Even though the Gilroy High girls volleyball team’s season hasn’t gone the way it expected, the Mustangs still own wins over region rivals Christopher High and Live Oak High.
Even though the former came in a scrimmage, it’s still particularly noteworthy because for many years it was the Cougars who were dominating the scrimmages and official matches. Right side Anna DeMario, setter Camberly Johnson and outside hitter Olivia Blank are seniors on a roster dominated by them.
The trio have led the team in different ways, including staying positive amid a tough league season. Even though the Mustangs were 1-7 through the first eight Pacific Coast League Mission Division matches, they’ve been fairly competitive.
“We’ve been making a lot of progress from when we first began,” DeMario said.
Johnson agreed: “I feel like we’re growing as a team, connecting and going in the right direction.”
Johnson was proud of the team’s scrimmage with Christopher because “we played fast and kind of dominated the court.” Knowing this was her final season, Blank was intentional in “branching out a little more” by building up the underclassmen and having fun whether the team was winning or losing.
“Since it’s our last season, we really want to enjoy the time we have together and make the most of it,” she said.
DeMario had one of her best performances of the season in the team’s five-set win over Live Oak. She totaled 17 kills and 15 digs against the school that she attended as a freshman.
“It did mean a lot to me and I felt like I played really well,” she said. “I felt like the team played to its potential which was really nice.”
Blank said the highlight of her season was a five-set win over Soledad in league play.
“We really had to battle all the way through,” she said. “We worked really hard and came together.”
Johnson leads the team in aces, DeMario is first in kills and blocks, and Blank has put up solid numbers in every statistical category, a testament to her all-around skills. Johnson loves playing setter because it is the volleyball equivalent of being the quarterback on a football team.
“I like to be involved with everyone on the court and try to make our play cohesive,” she said.
Blank has a sound approach when she goes up for an attack. If the net is open or the opponents have a weak block, Blank will hit the ball as hard as she can. If there is a big block or if a set is off the net, Blank will utilize roll shots and tips to find open spaces on the court.
“I look around the court and see what my options are,” she said.
Blank, DeMario and Johnson know each other well, having played club volleyball for Rush before entering high school. Blank describes Johnson as a “big people person who isn’t afraid to go up to others and strike up a conversation,” and her outgoing ways helps on the volleyball court.
“Cami really takes control and stands out as a leader,” Blank said.
Johnson revealed that Blank has a creative and artistic ability that blew her away initially.
“(Olivia) is an artist and is so good at drawing, painting and playing instruments,” Johnson said. “It was like, ‘Oh my God, you have this whole other side to you I never knew.’ The best thing is, she’s really humble about it.”
DeMario said she was a reckless kid, a big reason why she had recurring ankle issues until her high school years. She spent many hours in the doctor’s office and the experiences kick-started her interest into sports medicine and wanting to become an EMT.
“Getting hurt all the time really piqued my interest in how the body works and how injuries can be prevented,” she said. “I see a career hopefully as a paramedic to help people with injuries and even more importantly helping them prevent injuries.”
Johnson has a huge passion for volleyball and could see herself going straight to a four-year school strictly for education or playing two years of volleyball at a community college in hopes of transferring on scholarship to a four-year program. Blank, DeMario and Johnson have connected on and off the court, to the benefit of the Gilroy High girls volleyball program.
“Playing with these girls has been an amazing experience for each of us,” DeMario said. “We can look back upon how much we’ve grown together and know we gave it our best.”