When a high school volleyball team graduates all six of its starters like Live Oak did last season, the next year is often a rebuilding year. Longtime Acorns coach Kathleen Davis described the upcoming season as such, though with a caveat.
“This is a good group and we just need some time to jell, work together and build that camaraderie that makes them play well on the court together,” Davis said. “We’re trying to get everyone back to speed and back on the same page from a conditioning standpoint.”
Davis said the team was a bit gassed in a season-opening five-set loss to Gilroy High on Sept. 2, its first five-setter in several months.
“I think we definitely had the potential to take that match, but it was just a matter of stamina and endurance,” she said. “It’s still early and we’re coming off a short off-season, so the conditioning will come. All in all, I was pleased with their overall performance.”
Sophomore Maya Rafat is the lone returner who saw a significant amount of playing time in the Covid spring season. She is one of four sophomores on a 12-player roster.
“Maya is doing well,” Davis said. “She’s got some great hands, has a good volleyball IQ and is an overall good player. She’s going to be a leader for us on the court.”
Sophomore Ana Saulala and senior Addie Davenport-Smith look to provide firepower on the outside. Saulala comes from a long line of volleyball players in her family, and Smith has impressed Davis with her vertical jump. Both players will be key in scoring points offensively with strong swings.
Davis is also optimistic her middle blockers can be effective, including seniors Mattie Schoepe and Mia Scotney-Castle.
“We’re hoping they can dominate at the net and be a force with blocking as that will be key for us,” Davis said.
Junior Stephanie Leonard was the setter on the junior varsity team last year, but Davis is looking to play her at opposite and outside hitter to take advantage of her versatility and hitting potential.
Senior Sadie McClellan didn’t play in the spring but should be a difference-maker this season. Davis calls McClellan the “foundation of our back row,” while sophomore Chiara Rocchio is another impact player in the back. Senior Caterina Picello, who grew up in Italy, is looking to get her transfer paperwork go through and should be ready to join the team soon.
“She’s pretty tall and we’re hoping she’ll be a force in the front row,” Davis said. “The girls got excited about hearing her coming to our team.”
Despite returning no starters, the Acorns are talented and ready to surprise some teams in the Blossom Valley League’s Santa Teresa South Division. Other key players on the roster includes Talia Saulala, Aitofi Tofaeono and Anna Guenet.
“We have a lot of potential and all the skills are there for us—we just have to grow,” Davis said. “I’m looking forward to some good things in the future. As we build, we’re going to be a force in the next couple of years for sure.”
Emanuel Lee can be reached at [email protected]