LANCASTER - Certainly the loss of standout player Tiffany Matchett will hurt, but the Marauder women's volleyball team is eager for the 2017 season.
The team's second leader attacker from last season, Kaeley Avendano, will lead the young Marauders, which sport seven freshmen, in the hopes of wreaking havoc in conference play this season.
"I think we're going to have a good season if we put everything together. Everybody has been working together very well," Avendano said. "A lot of younger girls are proving themselves on the team. I'm pretty excited for the season. I think we're ready to give it all we have. All I can do is try my best to help the team."
It was a very tumultuous season for AVC in 2016 as the Marauders, which finished with a 6-12 record, were thrown into the fire with their non-conference schedule. In addition, AVC has the daunting task of facing two of the top teams in the state, College of the Canyons and Bakersfield College. And that's in its own conference.
COC, Bakersfield and the conference's other top team, LA Mission College, have a combined 9-1 record so far in 2017. The lone loss, Bakersfield College, came against rival COC in the tough Pierce College Tournament.
Still there is optimism for the season.
"I'm very excited about the season, but we know we're in a tough conference. We're very young, but the kids have been working very hard," AVC head coach Mark Cruz said. "We'll see how we do."
Avendano is one of five sophomores that return in 2017. She was second on the team with 66 kills and third on the team with 50 digs. Nicole Pullum also provides experience for the Marauders. Pullum finished with five kills last season.
Cruz is excited about freshman setter Taylor Williams from Tehachapi High School. Last season, Williams did a liitle bit of everything for the Warriors, finishing with 126 kills, 53 blocks, 31 aces and 304 assists, which was second on the team.
"She's (Williams) going to be great to have on our team," Cruz said.
Additional newcomers, Breanna and Brittnee Wright will help the middle for the Marauders. In 2012 at Palmdale High School, Brittnee led the Falcons with 143 kills, while Breanna was second with 96.
Melissa Lee could play a major role for AVC. The 6'1" redshirt freshman played alongside Devyn Cross and Elizabeth Shelton, both of which star at the University of Arizona, at Desert High School and its CIF championship team in 2015. Lee was third on that team with 67 kills and 38 blocks.
Alexa Fausto, a freshman that led Frazier Mountain High School to a CIF championship appearance as well as to the state tournament, led the Falcons to a 32-5 record and a team-high 426 kills. Fausto finished her illustrious career at Frazier Mountain with 1,131 kills.
AVC opens its season today at Marauder Gymnasium on Newton Chelette Court against Cerro Coso College at 6pm. The Coyotes finished with a 1-21 record last season.