Christopher girls volleyball team starts anew

Melia Middleton, Elizabeth Holderman and Maggie Tabel aim to get the Cougars running again. Photo by Robert Eliason.

As the only remaining player from the 2019 Christopher High team that advanced to the CIF NorCal Division III Regional playoff semifinals, Elizabeth Holderman knows the effort and focus it will take for this year’s team to achieve its potential. 

“The girls have already made amazing strides and they are up to par to where they need to be,” said Holderman, a senior setter. 

The modified 2020-2021 high school sports calendar prevented some fall sports teams from ever getting off the ground. San Benito High never played a match and the Cougars were essentially in the same boat, as last “season” consisted of two matchups with Gilroy in March, both losses.

“We’ve been working hard and looking to take a step out from last season, because it really wasn’t a season,” Holderman said. “It was a pretty rough deal because we didn’t have tryouts, so it really wasn’t a team. This time we really have a good connection and I think we’re in for a good season.”

As of last week, Christopher coach Carl Guimbalena said starting positions were still up for grabs as the lineup was “fairly fluid.” He knows Holderman will deliver the goods at setter, and the team’s most potent offensive threats include junior outside hitter Melia Middleton and senior middle blocker Maggie Tabel. 

“Melia is looking very solid and continues to improve,” Guimbalena said. “She has quite a bit of potential, is very athletic and a coachable athlete. Maggie is the first one in and last one out type of deal, a really hard worker. I have a lot of trust in her to help the team in many ways.”

A pair of juniors, Brooke Sabala and Sophia Filice, are defensive specialists/liberos and will be counted upon to pass well and dig up attacks. Guimbalena said players will look to Holderman for her leadership. Holderman was one of the starting setters on the 2019 team until she suffered a wrist injury later in the season. She promises to use the experience she gained then to aid the team now.

“I’ve grown as a person and leader, and this year hopefully I can use that to help the team to success,” she said.

Guimbalena said the program needs to make up ground from the Covid-shortened season in March, but he’s optimistic it is headed in the right direction. Prior to taking over the varsity coaching position, Guimbalena was Christopher’s junior varsity coach for a three-year period. 

“The numbers were a little lower than I expected this time,” he said. “The turnout was a little low this year, but we do have enough to field three teams. I’m hoping with the start of school and as word gets out, a bunch more girls will get into the sport.”

Holderman has been impressed with the play of Tabel, who has made a dramatic improvement in the last two years. Holderman is confident that in time she’ll be able to establish a good rapport with the back row players who will be counted upon to pass it into the hands of Holderman, who then can choose where to go for the attack.

Holderman said she’s been working on setting the middle, which makes a team’s offense more dynamic. A 4.0 GPA student and member of a choir since the eighth grade, Holderman and her teammates hope to hit the right notes on the court this season. 

Maggie Tabel, a senior middle blocker, figures to be a potent hitter and defensive presence as well. Photo by Robert Eliason.
Senior setter Elizabeth Holderman is the lone returner from Christopher’s 2019 NorCal team. Photo by Robert Eliason.

Emanuel Lee can be reached at [email protected]

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Sports Editor of the Gilroy Dispatch, Hollister Free Lance and Morgan Hill Times. PR of 3:13.40 at the 2019 CIM. Hebrews 12:1.


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