Black develops into force in the middle

Balers junior Roxanne Black has become an impact player. Photo by Chris Mora.

Roxanne Black has come a long way since her youth playing soccer days. A junior middle blocker on the San Benito High girls volleyball team, Black went through a period of her life in which she felt uncoordinated—like most tall teens who experience growth spurts—with many unglamorous moments happening on the sports field.

“I remember tripping over myself while playing soccer,” said Black, who grew up playing soccer and softball before taking up volleyball. “I’ve developed quite a lot since I started playing volleyball. I used to play at Rancho San Justo and remember being super slow and going the wrong way and stuff like that. Now I’ve improved to the point where I know where to go before the ball is set. I can read where the play is going.”

Indeed, Black has been a strong presence at the net this season for a San Benito team that entered the week at 8-2 in the Pacific Coast League’s Gabilan Division, tied for second place with Carmel. Black hits the ball with authority and provides a strong block, two key factors in the Balers’ success.

Black said her best match came on Sept. 6 against St. Francis of Mountain View, which is a perennial Northern California powerhouse. Even though the Balers lost in three games, Black felt excited to play against premier competition.

“I remember playing really well and getting a lot of good quick side outs and quick hits,” she said. “I felt I played really well.”

Before the season started, Black made it a goal to maximize her talent by giving her best effort in practices and matches.

“I wanted to see an improvement in each practice,” she said. “Let’s say I’m going to work on blocking, hitting or tipping. The goal is to have a goal within each area each day. I feel like I’m doing well mechanically hitting on threes and ones and blocking.”

In volleyball terminology, a three means hitting a quick set about halfway between the outside and middle, and a one means hitting a quick set in the middle.

Black got a taste of the varsity when she basically moonlighted as a junior varsity and varsity player toward the end of last season. Black would play a JV match before joining the varsity and watching the squad from the bench.

“Watching the players’ spirits and their attitudes kind of helped in terms of setting the tone for this season,” she said. “At the beginning of the season it was kind of scary being on the varsity even though I was not new to the sport. Varsity players are set to a higher standard, so it took a week (into the regular season) for me to get comfortable and for the girls to bond really quickly. They made things easier for me to get adjusted.”

Black has made a connection with Balers setter Maya Garcia after practicing together for hundreds of hours since the summer started.

“Before each set, we make sure to talk it up and communicate to make sure we’re on the same page,” Black said. “Whenever different plays come up, we know how to communicate quickly. She knows where I’m going to be at and I know where she is going to set the ball.”

For Black, volleyball is more than just a sport—it’s a place where she can go to get away from life’s daily grinds, a stress buster and overall mood enhancer.

“Volleyball is always a good experience,” she said. “If I’m mad, I can go to practice and take it out on the ball. It’s my go-to place and from the moment I started playing the sport, I immediately connected with it.”

Volleyball has also helped Black give her best in everything off the court, including academics.

“School in general has been a challenge, and volleyball has taught me to push through life and especially school,” she said. “I’ve kind of had average grades, but when I started volleyball, it made me think a lot more on how to push through and to focus on one thing at a time.”  

Black’s older brother, Baxter, is a former San Benito High athlete who is now playing baseball at Hartnell College. Growing up, Roxanne and Baxter went to San Juan School to play catch and throw the baseball around, and Roxanne pointed to those moments as key in her overall athletic development and mindset.

“He pushed me to be a better athlete and better person,” she said.

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