VOLLEYBALL: Balanced roster has first-year coach anxious

Returning Second-Team all-leaguer Alex Gerberick sets the ball

Never has a gymnasium occupied by 12 high school female
volleyball players been so quiet. But solace and serenity swept
through the Christopher High secondary gym as the Cougars varsity
squad began its two-hour practice
Never has a gymnasium occupied by 12 high school female volleyball players been so quiet. But solace and serenity swept through the Christopher High secondary gym as the Cougars varsity squad began its two-hour practice.

“Basically the key phrase is focus. When they step on the court it’s go time. It’s not time to talk about school anymore or boyfriends or homework – it’s go time,” first-year head coach Tom Schatz said Tuesday. “That switch has to come on. I set a tone that nothing is guaranteed.”

With a series of warm-up stretches in silence – audible only was the occasional sneaker squeak – the focus was evident.

The Cougars navigated their way through the Monterey Bay League as a senior-less team in 2010, posting a 2-10 league mark, though four of the defeats came in five-set thrillers.

“They held their own,” said Schatz, who spent the second half of last season an assistant to then-head coach Larry Nabzeska. “They were so close in so many games last year.”

The Cougars return seven in 2011, including four seniors, Claudia Ferreria, Paulina Vo-Griffin, Aly Olvera and Merrett Brown, two juniors and one sophomore.

Ferreria garnered First-Team All-MBL honors last season and will shift from outside hitter to middle, Schatz said. Brown is a returning Honorable Mention recipient.

“The seniors have really started to take shape of the court,” Schatz said. “They are learning to be better communicators and they are a year older and a year more mature.”

Aside from adding three sophomores, Brittany Souza, Bella Marquez and Cheyenne DeLaMerced, who were starters at the junior varsity level last season, Schatz also welcomes a pair of freshman.

“I have the highest hopes for Ally Foster and Olivia Tabron,” he said of the ninth graders. “They are two extremely athletic freshmen that are both 6-feet tall.”

Though half of Schatz’s roster is filled with underclassmen, the juniors, Hanna Tabron and Alex Gerberick, both started a year ago and come back with postseason league awards to their names. Tabron, who doubles an as all-league basketball player, received a Honorable Mention nod in 2010, and Gerberick, a starter for the Cougars soccer team, earned a Second-Team All-MBL selection. The Cougars also return libero Michelle Toves, who started as a freshman last season.

“They are all so athletic, I think they can compensate for one another,” Schatz said. “I’m confident in putting all 12 girls out on the court and most of them in multiple positions.”

Getting that versatility out of his players, as well as establishing a clear line of communication between the Cougars on the court are two aspects Schatz shapes his practices around.

“I think the biggest issue was just believing in each other. One of the things we have been doing is every drill we do involves all 12 players so they are always working together, and they have to learn to trust each other,” he said. “We spend a lot of time focusing on fundamentals. Every drill has its purpose and it’s usually passing and communication.”

So far, the tone set has been reciprocated, perhaps a bit too closely.

“To be totally honest, (practice has) been going too well. I’m actually nervous about the progress I’ve seen,” Schatz said. “I’m wondering if it’s really happening or we’re just getting so used to each other that it looks better than it is.”

The Cougars open the regular season at Alvarez on Sept. 6. Their home debut is slated for Sept. 8 against Stevenson. The MBL portion of the schedule begins Sept. 26 versus North Monterey County.

Leave your comments