Friday, October 7, 2022

Colusa Volleyball: Small but mighty

The Colusa RedHawk volleyball team is set to defend its SVL title in 2022.

In 2021, the RedHawks (32-9) went undefeated in the Sacramento Valley League claiming the crown outright for quite possibly the first time in school history, then completed the season as the Northern Section Division IV runner-up after falling in the title game to eventual state champion U-Prep.

While that team was led by a trio of seniors that occupied key positions on the court, this season, six RedHawk returners, along with three first time varsity players, are ready to forge their own path as the squad seeks a second straight SVL championship.

What the transition has done is create opportunities for the players to take on some different roles, as third-year head coach Kim Roper explained, “It’s wide open in terms of spots because we have big shoes to fill.”

First off, the RedHawks are switching from a 5-1 to 6-2 system, due to their depth at the setter, where seniors Karsyn Gwinnup and Brooklyn Bradbury, along with sophomore Addison Lay, will all see time.

Gwinnup, who was tops on the team in hitting percentage at .331, as well as second in kills and blocks with 132 and 29, respectively, a year ago, will also be in the middle for several rotations and be joined by Lay, who should have an immediate impact in her inaugural varsity season.

Colusa will look to junior Elle Faris and senior Jasmine Bernardo on the outside, while junior Allie Reading and senior Nicole Carrere will see time at opposite.

At this juncture, Faris and Bernardo are slated to play all the way around, where their versatility should pay off for the RedHawks.

Last season, Faris accounted for 33 kills, 31 digs, and served at a 93 percent clip, while Bernardo hit 90 percent of her serves and tallied 28 digs and 20 kills.

Defensively, senior Carly Simmons steps into the libero spot where Roper likes her taking charge in the back row and hopes to exploit the fact that she swings well from behind the 10-foot line, given that she landed 52 kills in 2021. 

Fellow senior Lexy Avera reprises her role as a steady presence in the back, having averaged four digs and five service receptions per match a season ago.

Although the RedHawks overall don’t have much height, Roper believes her squad’s athleticism and scrappy attitude will be the difference-maker.

“We may be small in size and number, but we are mighty in the way we play,” Roper said. 

One potential drawback for Colusa this preseason is that they are on the road until Sept. 6 due to their home gym being refurbished.

In league play, the reigning SVL champs are sure to face challenges from the likes of Willows, East Nicolaus, and Pierce, but if they can develop chemistry and work together, their talent could make them tough to beat.

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