With the full season ahead of them, local volleyball teams are finding out how their new team lineups will prepare them for success in 2019.
The Mountain House and Kimball teams faced off Monday in their Sac-Joaquin Section Foundation match. The annual exhibition matches don’t count on teams’ records, but players and coaches count on them as a way to see how they stack up against local rivals.
Kimball won the match in three straight sets, 25-10, 25-21, 25-20.
Kimball senior Raia Maamo sees a versatile, senior-heavy Jaguar team that is quickly incorporating new players.
“Overall as a team we’re developing a lot better, because we do have a lot of players that we haven’t played with before, so we’re learning how to mesh together,” she said, adding that communication on the court was getting better.
The team also appreciates coach Mike Nunes’ faith in his players’ versatility, which will give the Jaguars an advantage in the quest for a Valley Oak League title and a place in the playoffs.
“He ran a couple different rotations, which definitely forced us to work together, especially in uncomfortable situations,” Maamo said. “We’re going to be a really good team.”
Mountain House junior Helen Earle said this year’s Mustangs will be effective at reading their opponents. She said that was how, in spite of the loss, they were able to improve against Kimball in each set on Monday.
“I think we really just learned their strengths and weaknesses and used that against them. We capitalized on putting (the ball) where they couldn’t be, just finding the spots on the court that were open,” she said. “We usually do mediocre against Kimball, but I really feel we did a lot better than we usually do.”
Earle looks forward to success in the Western Athletic Conference, with an eye on the league title.
“We have a good set of girls this season, so I really think we can do it,” she said.
The Jaguars started off Monday’s match with a clear advantage in the first set. They built on their early lead with junior Nicole Mayer at the service line, and senior Raven Cooper’s blocks and hits at the net extended the Jaguars’ lead. Maamo was also an effective hitter as the Jaguars stayed dominant at the end.
The second set was closer, though the Jaguars kept the lead nearly the entire way. The Mustangs started to catch up at the end with service points from freshman Soriah Fobert and support at the net from sophomore Sharan Bhullar.
The third set went back and forth at first. Kimball senior Rachel Van Katwyk aimed her strikes into the Mustangs’ defensive gaps, while Earle — her team’s attacking leader with 10 kills — made key shots for the Mustangs to keep it close at the end. Bhullar contributed six kills and senior Michelle Poland scored five kills.
“The third game was a lot more consistent, and it showed,” said Mountain House coach Rosa Rodriguez. “That’s the kind of consistency I want to see moving forward.
“Kimball had a strong front row and a strong defense, as always. We just connected way too late.”
Nunes said his team got started over the weekend with a 4-2 showing and a second-place finish in the silver bracket at the Orestimba Tournament.
“I have three or four players that can play multiple positions. We’ll be looking at how to match up more against opposing teams, as opposed to running a standard rotation and doing the best we can with that,” he said.
In addition to a core of returning players, including six seniors, he has high expectations for sophomore Charlize Castro and freshman Gracie Costa. He values the experience of junior sisters Samantha Mayer, a setter, and Nicole Mayer, who plays defense.
“I think Nicole probably had the best night out of anybody tonight,” Nunes said. “She dug a lot of ball out there on the back row and was all over the place back there.”
West 3, Granada 1
The West High volleyball team opened its season with a 3-1 win at Granada High in Livermore on Friday.
The Wolf Pack won all but the second set, 25-20, 21-25, 25-22, 25-21.
Lauren Toon was the team leader with 22 kills and 13 digs. Taylor Valdez provided 28 assists and had eight digs, Veronica Siu had 24 digs and nine assists, and Manesesa Lumas scored six kills and had 15 digs.
Mountain House 3, Weston Ranch 1
The Mustangs won their first match of the season against Weston Ranch High, 25-15, 25-21, 20-25, 25-16.
Earle was the Mustangs’ attacking leader with 10 kills, and Poland and Bhullar scored eight kills each. Juniors Adaora Kanu and Jazmine Linsangan led the team in service points in the fourth and final set.