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Santa Maria Sun / Sports Lead

The following article was posted on September 25th, 2013, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 14, Issue 29 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 14, Issue 29

Turning the page: The Bulldogs' women's volleyball is on its way

BY KRISTINA SEWELL


BIG BLOCK
This season, the Allan Hancock College volleyball team has experience, determination, and talent on its side—all components the players will need to compete in the toughest California conference for volleyball.
PHOTO BY KRISTINA SEWELL

Being a volleyball player at Allan Hancock College means having discipline and determination. It also means facing some of the toughest competition in the state.

A majority of the teams Hancock faces in conference are ranked in the Top 50, including Cuesta, L.A. Pierce, and Moorpark colleges. Santa Barbara City College is ranked fourth in California.

“There are no easy games for us,” Hancock volleyball coach Julio Molina said. “We will be consistently challenged.”

In his sixth season at Hancock and 13th year of coaching, Molina is confident that this year’s team can be competitive in conference play. While last year’s team finished 2-11, it had four of its players named to All-Conference. The 2013 squad brings even more experience and talent to the team, which has just three freshmen.

“We have eight healthy and active players who are keeping their mental focus,” Molina said. “We have a tremendous amount of talent.”

Among them is freshman outside hitter Briana Farley from Cabrillo High School. According to Molina, Farley is on her way to being an elite outside hitter and has all the makings of a Division 1 player. Gabbi Lecates, a middle all the way from Eagle River, Alaska, brings work ethic and competitive drive to the team. Molina also mentioned freshman setter Nikki Friend, who he called a solid blocker. He said Friend is becoming skilled at recognizing and exposing the other teams’ weaknesses. Molina also singled out sophomore libero Ambar Mendoza, a consistent defender who can get any ball hit in her direction.

“We have a bunch of hungry athletes and it’s showing on and off the court,” he said. “Other players on the team are just scratching the surface of their potential.“

The ’Dogs coach added that the team boasts significant firepower among their athletes because they’re all very physical players.

He said the team has two main goals for the season: to have a winning year and come out as Western State Conference champions. But the veteran coach said there are some challenges the team has to overcome first.

“This year’s challenge is server-receive [passing on a serve from the opposing team],” Molina said. “ We are having a tough time generating strong offense from first attack on a serve. If we could get those two on the same level we will be very strong.”

In practice, Molina said the focus has been creating on-court chemistry and teaching the athletes how to play next to each other and execute plays.

“We’re broadening our scope—we want them to read plays, react, and avoid miscommunication,” Molina said. He added that behind the scenes the team has been working on the fundamentals of footwork.


FORWARD PROGRESS
The Bullldogs have been competitive in every game so far, losing only by small margins. Coach Julio Molina expects things to improve as the season goes on.
PHOTO BY KRISTINA SEWELL

According to Molina, Hancock volleyball staffers teach a radically different way of play than what these girls are used to. Using the same Gold Medal system as the USA volleyball team, University of Washington, and Cal Poly in SLO, Molina said it helps take their skills to the next level and produces individual success.

“It requires a high degree of volleyball IQ and discipline,” Molina said.

He said his players are open to the changes and are seeing results because there is noticeable improvement in performance.

Friend, who has been playing volleyball since third grade, said the faster, bigger athletes and different coaching styles have taken some adjustment. The freshman player said this year’s toughest competition will come from L.A. Pierce College. New to the conference, L.A. Pierce took the championship title in its previous conference in 2012.

“The team has progressed a lot,” Friend said. “If we communicate well, make some minor tweaks, and become more of a family, we will be successful.”

On a personal level, Friend said she would like to be more consistent as a setter and to communicate better with the hitters.

Morgan Seyfert, a sophomore captain from Orcutt Academy High School, said the team will continue to get better if it keeps up the energy and hard work.

“We have great skill this year and we are all on the same page—we set goals together and know what we want to accomplish,” Seyfert said.

The team captain added that Coach Molina has helped the teammates fine-tune an array of skills to make them better players.

Molina admits that the ’Dogs have a tough road to hoe in the Western State Conference: only the No. 1 team moves on to the playoffs. According to Molina, 64 teams compete for just 16 playoff spots.

No matter what happens at the end of this season, Molina wants his players to walk away from Hancock and his program understanding the significance of their accomplishment.

“They’ve accomplished something not a lot of people can: they played a college sport and it’s made them a better player and a better person,” Molina said. “I want them to be able to figure out a goal and pursue it with increased confidence.”

The Lady ’Dogs play College of the Canyons at home on Oct. 2 at 6 p.m.

 
Staff Writer Kristina Sewell can dig a big hole. Contact her at ksewell@santamariasun.com.