Just when Adrian Masoni felt like the San Andreas Volleyball Academy (SAVA) was gaining traction, Covid-19 hit and put a halt to all of the club’s activity.
Having started in 2018, Masoni, the club director, said he was looking to build off its first two years. However, Covid shut everything down and the issues for SAVA were magnified because it charges much less than a typical club organization and it’s essentially volunteer-driven.
“We were going well and Covid hit, and now we’re trying to get it back,” Masoni said. “One of the struggles we have in a small town where boys volleyball is not a popular sport is finding enough players. That’s always tough.”
However, SAVA coach Dave Ventura—who also carries the same role for Hollister High—along with the Haybalers junior varsity coach started receiving renewed interest from middle school players and parents about wanting to play on a local club team this summer and fall.
“There was a big swell of interest, people reached out to me to start the club again and I said absolutely,” said Masoni, a 1999 Hollister High graduate who served as an assistant coach under Ventura from 2016-2021. “We’ve been licking our chops to get this thing going again.”
SAVA serves San Benito, Monterey and south Santa Clara counties for boys 12-18. Ideally, participation numbers will increase with each passing year, creating a sustained run of success. SAVA aims to get boys started at a young age so by the time they get to high school, they would already have an understanding of the game and possess some fundamental skills.
“Our goal has always been to introduce the sport to younger players so they can come to the high school with experience and knowledge of the game,” Masoni said.
Because boys tend to gravitate toward sports such as football, baseball and basketball, the athletes who usually play volleyball are new to the game. As a result, Ventura tends to inherit inexperienced players who need to be taught the basics of the game.
“In 2018 when we put together the club team, it had great success and it showed in the high school season,” Masoni said. “We noticed right away some of the (high school) teams we were playing against had club players and were a step ahead of us. So, we want to develop highly skilled players through the club team which will then feed into the high school.”
SAVA is kicking off its opening weekend of tryouts on Aug. 6, and the tryout period extends for another couple of weeks beyond that. Masoni emphasized tryouts is a loose term because no one is getting cut this year.
Typically, club competitions are held for age groups in two-year increments, such as 12U, 14U, 16U, etc. Masoni takes pride in the fact that SAVA provides boys an opportunity to play year-round volleyball without a sizable financial burden that typically comes with club play.
“Access has always been an issue for this community for boys volleyball,” he said. “If you go up to San Jose, they have a half dozen clubs there and nearby. For a boys volleyball player here in Hollister (in the past), you would have to drive to San Jose, Santa Cruz or Monterey to play club and the costs are outrageous.
“So we’ve always said we want to have a club here in town and have it reasonably priced. We don’t want anyone who wants to play not be able to play because of costs. That’s always been one of our tenets as coaches. We’re volunteers and lucky enough to have gyms in the community who give us good deals so we can keep the cost really low for the players.”
Masoni said it costs $850 per year to play for SAVA, compared to the $4,000-$5,000 higher profile clubs might charge.
“We pride ourselves on making it affordable, and the only reason we can do that as coaches is because we’re doing this because we love the sport and want to get others involved,” Masoni said. “It’s not for the money. Our kids will be able to compete against those same kids from other clubs and be able to progress throughout the season as we hopefully go up in our seeding.”
SAVA’s season starts in September and runs until December. For more information on tryouts, Masoni and Ventura can be reached at [email protected].
Sports editor Emanuel Lee can be reached at [email protected]