There aren’t many things that you can count on, but in the Hayward Area Athletic League, you can count on one high school dominating league play.
“There are very few constants in life, but the HAAL always has one: Bishop O’Dowd,” San Leandro coach Ed Smart said. “It’s them, Castro Valley, Moreau and everyone else. Things seem to be very cyclical with the remaining teams.”
But San Leandro is looking to shake things up. The Pirates are attempting not to be one of the middle of the road teams that gets shuffled around in the standings every year, but they want to be in the running with Bishop O’Dowd and the others.
The Pirates have reached the North Coast Section playoffs the last couple of years, nearly knocking out Castro Valley in the first round last year, which has helped get the program going in the right direcetion.
“I personally don’t think it was making the NCS playoffs was the only thing that made the ladies confident,” Smart said. “It was seeing themselves improve every year. There is magic in seeing a team win only four games the year before I got there, to winning 11. They finally beat some other teams in the league (Arroyo, San Lorenzo) which hadn’t happened in a long time.
“Knowing they are a much tougher team gives them confidence. They may not be able to beat every team they play, but they are confident that they won’t get pushed over anymore. Making the NCS playoffs has given them a lot of confidence. They know that it’s not impossible, and that it’s not out of reach.”
What can be hard for a program on the rise, is getting everyone to go along with the philosophy if the results aren’t there right away. For San Leandro, that has not been the case. The Pirates have been on board since day one and continue to be so heading into 2009.
“They buy into working hard because they feel most people still don’t think they are a top notch team, and they want to prove they are,” Smart said. “They also believe the rest of the HAAL underestimates them, and they look forward to proving them wrong.”
Still, working hard and having the right attitude doesn’t always equal success and Smart knows that San Leandro is at certain disadvantages.
“It is very difficult to coach a group of girls that only play volleyball from August to the end October, and compete against girls that play all year with club,” Smart said. “I don’t blame those kids since I am a club volleyball coach too, but part time players can not compete with full timers. The reason San Leandro made such a dramatic turn around after my first year is because I made the ladies play in an area club league. Touching the volleyball all year made all the difference. Unfortunately, club volleyball is very expensive and most kids from the HAAL can’t afford to do it.”
This year’s edition of the Pirates featuers a very young and inexperienced team. They graduated nine seniors last year and most of this year’s kids played JV last year, and are still learning how to win close games on the varsity level.
What they do have are two-four year seniors in Marianne Quiray and Emma Hamer, who are leading the team on and off the court.
“They know what I expect and are more like assistant coaches,” Smart said. “The entire team relies on those two for everything. They both urge them towards the TEAM concept: Together Everyone Achieves More… This year is the best year of team chemistry in my four years here.”
San Leandro has three other returning players in junior Dayna Miyahira and a pair of sophomores in Rhia Reboredo and Veronica Mandujano.
Wolves aren’t rebuilding, but reloading
What’s the only thing worse than being a volleyball coach and losing all six starters? Well, losing all seven starters.
Welcome to the world of San Ramon Valley head coach Tom Bauhs.
On top of losing his top six, Bauhs also lost his starting libero. Gone are Annie Begin, Sammie Buono, Brianna Vandersloot, Allison Cole, Leah Foltz, Amy Mulligan and Jenna Maestre.
All in all, the defending North Coast Section champions lost nine seniors. The Wolves return just three players, senior setter Lauren Van Fossen, senior opposite Caitlin Sherwood and junior outside Victoria Acosta.
Somehow, someway, San Ramon Valley is remaining competitive and on top of being one of the top teams in the hyper-competitive East Bay Athletic League, they are one of the top ten teams in the East Bay according to the Bay Area News Group’s Rankings.
So how is this possible?
“All of it is the benefit of a strong JV team. They are a very athletic group and last year’s coach, Jan Crowe, drove them hard. They were one of the top JV teams in the area. They were very competitive.”
Bauhs also attributes their early season success to having a chemistry that is even better than last year’s team.
This could lead San Ramon Valley to having a very good season, but the girls didn’t come into it with very high expectations.
“They want to make the NCS Tournament,” Bauhs said. “They have no other goals beyond that besides doing well. They wanna do their best in the EBAL, but they realize it’s a tough league so there are no great expectations.”
Aside from the three returning players, the Wolves have some talented underclassmen, a group that includes a pair of sophomores in hitter Erin Sherwood and setter Sarah Board along with freshman hitter Emily Reder.
“I’m happy. I knew we’d still be competitive, but I think we can do better,” Bauhs said. “We just need to improve on what we’re doing and continue building as the season goes along.”
Not many changes this week. Foothill and Deer Valley move up a slot and Berean comes back in. Tuesday’s match when Campolindo visits Miramonte could shake things up.
2. Amador Valley
3. Bishop O’Dowd
9. San Ramon Valley
11. Deer Valley
12. Moreau Catholic
14. Berean Christian
Others considered: Liberty, Irvington, Mission San Jose, Washington, Clayton Valley, St. Patrick-St. Vincent, St. Mary’s, Alameda, Acalanes, San Leandro.
Q&A with Devin Shaver
Time to give Devin Shaver of Granada some love. Let’s get to know her.
How did you get into volleyball?
Devin: My cousin Meg was coaching and in sixth grade I tried out for club and made the NorCal 12’s team.
What do you like about playing volleyball?
Devin: I have a lot of fun playing. I used to play all the classic sports like basketball, soccer and softball and I was pretty good at them, but I had a lot more fun playing volleyball.
What is it like playing on a varsity team with your sister, Kelly?
Devin: We’re competitive people, but we play different positions. It’s fun playing with her now because we don’t argue like we used to.”
How do you feel about moving back to setter after playing outside the last two years?
Devin: Well, I played outside until I was 14 and didn’t move to setter until I was 14 and on the freshman team so it was easy to go back to the outside. I am more comfortable setting because that’s what I played when I really started knowing the game. But playing outside is fun to change it up.”
What are the goals for you guys this year after nearly winning NCS and playing in the state playoffs?
Devin: I definitely wanna get further than we got last year. Losing to Napa in the NorCals was a frustrating match. We definitely wanna get to the NCS finals again and have another run in the state playoffs.
What are some things a lot of people might not know about you?
Devin: When I was younger, I was in choir. I used to be a good singer once.