PREP PREVIEW: From back to front

Gilroy's Leticia Esparza digs for the bump during practice

Balance and back line play crucial in Mustangs’ return to
playoffs
Focusing on the back will lead the Gilroy High girls varsity volleyball team to the front of the pack in 2010-11.

It’s more than just a catchy rhyme for second year coach Josh Corioso, it’s a formula. How his back line performs during the regular season may dictate the number of victories the Mustangs pile up this season.

“Definitely my back row is going to be strong,” Josh Corioso said. “We are not going to over power people. The big thing is going to be that back row, digging up balls and making those extra efforts to save a ball.

“We have to play defensively and get the kills when we get the opportunity.”

Losing seven players, five of which were starters, from a team that advanced to the second round of the Central Coast Section playoffs, may appear to be an obstacle from the outside in. However, for the Mustangs, the void left behind is one that they are eager to fill – and they have.

“I think we have the right girls to fill those spots,” returning senior Erin Chislom said.

Corioso said he is pleased with the progress his hitters have made throughout the summer and during the club season. Efforts made outside of Bob Hagen Memorial Gym have given the team a head start as practice got underway.

“We are a little bit smaller than last year as far as height, but we have good athletes,” Corioso said. “They have clicked better than last year and have good team unity. They are not bickering.”

Junior Gabby Flores, who started at libero last season, will still see significant time in back but makes the move to outside hitter this season.

“She’s knows my back row,” Corioso said of his veteran. “She will play everywhere.”

Leticia Esparza, libero, and Karina Daniels, defensive specialist, will also play important roles in the back for Corioso’s defense. Senior Demornay Granado adds veteran presence at middle blocker.

Randi Groppe, who saw limited playing time on the varsity squad last season, returns as one of five seniors.

“She really improved over the club season,” Corioso said. “Her vertical and her hitting ability have really increased.”

Groppe said the camaraderie on the team is tight already and it’s now about fine-tuning the small aspects of the game and gaining experience playing together as a unit.

“I’m really looking forward to improving and growing,” Groppe said. “We don’t necessarily have the experience at the varsity level, but we have lots of girls with talent.”

Making up for the lack of varsity experience is difficult at this point of the season. But the Mustangs will be thrown into the fire Wednesday, traveling to the coast to play Soquel in a preseason matchup.

“They are working hard,” Corioso said. “They all are doing what they need to be doing. I can really see people pushing themselves hard to be better at what they do. And that’s all I ask for, push yourself to the limit.”

Chislom, who also had the benefit of seeing action as a junior on varsity a year ago, is one of two senior setters on the roster.

“Our hitters have a lot of power,” Chislom said, whose job it will be to set up those hitters for the kill. “If we don’t let our mistakes effect us during a game, I think that will help us this season. We have to support everyone.”

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