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Hollister High girls volleyball team looks to use adversity to its advantage

Annie Fleming has been one of the bright spots for the Hollister High girls volleyball team. The Haybalers look to get things in gear after a rough start to their season. Photo by Jonathan Natividad.

After a rough start to the season, the Hollister High girls volleyball team hopes the adversity it went through will serve it well going forward. 

Coach Lisa Becerra said a combination of illnesses and injuries in the opening weeks meant she had to juggle personnel from one match to the next. However, with all but one player back from the team being at full strength, the time to get in gear is now. 

“Right off the bat we got the opportunity to learn how to manage adversity,” Becerra said. “It was a blessing in a way because early on we had a chance to play games with different lineups and people playing different positions. Overall, the team got the opportunity to feel what it’s like to continue to perform and compete through adversity because when that adversity happens again—and it will—we’ll know how to overcome it because we’ve been through those tough times.” 

Becerra is high on newcomers Bailey Cotter, Maya Rosette, Annie Fleming and Jada Dickens. Becerra said the quartet are coming into their own, especially Cotter, a setter who is known more for being a premier basketball player. 

“Bailey sort of filled our quarterback position when the team was going through illness and injury,” Becerra said. “When she received our Athlete of the Week honors, it was important because it came following a pretty rough week. She stepped in and started versus Branham, and from not having a ton of experience, she didn’t bat an eye. I think she’s a natural leader, athlete and competitor for sure.”

Becerra also praised the play of Fleming, for her ability to be a “multiple threat at the net.” In addition, Fleming has made dramatic strides in her game with her ball-control skills and back-row play as well, Becerra said. The first-year Hollister High coach also noted the play of senior stalwarts Caitlin Miller, Audrey Blaettler, Bethany Mondala, Cassidy Bloomquist and Shaylynn Monteon. 

Players who have been effective at times in scoring points on the attack include Blaettler, Miller, Fleming and Dickens. However, Becerra said the team looks to improve its consistency and potency offensively. 

“We’re still working on ramping up our offense right now,” she said. “Right now we’re scoring points and being able to hang in by out of system plays. We don’t have anybody right now that’s putting the ball away consistently because we’ve either played really tough opponents or we’ve played matches like last night (four-set win over Pacific Grove on Sept. 15). 

“Pacific Grove is a great opponent, but we had the opportunity to try different lineups without being super concerned we wouldn’t win. At this point in time we’re still trying to figure out what works best for us as far as a starting lineup, and luckily we have a ton of athletic kids who can play two or three positions.”

A hopeful return of Briley Lackey should only aid in the Haybalers’ quest for improvement. Hollister was 5-6 overall and 0-2 in the Pacific Coast League’s Gabilan Division before competing in the Notre Dame-Belmont Tiger Cup, where they were guaranteed four to five matches. Although the team got off to a rocky start, Becerra is hopeful the bumps and bruises it suffered early will pay off by season’s end. 

The Haybalers were swept by Carmel and a juggernaut Salinas team to open the league season, but not all was lost.

“I still think a lot of positives came out, especially in the Salinas match,” Becerra said.

Caitlin Miller has been a stalwart in the Hollister program for the past three years. Photo by Jonathan Natividad.
Hollister High’s McKayla Mead sets a ball against Soquel earlier in the season. Photo by Jonathan Natividad.
Maya Rosette has emerged as one of the team’s top newcomers this year. Photo by Jonathan Natividad.

Sports editor Emanuel Lee can be reached at elee@weeklys.com