After the 2018 season ended, Andrew Gonzalez knew if he wanted to play a pivotal role on the boys volleyball team this season, he would need to improve in the off-season. And that’s exactly what the Live Oak High junior libero did. Gonzalez played on a club team for the first time in his career, then came back a better player for the high school season.
Gonzalez is the only Live Oak player who plays on a traveling team, Acorns coach Laura Coleman said. As the libero, Gonzalez tries to have everyone communicate, which is key for any successful volleyball squad. The best teams are constantly talking and making sure everyone is on the same page. Live Oak hopes to get there soon.
“Things get complicated when we lose communication,” Gonzalez said. “If we can all communicate, it would allow us to have a better game plan and let us know what is happening on the court.”
The Acorns were 1-3 through their first four Blossom Valley League Santa Teresa Division matches. They’re a young, inexperienced group, but Coleman said if a few more players competed for a club—she’s encouraging them to play in the off-season—the chances for a winning record would go up dramatically. Coleman has liked what she’s seen from Gonzalez, Nick Sykes, Andrew Bergholz, and Tyler Wilde. Sykes, a senior outside hitter, is one of the few players on the team who is capable of scoring consistently on the attack.
“Nick is pretty consistent and rarely makes mistakes in the front row while being aggressive in the back row,” Coleman said. “He’s probably our best all-around player, stays calm and doesn’t get too frustrated. He plays hard and wants to have fun.”
Bergholz, a sophomore setter who started last season as a freshman, provides consistency in his play which is a huge plus for a young team.
“He’s one of the steady Eddies,” Coleman said. “Last year we ran a 6-2 (offense), but this year we only have one setter, which is kind of a bummer because it takes him out of hitting the ball.”
Wilde, a junior middle blocker, can absolutely crush the ball when the offense is in rhythm. Wilde has tremendous potential and Coleman feels he would be able to take his game to another level if he played volleyball year-round.
“Tyler will get better with time,” Coleman said. “He’s a really good blocker and can flat-out hit the ball. We just have to get the ball to him so he can do it more consistently. He loves the game, and that’s always great to see.”
Gonzalez also loves the game, and as a libero he wants to make solid passes and be sure if there is a ball in his vicinity, he’s going to find a way to dig it up. Gonzalez employed that attitude after watching one of the players off last year’s team, Aaron Chu, play tremendous defense.
“The way he had momentum and how he flew his body around yet he was still in control with his passes, that made me want to strive to be better,” Gonzalez said. “ Since I knew Cameron was leaving, I knew I had to step up my game. That made me want to do club volleyball to improve my passing and overall game.”
Coleman saw the improvement first hand, as Gonzalez came back a much improved player after a season of the club game.
“Playing club made a huge difference in Andrew’s game,” Coleman said. “He’s probably our best passer and he picked a good player to model himself after.”
Gonzalez, like any solid libero, takes pride in his passing. He had a nice match passing in the team’s match against Independence High on March 26.
“I shanked one ball, but most of my passes were in and never too close to the net,” he said.
When the Acorns are on the defensive, their back row players often have to attempt an attack from beyond the 10 foot line. Gonzalez has had some success in that, utilizing tips and pushes to keep opponents off-balance. Gonzalez estimated that he recorded three or four points in the 15 to 20 attacks he had against Independence. Gonzalez aims to finish the season strong and go straight into club season, where he hopes for another marked improvement.
Gonzalez has a goal to record 50 digs this season, and he was on pace to accomplish that through the first four matches of the season.