The varsity boys volleyball team has started off this year strong with an overall record of 25-4 and a league record of 6-1. The boys are half way through league competition and currently hold the second place spot in the Capital Valley Conference standings. They are second only to last year’s CVC champions, the Whitney Wildcats, whom they lost to earlier in the season.
Coach Cindy Simon attributes the team’s early success to the performance of its hitters and the consistency of players on both offense and defense.
“Having big outside hitters and being able to put down the ball is a big strength of ours,” Simon said. “We do a good job controlling the ball, and the consistency on defense helps our offense and our overall game.”
Simon has coached varsity before and this year has returned as head coach to take the place of last year’s Jason Cole. However, this change in coaching position has not affected the team’s chemistry and returning varsity setter Zack Mancha feels that this, combined with the fact that a majority of the team’s players played on varsity last year, has really benefitted the boys.
“Last year, we were playing people a year older than us and now we are playing people our age which gives us an advantage over them because we have an extra year of experience,” Mancha said. “Everybody that played varsity last year is playing varsity again this year, which makes our team chemistry really good and will make us even better and stronger next year.”
Mancha’s teammate, junior outside hitter Jeffrey Oh, agrees.
“The fact that we have all been playing with each other for a while is really important and I think it has shown this year,” Oh said. “We all know how to play with each other and play with each other really well.”
However, the Tigers’ season has not been without any struggles. Their losses to the Wildcats along with some other teams outside of the CVC were tough to face. In the recent Bellarmine Invitational tournament, the Tigers took two losses and finished 4-2 after competing against some of the top teams in California, but Simon feels that these games were good learning opportunities for the boys and sees benefits from the losses.
“We played against much better competition than we are used to, and even though we lost twice I think we played very well,” Simon said. “I think that the overall level of play was really good and I think the boys now have more confidence that they can play at that level. Losing really sucks, but it also could be good because now we know what it feels like to lose.”
As of last Saturday, the Tigers were ranked 40th in the nation and 33rd in California. Simon feels that the pressure and hype from their spot in the rankings may have played a role in the boys’ loss to the Wildcats, as the Tigers were ranked within the top 15 teams in the nation at the time of the game.
She also said that the Bellarmine tournament helped the boys regain some of their confidence back after falling to Whitney due to the fact that they were able to defeat some very competitive teams.
“I think we felt a lot a lot of pressure going into the Whitney game,” Simon said. “I think the boys felt a little too much pressure but I feel like the Bellarmine tournament showed us that we can play at a high level.”
Mancha admits that he was slightly skeptical of the team’s ability to perform this year due to the loss of some of last year’s key seniors, specifically last year’s Capital Valley Conference Most Valuable Player Trevor Pratt.However, he was pleasantly surprised by the ability of junior middle Sam Toomey to step up and fill the role this year.
“Sam has done a really good job in Trevor’s spot and obviously you can’t replace him and his numbers, but Sam has done a really good job,” Mancha said. “I thought that we might have had a slow start without him but we haven’t and I am a little surprised.”
Oh feels the same way about all of the team’s returning players.
“Everybody from last year has really stepped up this year, since we lost Trevor,” Oh said. “He was a really big piece of our team last year and we have done a good job playing without him.”
Simon has high expectations for the remainder of the team’s season and believes in their capabilities to advance very far.
“My goal is for us to win co- league champs with Whitney and then go until at least the third round of playoffs,” Simon said.
Oh is confident regarding the team’s performance and believes that the boys can earn a title.
“A section title has been my goal since the beginning of the year,” Oh said. “Now that we’ve done so well I definitely think it’s reachable.”