VOLLEYBALL: Defense key in Mustangs quest for third straight playoffs

Gilroy's Samantha Una Dia, left, and Randi Rogers attempt to

Two weeks into practices, with another two before launching into
the regular season, Gilroy High girls varsity volleyball head coach
Josh Corioso has deciphered two must-dos if his team expects to
make the playoffs for the third consecutive season
– adapt to the circumstances and play defense.
Two weeks into practices, with another two before launching into the regular season, Gilroy High girls varsity volleyball head coach Josh Corioso has deciphered two must-dos if his team expects to make the playoffs for the third consecutive season – adapt to the circumstances and play defense.

Both have already been flipped into motion.

With repairs to the GHS gym spilling into the first week of official practice, the use of nets was unavailable. No worry, Corioso improvised a bit.

“For the first week we didn’t have balls, nets or anything, so all I could do was condition,” Corioso said after a steamy two-and-a-half hour practice Wednesday. “I was bringing them two hours a day, just killing them. They have definitely worked their butts off and I hope that transpires into their game.”

As Week 2, with full-gym access, got underway, Corioso and the Mustangs shifted focus to shaping a style of game conducive to the players’ personalities and presence on the floor. Lacking that explosive hitter, Corioso said, has tilted his game planning toward a more defensive-minded approach, relying on scrappy back row play and hustle to fill the open spots on the floor.

“We aren’t huge and we’re not going to be powerful hitters. We have some good hitters, but the power isn’t all there yet,” Corioso said. “We are going to have to play really fundamental volleyball. With us being a little bit smaller, we aren’t going to have as big of a block, so there’s going to be a lot more open court to cover. My defensive players are going to be diving and working hard. The key to our success is our defense.”

The Mustangs eked into the Central Coast Section playoffs with a 13-14 overall record, losing in straight sets to Carlmont in the opening round.

There is a familiarity among the core returners, which includes seven from 2010 – seniors Gabby Flores, Leticia Esparza, Ashley McDermott, Karina Daniels and Randi Rogers, and sophomore Meghan Adams. Newcomers Kayla Gaurdino (senior), Samantha Una Dia (junior), Demi Snapp (junior), Haley Sepulveda (junior), Leilani Mah (sophomore) and Nicole Green (sophomore) all figure to see significant time at multiple spots on the floor for Corioso.

“We definitely need to work on playing as a team,” Esparza said. “There’s girls we’ve never played with before because they are younger and then girls we’ve played with but didn’t play as much last year.

“As long as we learn how to collaborate as a team, we have the skills. We are trying to not be the team that has the talent but can’t get along and put it together on the court.”

Corioso said he is pleased with the effort the players have put forth so far, and said that work ethic will make up for any shortcomings the Mustangs may encounter.

“They are just going to have to work together and talk and communicate,” he said. “I know these girls are up for the challenge. My thing is just making sure they stay committed.”

GHS will head to Salinas for the Tri-County Athletic League jamboree Saturday.

“It doesn’t matter if we get smashed (Saturday),” Corioso said. “I just want to see the team unity and the hard work.”

The Mustangs open the season at Monterey on Sept. 8.

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