Napa Valley College Women's Volleyball Preview 2019
By MARTY JAMES
The Napa Valley College volleyball team fell behind early, trailing 2-0 after the first two games of its 2019 season-opening match against Lassen College of Susanville on Aug. 28.
What happened next? The Storm regrouped and showed a ton of fight, grit, spirit and heart, displaying excellent teamwork all the way around, and went on to win three straight games to open the Napa Valley Classic.
The result was a 3-2 win for the Storm, which after losing back to back games, 15-25 and 23-25, proceeded to reel of three consecutive wins, scores of 25-16, 25-18, 15-8.
"We were more than happy," head coach Rachel Hadley said. "It was extra sweet, because last year we didn't win a single match. We got so close several times. But we were honestly just outgunned last season and we didn't have the big hitters.
"Seeing them open up the season with a win was sort of like hitting the refresh button for the returners. And it was also a chance for the new girls to see how much it really means to the returners. For the returners that were on the court, it was extra sweet. I think was a really big moment for the program."
Making it all the more sweeter for Napa Valley, which went 0-18 last year (0-14 Bay Valley Conference), was the fact that almost every player who was on the 2018 team and who is no longer in the program, was on hand for the two matches, showing their support.
"We had almost every single person, who is no longer eligible to play, but played for us last year, who came to the game and supported us and brought the girls gifts," said Hadley. "And so it was sweet for them to be able to see us win after they did all this grunt work, like digging in the mud last year, to come back this year. And to see our team win – a team that they helped to build – was really, really sweet."
It was also a very emotional night off the court, specifically in the team room, as Hadley recalled.
"A lot of the girls, when I came back in here, were crying. It was making me emotional," she said.
The Storm was led by Cassidy Schweizer with seven kills, seven digs and 16 points; Myla Jacobo with eight kills, two solo blocks and 11.5 points; Debrorah Parinas with eight kills, two digs and 10.5 points; Olivia Herrick with three kills, three digs and seven points; Sophia Green with 10 digs and two points; Leah Mitchell with three kills and three points; and Maryanna Reyes with three points.
"We talked about how great everything was and how it was great to start out the season with a win," said Hadley, who works with Robert Stamps, NVC's Director of Volleyball. "With the height that we have this year combined with the defensive skills that we have rolling over from last year, and with several of our new girls this season, we have a much better shot at having a significantly better outcome on the season.
"As of now, we still do have a lot of work to do. The girls are hungry. But I see them with so much more potential than I think that they even know of yet."
Napa Valley lost its next match, falling to Ohlone College of Fremont, 25-13, 25-19, 25-11.
The Storm was led by Schweizer with three points, Parinas with three kills, four digs and three points, Green with seven digs, Reyes with three digs, Madeline David with two points, and Herrick with five digs.
"It is tough, especially early in the season. People still aren't 100 percent up to their best physical shape," said Hadley. "We're working on every single day. Working, on top of our practices, is something that we're constantly trying to do, to help out with that."
Schweizer, Reyes, Green and Joana Lamson all had productive seasons last year.
Schweizer had 73 kills, 71 digs and 133 points; Reyes had 44 kills, 63 digs and 70.5 points; Green had 25 kills, 65 digs and 48.5 points; and Lamson had 21 kills, 26 digs and 24 points.
NVC was swept by opponents in 14 matches last year. Solano and Los Medanos of Pittsburg tied for the Bay Valley title.
"They 100 gave it 100 percent, all they had. We were just a very small team," said Hadley. "We had to turn so many those (defensive specialists) and liberos from last year into middles and outsides and right sides. And that's a really tough thing to do. It was tough. We definitely played really strong defense. But defense doesn't always translate to winning games. You've got to have that offense. This year, I think we have a really good combination of both."
Schweizer plays the setter position, Reyes is an outside hitter, Green plays the libero position, and Joana Lamson is at outside hitter/defensive specialist.
New to the team is Madeline David, middle blocker; Carissa Santamaria, setter; Debrorah Parinas, outside hitter/defensive specialist; Leah Mitchell, right-side hitter; Olivia Herrick, outside hitter; Myla Jacobo, middle blocker; and Atu Pelenatita, right-side hitter.
It's a very talented and competitive group.
"No one can ever say that they are lacking grit – this team wants to win more than anything, even when we're doing drills that don't necessarily have a focus on winning," said Hadley. "Whenever we transition into a drill that has a focus on winning and competing, they completely flip a switch, and they just want to win more than anything. It's something that people have within them. A group has it within them, or they don't. And we're really happy to see that this group has that mentality, that grit, that fighting spirit, never wanting to give up and having enough pride in themselves."
Schweizer, Lamson and Jacobo have taken on leadership roles for the Storm.
* Marty James is a freelance writer who makes his home in Napa. He retired on June 4, after spending 40 years as a sports writer, sports editor and executive sports editor for the Napa Valley Register, a daily newspaper in Napa County. He is a 1979 graduate of Sacramento State and a member of the California Golf Writers & Broadcasters Association, Associated Press Sports Editors, and California Prep Sports Media Association. He was inducted into the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Hall of Fame in 2016.