Members of the Bellarmine-Jefferson High girls' volleyball team realize that the rest of the Santa Cruz League is looking to knock the Guards off their lofty pedestal.
Bell-Jeff entered Thursday's league opener on the road at St. Matthias with six straight championships to its credit. In addition, the Guards had not lost a league match in 44 tries, a streak that dates back to 2006.
The Guards began their latest title quest in fine fashion, defeating the Victorians in three straight games, 25-21, 25-11, 25-20.
"We all realize that one of our main goals this season is to keep the league championship streak alive," said Bell-Jeff Coach Miguel Segura, who has piloted the team during those six titles. "It's something that we want to keep at Bell-Jeff."
The last time Bell-Jeff (5-6) suffered a loss during league competition was on Oct. 17, 2006, when it was defeated by St. Matthias in four games.
"Oh yes, I remember that game very well," said Segura, whose team is ranked No. 2 in CIF Southern Section Division IV-A. "And I remind the team every year about that and about the last time that we lost in league."
During the 2006 season, the Guards split the two-game series with the Victorians, as the two teams also shared the league championship. However, the Guards have not done any sharing for the past five seasons, winning the league crown with undefeated records all five years.
The Guards have been playing without senior middle/outside hitter Mariah Bankhead, who injured a knee against Providence in a nonleague contest Sept 18.
In her absence, senior outside hitter Taryn Nelson has stepped up. Against St. Matthias (0-5), Nelson had 16 kills to go along with nine digs and four aces.
"With Mariah out, Taryn knows that she has to step up and help us in any way that she can," Segura said. "And she's done a great job at that. Without Mariah, we had to switch a few things around, and it's taken a little time for them to get comfortable with what we're doing."
The only difficulty Bell-Jeff experienced Thursday came early in the first game. The Victorians were able to take an early lead and the Guards struggled to make up the deficit. However, Bell-Jeff did fight back and took the lead at 18-17.
"I was not very happy with that first game," Segura said. "We should have played a lot better than we did.
"But I was happy that we came out in that second game strong and that helped a lot."
Amanda Malloof had 29 assists and five digs for the Guards.
Bell-Jeff returns to action with a Santa Cruz League match at 5 p.m. Tuesday at St. Genevieve.