It was a full morning – continuing on in to the early afternoon – of volleyball action Saturday, Aug. 11 in Escalon. Kicking off the campaign with an annual round robin GEBO scrimmage, the Lady Cougars served as host site this year for the Golden Valley-Escalon-Beyer-Oakdale event. Two courts were utilized in the new gym on the EHS campus, with teams rotating to play against each of the other schools and getting in some valuable work on the court.
“I saw a lot of good things and of course I saw things we will need to work on,” varsity head coach Teresa Williamson said. “Our defense is going to win us some games. My offense looks pretty good and will get better and better as the season goes on.”
The Lady Cougars have seven players returning at the varsity level, each bringing some experience and leadership capabilities along with them. They include seniors Meadow Naraghi, Leila Phillips, Madisyn Widmer; and juniors Melanie Smith, Tess Cosby, Hunter Wheeler and Mya Beary.
Five of the seven got some court time on Saturday.
“Hunter Wheeler was unable to attend and Mya Beary is injured,” Williamson explained.
While each of the three opponents – Golden Valley, Beyer and Oakdale – provided a bit of a different look, the Lady Cougars were able to work on plays and get more comfortable with each other on the court.
“We struggled on serving, however it got better as the morning went on,” noted Williamson.
The varsity kicked off the Saturday of scrimmages, followed by the JV and then the freshmen.
“I am very excited about this season,” Williamson added. “This team is hard working, energetic and eager to push each other.”
Back for another season at the JV level is head coach Krystal Rodriguez, who said she was pleased overall with what she saw from her team on Saturday against the opposing teams from Beyer, Oakdale and Golden Valley.
“For the past week I’ve been going over basics and fundamentals mainly in defense, which is our weakness but won’t be for long,” noted Rodriguez. “They’re learning and progressing much quicker than I expected, which makes me extremely excited for the rest of the season.”
She said heading into the scrimmage, the team was focused on how well they would perform as a team and how well they would do against the other squads during the competition.
“As a coach, I’m processing everything from working and non-working line-ups to the flow of the game they’re playing, as well as individual skill,” explained the coach. “This JV team has a lot of talent and is still very moldable so I am definitely planning on a very competitive and fun season.”
Since they are still young players, Rodriguez said she knows there will be some “roller coaster moments” – ups and downs – during the course of the season.
“But physically we’re a very strong team and as long as we keep our heads on straight we will be a force to be reckoned with,” said Rodriguez. “If they keep allowing me to push hard work, self-discipline and positive reinforcement they will definitely be a championship team. They need to keep believing like I do.”
New head coach Nicole Bianchi is charged with taking the youngest players for Escalon and molding them in to a cohesive team.
“I do have some club players who have definitely set the tone for this team as far as skill. However the rest of the players have also stepped up and I see a lot of potential with this team,” Bianchi explained. “Our serving and determination to go after every ball is what drove the success during the scrimmage. I have a feeling that is going to be a similar pattern for the season as well as my hitters and setters connecting more.”
Bianchi, an EHS grad, said she is looking forward to the opportunity to get back on the court as a coach.
“For my first season here at Escalon, I’m approaching it with the same intensity and excitement I would as if I were playing. I would not have been the player I was during my volleyball career without the help of Coach Teresa (Williamson) so I will do my best to channel that energy to my players,” said Bianchi. “I am very excited to be coaching this group of girls, they have heart and I can see their passion for the game and that means a lot to me as a coach.”
The teams are scheduled to travel to Enochs High School on Friday, Aug. 17 for non-league preseason action, with the freshmen at 4 p.m., JV at 5 p.m. and varsity at 6 p.m.
The varsity travels to Calaveras for the Foundation Game on Monday, Aug. 20 and the Lady Cougar squads host St. Mary’s High School on Wednesday, Aug. 22 with the freshmen at 4:30 p.m., JV at 5:30 p.m. and varsity at 6:30 p.m.