place all those dominoes in location, and the Gondoliers are still left to rebuild following a majority of the team graduated. All is not misplaced, however — Biko Hollie was one of the top rated outside hitters in the Town as a junior, and Venice however has some younger talent like junior Tinoa Woodward-Hart.
Also in the combine
—Chatsworth: Junior Lauren Pun could be just one of the greatest setters in the city, for each mentor Sina Aghassy.
—Carson: Striving to return to perennial-contender type of past decade.
—Verdugo Hills: Cousins Yahaira and Ana Vazquez variety a dynamic setter-center tandem.
—San Pedro: Mentor Sean Zuvich believes senior Kennedy Kordic — sister of previous San Pedro baseball star Dylan Kordic — is the greatest libero in the Town.
—L.A. Girls Educational Management Academy (GALA): Mercado thinks the second-yr method, participating in in Division IV final 12 months, could generate an Open Division collection occur fall.
—Sherman Oaks CES: Senior transfer Stormy Grant-Gorence, coming from Southern Portion powerhouse Chatsworth Sierra Canyon, elevates the Knights’ ceiling.