MORAGA -- The Campolindo High girls volleyball team has a more modest record this season than it did last year at this time, but the ultimate goal of reaching the California Interscholastic Federation Division III state championship remains unchanged.
After 24 matches a season ago, the Cougars were 21-3 and a surefire contender for the Division III state title. They went on to reach the state finals for the third time in seven seasons.
Ring in 2013, and it is a different Campolindo team from the one before it, as the Cougars entered this week with a 17-7 record in its first 24 matches.
Still, the Cougars are hopeful they can make another run to the state title match.
"We are definitely capable of it," co-coach Dave Chen said. "There's so much more that's out of our control this year. A lot of it is maturity and experience we had from the girls last year."
The Cougars have high hopes this year because of several returning players, but they did lose three key seniors in Annie Shurtz, Sophie Seiberth and Cassidy Abel. The former was the Bay Area News Group's East Bay player of the year, while Seiberth was arguably the top setter in the area.
"Those girls saw a lot and brought a lot of experience last year," Chen said. "They also knew it was their last chance to do something special and it really drove them."
The driving forces behind this year's installment of the Campolindo squad are very talented, but young and getting better with experience.
They are led by a couple of big hitters in junior Kelley Wirth and sophomore Kirsten Sibley, while the setter, Kenzie Brown, is also only a junior.
Seven losses may seem like a lot at this point for a team with title aspirations, but of those seven losses, only one has come against an East Bay team.
Campolindo lost to Carondelet at the Deer Valley Tournament at the beginning of the season and since then has only lost to out of area powers such as Archbishop Mitty-San Jose, Branson-Ross and Redwood-Larkspur.
This weekend, the Cougars are playing in the Santa Barbara Tournament, where they could face fellow Division III hopeful Valley Christian-San Jose. The Cougars beat Valley Christian last year to advance to the state finals, and the winner of this potential match could have home court through the Northern California playoffs.