Before the 2014 season began, the Lancers volleyball team and coaching staff were well aware of the big shoes to team had to fill. Gone from last year’s team are the Lancers’ all-time aces and kills leader, Nora To’omalatai, and last season’s vocal leader Thula Parks.
With To’omalatai and Parks graduated, second-year interim head coach Bill Sanchez will rely on a faster paced defense that is sure to catch opposing teams off guard.
“We’re smaller, but I think more athletic and a better defensive team than last season,” Sanchez said.
“We’re motivated,” assistant coach Kari Post added. “Having these last four weeks off we’ve had a lot more preparation than a lot of other teams so we’re going to be a new team when people see us now.”
Although the Lancers return only one player from last year’s team in defensive specialist/libero Saige Spence, freshmen middle blocker Chy’annea Hodges and freshman outside hitter Lahiz Longobardi will be looked upon to produce early in their young college careers.
“Lahiz and Chy’annea both have really been impressive,” Post said. They’re both doing really well and their mindset is for the team and not for themselves, which is great to see at this stage. It would be nice to have a little more leadership because we’re a young team but opposing teams are going to be surprised.”
Although the Lancers opened the season with three losses over two days, their always-tough non-conference schedule is only preparation for the always-competitive South Coast Conference. Despite a winless start to the 2014 season, the Lancers remain optimistic and confident in their capabilities.
“We just have to play smart,” Spence said. “Communication is important. If we remain positive and stay confident in ourselves we can go far.”
The Lancers began the season in a close three-set sweep against Mt. San Jacinto College, 25-16, 25-23, 25-20, on August 29. First-year outside hitter Carmina Ortiz led the Lancers with six kills and Longobardi added five kills and 17 digs.
On August 30, the Lancers played a pair of matches at the Grossmont Quad Tournament. Despite another valiant effort on defense, the Lancers were again swept by both Palomar, 25-18, 27-25, 25-23, and by last year’s CCCAA state runner-up Grossmont College, 25-5, 25-14, 25-21.
Against Palomar, the Lancers were led by freshman outside hitter Michelle Boyd with 11 kills and seven digs. Sophomore transfer libero Sabrina Takeuchi added 17 digs and sophomore setter Megan Williams finished with 26 assists.
The Lancers look to win their first game of the season this weekend as they participate in the Fifth Annual Pierce Invitational on Friday and Saturday. Times and teams have yet to be announced.