Cougars on the attack

Daniel Lee, Marcus Pedemonte and Gio Caradonna have played key roles for Christopher. Photo by Robert Eliason.

For Christopher High boys volleyball coach Kevin Bruce, the team’s quest to win a Monterey Bay League Gabilan Division championship hinges on two things.

“We have to improve our passing and serve-receive so we can set up and use our firepower,” he said.

Indeed, the Cougars are pretty loaded on the outside and middle, armed with perhaps the best group of middle blockers and outside hitters in the league. However, the Cougars—who were 2-1 in the Gabilan Division entering Tuesday’s match against first-place Carmel—haven’t been pinpoint with their passing and serve-receive.

To that end, the players are working on those crucial aspects of the game. Junior setter Giovanni Caradonna said the team’s success would also come down to inner motivation.

“The skill is there; we just need more drive as a team to win it,” he said. “I feel the drive is getting where it needs to be.”

Caradonna hopes the team can return to the Central Coast Section playoffs, something they last did two years ago. This year’s team is a veteran group, with five seniors and six juniors on the roster. Junior outside hitter Marcus Pedemonte has the ability to terminate a point even against a tough block.

The 6-foot-2, 165-pound Pedemonte has a 38-inch vertical leap, allowing him to rise above the block at times and hit the ball straight down. However, Pedemonte isn’t just a one-hit wonder; he actually plays defensive specialist for his club team.

“Probably what I’m best at is my defense,” he said. “I do need to improve my serve-receive, and I’ll have to follow up on that to play in college.”

At the high school level, however, Pedemonte has to utilize his offensive skills to pepper the opposing teams.

“Sometimes I feel I can put balls down whenever I want to,” he said. “I want to improve my vertical leap so I can hit over any block.”

Pedemonte said he’s developed into a better leader this season, a byproduct of learning from last year’s mistakes.

“I had to fix my attitude because last year I used to get down on myself a lot,” he said. “Taking a role of leader means not doubting yourself and staying positive, because everyone around will notice your body language, especially if you’re down.”

With junior middle blocker Harrison Hemstreet and senior middle Russell Case, Christopher has the ability to dominate at the net. Caradonna makes sure he gets the ball where it needs to be.

“I feel one of my better skills is I can analyze both sides of the court and know where to put the ball,” Caradonna said. “We want to make it to CCS and go past the first round.”

Caradonna loves watching high level volleyball, and he’ll occasionally go watch Stanford play. The 5-9, 180-pound Caradonna has a goal to play in college, and like Pedemonte played other sports growing up before finding his niche in volleyball. Caradonna, who has a cumulative 3.5 GPA and is taking four Advanced Placement classes this year, actually didn’t play the last club season due to knee issues.

Rested and healthy, Caradonna has been dishing out assists with a Midas touch. Daniel Lee, a sophomore libero/defensive specialist, has been instrumental in providing excellent passing and defense, digging up balls that would normally go down for a point. Any team looking to win a championship needs an impact defensive player, and Lee has provided that and more. Sophomore J.T. Zollinger has also been powerful as an outside hitter.