By Matt Smith
Monday, September 14th, 2009 at 1:11 pm in Girls Volleyball.
This week’s girls volleyball notes. A lot of stuff happening.
It’s not about where you start, it’s about where you finish.
However, if the starting point for the Bishop O’Dowd High School girls volleyball season is any indication, the Dragons should finish with a great year.
After winning the North Coast Section’s Division III title a year ago, they return 10 players making it no surprise that the Dragons were picked as the No. 1 team in the Bay Area News Group’s East Bay coaches poll.
“There is definitely pressure entering the season as the top team,” Bishop O’Dowd coach Mike Gee said. “Every team you play is gunning for you and there is a big target on your back, so there is a lot of pressure.”
But with so many returning players, the Dragons are a team that can handle the pressure that comes with high expectations.
“Certainly the experience that our returners got from last season will help us,” Gee said. “We’ve got the talent, we’ve got the size and we’ve got the athleticism but it will be about what we’ve learned.”
Among the returning players for the Dragons is outside hitter, Katie Huntington who can be a dominant force on a team with many different dominant players and many different options.
“We’re very excited. Every match and every game is a challenge,” Huntington said. “That ranking is a confidence booster. Every practice of ours is super competitive and we are pushing each other to be the best that we can be. It’s a challenge. It’s not necessarily easy, but it’s fun and after practice you feel like you’ve accomplished something.”
What Bishop O’Dowd, which is currently ranked No. 3, hopes to accomplish, is a deep run in the state playoffs. Last year they were knocked out in the NorCal quarterfinals by Valley Christian-San Jose.
“Obviously we want to reach our goals of winning NCS and going to state,” Huntington said. “But if something happens along the way and we don’t, it’s not a waste. We’ll grow and have a good time together. Hopefully we get to state, but it’s about having fun and if nothing else it will be a good experience for those coming back next year.”
Playing a tough non-league schedule, which includes matches against Campolindo and Sacred Heart Cathedral-San Francisco, as well ast the Deer Valley Tournament, the Durango Classic in Las Vegas, the Great Eight Tournament in Sacramento and the Northgate Tournament, should have them prepared for a playoff run.
And with returning players like libero Rachel Stier, outside hitter/middle Alexandra Lynch, setter/outside Lindsey Parrott and oustside/middle Andrea Olsen, they have the firepower and the drive to make such a run.
“We definitely have a competitive spirit,” Gee said. “We have a lot of weapons and they do a good job of being steady and consistent. Our drive could be the difference.”
Deer Valley Tournament
It’s still very early in the season, but the Deer Valley Tournament did help us sort a few things out. We know that Amador Valley and Bishop O’Dowd are very good. Both teams could have easily made the finals, and the Dons probably should have.
They led 19-13 in the second game of their semifinal match with Sacred Heart Cathedral, and after having won the first game, were in prime position to close the door.
But they did not and the Irish came back for the win. Amador Valley has now split a pair of matches with Sacred Heart in tournament play.
The Dragons lost to the eventual champion, Presentation of San Jose, but after a few early miscues they looked to get timid and kind of got away from their game. This O’Dowd team is still figuring a few things out, but boy are they talented.
Albany, Northgate and Carondelet made good statements on Saturday, and after a rough go in pool play, Foothill bounced back to win the consolation bracket. I’ve always said you never bet against a team coached by Dusty Collins. Foothill will be tough this year despite the rough start to the morning.
Now that the Deer Valley Tournament has told us a bit, and now that we have an idea of what most of the teams are up to, here are the updated rankings. As you can see, Amador Valley slides into the No. 1 spot, with Campolindo coming in at No. 2 and Bishop O’Dowd at No. 3. I still get the sense that the Dragons are considered the most talented and dangerous team.
Let’s welcome Northgate and Liberty to the rankings, coming in at No. 8 and No. 10, respectively, after impressive showings at Deer Valley. Moreau Catholic, Clayton Valley and Berean Christian are new to the rankings as well.
Miramonte slides down two spots to No. 4, with Carondelet rounding out the top five. The biggest changes see Albany jump four spots to No. 6, Foothill drops four spots to No. 11 and Castro Valley, California, Monte Vista, Acalanes and Las Lomas slide out this week.
The biggest drop sees Deer Valley fall from No. 4 to No. 12, but never count out the Wolverines. They’ll be in the mix all season long.
1. Amador Valley
3. Bishop O’Dowd
9. San Ramon Valley
12. Deer Valley
13. Moreau Catholic
14. Clayton Valley
15. Berean Christian
Others receiving votes: Castro Valley, Mission San Jose, St. Patrick-St. Vincent, Monte Vista, California.
Q&A with Sandra Neason
After a week off, the Q&A is back, this time with Campolindo’s stud libero, Sandra Neason, who is verbally committed to SMU. Go Ponies.
How did you get into volleyball?
Sandra: Kristen Kathan, the libero at UC Berkeley, is a family friend and she told me to try out when I was younger. So I went out and tried out for the Golden Bear club team and that first year I played on the 13 and under two’s team.
What is your favorite part of being a libero?
Sandra: I love to dig they best players. When I go out there and face an amazing hitter and dig her, I get such a rush.
Who do you enjoy digging the most?
Sandra: Juliana Stivanicevic of Miramonte. She’s my best friend. She’s a great players so there is some good competition there.
What do you do to prepare for a match?
Sandra: Well, I’m OCD, so I do a lot. Mentally I blast music and get pumped up. I always wear two different colored socks, I don’t wash my knee pads and I slap the gym wall (inside the locker room) at least twice. As a team we stretch, warmup and listen to a lot of rap music and the Elephant Medley from Moulin Rouge.
What will it take for this year to be a success?
Sandra: We have to come in knowing we can be on top. We don’t need to go out thinking we could win, we need to know that it’s our time and it can be our year. It will take a lot of team work, focus and heart.
For questions, comments, to report scores, update standings or add players to the watch list, please email Matt Smith at email@example.com.