WALNUT CREEK -- With a new coach, the Northgate High girls volleyball team will look to carry on the tradition of success that it has had in the recent past.

The Broncos have won 102 matches in the last four seasons, including 30 last year in which they advanced to the North Coast Section Division II semifinals. Now, Northgate is being guided by one of its own.

Stephanie Pecho, a 2002 Northgate graduate, takes over for Dave Weiland, who was at the helm for three years. In fact, every member of Pecho's staff, from the freshman team to the varsity team, is a former Bronco.

"We all care greatly about the program," Pecho said. "Our interest is doing whatever we can do to keep the program healthy."

Keeping the program healthy shouldn't be too much of a problem, and as Pecho put it "I've inherited great players." But the Broncos are looking to replace perhaps the greatest player in the history of the program.

Michelle Lawrence, who is now playing at Colorado State, was the Diablo Valley Athletic League's Most Valuable Player in 2012 when she had 457 kills. That production won't be easy to replace.

However, Northgate will look to do it with returning senior outside hitter Emma Herman and returning junior middle blocker Jade Lee.

The Broncos also have a number of other key returners, with five seniors on the roster.

"We aren't going to have one go to player, so it's a good opportunity for girls to step up," Pecho said. "We need to play really good team volleyball and not try to rely on one player to stand out."

Team volleyball is what will be needed as the Broncos seek to repeat as DVAL champions. Winning the league title again is Northgate's goal.

The Broncos didn't shy away from scheduling tough nonleague matches to prepare for the DVAL campaign. They played Amador Valley, Heritage and Carondelet, and participated in the Deer Valley Tournament.

Northgate entered the week with a 2-6 record, but Pecho remains confident that her team is ready to repeat as league champions. The Broncos opened league play at College Park on Sept. 17, after this newspaper went to press.

"We are absolutely capable of taking league this year," Pecho said. "We are also capable of doing well in the playoffs. It's so early in the season, so we'll get there and we'll start clicking."

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