The Anzar High girls volleyball team was 13-0 before losing its final two matches of the recently completed season.
While the back-to-back losses were a bit of a downer, there’s no doubt the Hawks will look back at 2022 as a smashing success. That’s because Anzar produced its best season since 2018, when it took third in the Pacific Coast Athletic League’s Cypress Division and won its opening-round game in the Central Coast Section Division V playoffs.
On Oct. 29, the Hawks—who won this year’s PCAL Santa Lucia Division—saw their season end in a three-set loss to Nueva in a Division V opener. That result followed its regular-season finale, a 3-2 loss to Greenfield, on Oct. 26.
Despite consecutive defeats to close out the season, Hawks coach Rance Hodge was thrilled with the effort and performance from the players.
“We were able to achieve one of our goals of winning a league championship, so I’m happy for them that they were able to experience that,” he said. “I told the ladies before the season started, there’s an opportunity to be very competitive and relevant this year. So I encouraged them to come to practice, work hard, do your best and we can live with the results as they go on. And shockingly, we found ourselves in a situation where we were playing really good volleyball and coming together a lot sooner than I imagined.”
Hodge said Arianna Infante, a senior setter, produced some incredible plays throughout the season and was the team’s “centerpiece and heartbeat.”
“She did things sometimes she didn’t even believe she was doing,” Hodge said. “She hustled all over the court and helped us maintain stability. While I’m very happy for her that she’s going to graduate, at the same time I’m very sad because that’s a piece you want on your team forever.”
Rhiannon Scrimsher, a senior outside hitter, was strong on the attack and finished as one of the team’s top kill leaders.
“She brought that calmness to our team, was very delightful and very coachable,” Hodge said.
Cameron Sloma, a senior opposite who also spent time at middle blocker and outside hitter, utilized her athleticism well.
“She pretty much jumped anywhere on the court because of her knowledge and skill set,” Hodge said. “She’s very knowledgeable, knows the ins and outs of volleyball, and doesn’t mind being firm and direct with the girls, which is great. She’s like a mini coach and when she gets in the game, she’s so crafty. She’s a piece of the puzzle you want on the team because she’s not predictable to the other team.”
Hodge said Sloma was basically a player-coach on the varsity and a de facto assistant coach for the junior varsity squad.
“She’s been amazing to have around our campus, her personality is infectious and this whole school loves her,” Hodge said.
Hodge expects juniors Karma Moreno and Angelica Campos to return next season as leaders on and off the court. Moreno can play multiple positions and plays with confidence, while Campos was the team’s starting libero and a staple in the team’s passing and defense.
Another junior, Yessenia Montes, is a setter and outside hitter who is a potential difference-maker next year as well. Sophomore Gianna Melendez has a competitive mindset that belies her off the court demeanor.
“She’s very calm, very sweet, but she has a switch,” Hodge said. “When she gets a little assertive, a different person comes out. She’s like our silent assassin so to speak. Off the court she’s very loving, mild and energetic, but she takes her athletics very seriously. She’s very vocal on the court and holds people accountable, which I love. So I can’t wait for what she does next year.”
Melendez is one of four sophomores—the other three are Imelda Rubio, Piper Shankle and Guadalupe Erape—who look to be cornerstone pieces of the team going forward.
“Guadalupe is a strong utility player,” Hodge said. “She’s a little shy but when she gets going, she can play. She doesn’t mind getting to the ground and digging balls up. Imelda adds a lot to our team. She’s funny and very quiet, so when she speaks she makes her presence known. She stepped up big this year.”
Though she didn’t receive much playing time, senior Giselle Grio also made valuable contributions, Hodge said. For Anzar to maintain or in the best-case scenario reach another level in the next couple of years, the returning players must come back next year improved in all aspects of the game, Hodge said.
“I don’t like, as they say, to put the cart before the horse, but I am a visionary so I like to at least aspire for greatness,” he said. “So coaching at this school the past six years, we haven’t been in the mix of things past the regular season schedule. So now with a season like this the kids are starting to believe they can achieve things, which is more of encouragement to their psyche and will help them develop physically.”
Sports editor Emanuel Lee can be reached at [email protected]