Allison Duross doesn’t get intimidated whenever she has to play the best teams in the Central Coast Section. After all, the Christopher High junior outside hitter/opposite plays her club ball with City Beach, which has many of their players on the rosters of high-profile high school programs in the powerhouse West Catholic League.
“Playing with some of them, I know I can hold my ground,” she said. “They inspire me to play better, but at the same time it helps me realize that I’m a good player and I have to play with confidence and the right mindset.”
The Cougars, who entered the week with a 1-1 record in the Pacific Coast League’s Gabilan Division, seemingly has the requisite talent to contend for a league championship.
“The talent on our team is amazing,” Duross said. “Our teamwork and chemistry has been good, and hopefully we can continue to get better.”
Cougars coach Ramon Rodriguez said he’s still trying to build a “team culture where everyone gets along and plays well together” while not worrying about wins and losses.
“The wins and losses for us will be measured off the court,” said Rodriguez, whose assistant coach happens to be his wife of seven years, Stephanie. “Our main focus is for everyone to enjoy the experience of playing for Christopher. We’ll work hard and if the wins are going to happen, they’re going to happen.”
Rodriguez points to the three captains—Madison Hammer, Grace Gundy and Duross—as players who lead with their actions. Hammer, a 5-foot-10 junior outside hitter/middle, has a versatile skill set that allows her to play every position on the court.
“Madison is a unique individual who can play any position,” Rodriguez said. “We can put her at setter and be confident, and of course when she’s in the front row, she hits with a very heavy hand.”
Gundy, a senior middle hitter, poses a difficult matchup for opposing teams when she’s in rhythm. Gundy plays for Vision, which is one of the premier club programs in the Bay Area.
“If Grace and her setter are connecting, she’s almost unstoppable,” Rodriguez said. “She’s a very gifted athlete.”
Duross is the team’s go-to outside hitter, a six-rotation player and one who has the rare ability to turn a so-so set into a point.
“No matter what is happening, you know when you get the ball to her, good things usually happen,” Rodriguez said.
Christopher is a physically strong team, with junior middle blocker Kennedy Bretz being a force at the net. Armed with an impressive vertical leap, Bretz has the ability to affect the game in a variety of ways.
“Kennedy makes an impact with the energy and attitude she brings to the court, which is really special,” Rodriguez said. “When she’s on, she can take over a game. She’s constantly working with a personal trainer, and physical fitness is a hobby for her.”
Rodriguez describes junior outside hitter Natalia Vidito as an “amazing athlete who moves well, jumps high and has a good mind for the game.” Vidito’s athleticism allows her to reach balls on the court that most players can’t get to, a luxury for a Cougars team that looks to elevate its defensive play.
Senna Kolagotla, a junior setter, has all of the intangibles to be the pacesetter of the team.
“She has a quiet confidence and a really good ability to lead on the court,” Rodriguez said. “She’s not that tall, but she makes up for it with pure hustle, a great attitude and extreme confidence. She has solid all-around skills and uses all of them.”
Duross believes the team has the talent to contend for a Pacific Coast League Gabilan Division championship. It’s up to the Cougars to coalesce and rally together to make that happen.
“We’re still working on our chemistry and once we get that down, we’ll get better,” she said.
Over the years, Duross has worked on being a more complete hitter, knowing it will pay off against taller players.
“(When I go up for an attack) I try to roll it, swing it over and try to hit it deep if I have to face a big block,” she said. “You have to play smart in this sport.”