The Christopher High girls volleyball team has qualified for the Central Coast Section playoffs, but has never advanced out of the first round. Barring key injuries, the Cougars should smash that playoff barrier this season. Christopher fields perhaps the best team in program history, blending some big-time talent with a scrappiness that should put it in contention to win a Pacific Coast League Gabilan Division championship and a potential deep run in the postseason.
“On paper it should be (a very good season),” Cougars coach Ramon Rodriguez said. “We have a lot of seniors, and those seniors have been playing volleyball for a long time. This definitely has the makings of a very good season. I don’t want to make any predictions, though, because I know the sport can be unpredictable.”
In Maya Tabron and Sara Krueger, the Cougars have two players who have made verbal commitments to play for Division I programs. Tabron, a senior outside hitter, is a tour de force and unstoppable at times. Tabron, who wasn’t on the team last year because she was living in Sweden and training on one of their national teams, has come back better than ever.
“She has come back with a ton of international experience, and that has really proven to be a huge factor in our success this season,” Rodriguez said.
Krueger, a junior middle blocker, has made dramatic improvement in her game the last couple of years. Tall, athletic and possessing an impressive vertical leap, Krueger has also given opponents fits with her playmaking ability.
“She’s proven to be very difficult to deal with for other teams,” Rodriguez said. “She is really strong, jumps really high and has a personal trainer out of Morgan Hill who is doing a phenomenal job with her the last three years or so. It shows in her athletic ability. On and off the court, Sara is a completely different player. She’s matured both mentally and physically.”
Allison Duross, a senior outside hitter, can also rack up kills at a prodigious rate. Although Tabron is the team’s kill leader, players like Duross, Krueger and senior middle blocker Kennedy Bretz—one of eight seniors on the team—provide plenty of firepower on the offensive attack.
“Kennedy is another powerful force in the middle who has a lot of volleyball IQ,” Rodriguez said. “She knows the game well and works hard. Both of our middles can play both the front and back row, which gives us options and is always nice to have on defense.”
Christopher runs a 6-2 offense with senior setter Senna Kolagotla and sophomore Elizabeth Holderman, who has displayed an aptitude on the court beyond her years.
“Our setters have been getting it done,” Rodriguez said. “Elizabeth as a sophomore is ready to lead this team for the next couple of years. She’s a great athlete and doesn’t play club, but you would never know if you watched her play. She has a great feel for the game and when you can come in with athleticism and a never-say-die attitude, you can really make a difference on the court. Our hitters trust both of our setters, and that makes a big difference in the hitter-setter connection. It helps the hitters get in rhythm, and that’s the name of the game.”
Madison Hammer, a senior libero, provides the team with certain intangibles that can’t be taught. Hammer provides versatility and is able to play the front row, back row and set. She possesses a deep knowledge of the game and has tremendous game awareness.
“When you put all those things together along with her mindset to completely sacrifice her body when she’s on the court, that makes her a true game-changer,” Rodriguez said. “She has no fear for going for a ball that is 20 feet away from her. This kid makes plays that changes games, and that is why she is wearing the libero jersey right now.”
Senior Natalia Vidito and junior Sydney Ogden come into the game when the team’s setters get to the front row rotation. Ogden and Vidito are terrific right side players and put up a great block against the opposing team’s top hitters.
“Having a good block against the other team’s star players is always an advantage on defense,” Rodriguez said. “It makes defending in the back row a little easier.”
Christopher has solid depth at defensive specialist, including Kat Javier, Serena Li, Jada Rodriguez and Emma D’Angelo, who along with Sarah Polanco have been injured in the early going but are hopeful to return soon. Rodriguez made it a point to credit assistant coach Kevin Bruce—the school’s boys volleyball coach—as being instrumental in the team’s success.
“I can’t say enough about how much of a benefit he’s been to the team,” Rodriguez said. “Having him on the court in practice and in the games has been a huge factor to our success.”