Girls volleyball season, a fresh start for East County programs

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With league just beginning, volleyball in East County is ramping up. 

Meeting face-to-face for the first time this season, Grossmont Conference programs made their league debuts over the course of last week. 

Already, championship contenders have stood up. El Cajon Valley (6-3) sits at the top of the Grossmont Valley League, if for no other reason than that Grossmont (12-3) has yet to play their first league match as of the writing of this article. 

With league just beginning, volleyball in East County is ramping up. 

Meeting face-to-face for the first time this season, Grossmont Conference programs made their league debuts over the course of last week. 

Already, championship contenders have stood up. El Cajon Valley (6-3) sits at the top of the Grossmont Valley League, if for no other reason than that Grossmont (12-3) has yet to play their first league match as of the writing of this article. 

In the Grossmont Hills League, both El Capitan (11-6) and Helix (9-6) show promise. The Vaqueros have had a decent preseason run and the Scotties, despite a fairly green roster, are bursting with something explosive. 

“This team has grit and that’s our motto right now,” said Helix head coach Linda Brown. “We’re just going to go hard for everything, we’re not going to give up and we just push ourselves. I think we’re going to be competitive this year.”

Helix only has three seniors; the rest are underclassmen. 

Brown said her biggest concern for league is simply increasing the team’s volleyball IQ. She said training her young players, many of whom went straight from the freshman team to varsity, to play smart volleyball is a priority for the season.

Helix team captain Lucy Stronach said the bevy of younger players brings a lot of energy to the team. Beginning conference play with a win was also nice, Stronach said, because the Scotties had a dry season last year. And while league promises to be tough this season, the Scotties will be tougher, she said. 

“Right now we’re just feeling it out, but I think when the season really gets going we’re going to be a lot better,” said Stronach. “I think we’re really determined to win more than last year.”

Determination was certainly a quality displayed by the Highlanders in their league match at Granite Hills on Sept. 21. Helix beat the Eagles, 3-0, winning each set by a margin of almost 10 points, but at no point did the Highlanders slack off. Intensity was kept on high till the very last serve. 

Granite Hills was working hard too, although their efforts fell short on Thursday. 

A new arrival to the Eagle’s program, head coach Tyler Fernandez said this is a rebuilding year for Granite’s program. 

“I’d say we’d be closer to the bottom [of the standings] right now,” he said. “I think that we have exceptionally gifted girls, but the volleyball IQ is pretty low here. We’re doing a lot of work with our freshman and JV girls so that when they move up, they know exactly what we expect of them.”

Fernandez said he has only a handful of seniors this year, and some of his freshmen are actually getting as much or more playing time than their veteran teammates. It is back to the building blocks of volleyball for everyone, he said. 

“We’re changing the culture of the program,” said Fernandez. “We’re doing things differently. We’re putting a lot of pressure on the girls to just pass and perform correctly. It’s about going back to the basics and keeping things simple.” 

The rest of Grossmont Valley league openers kick off this week, with tournaments spackling the conference schedule until playoffs at the end of October. 

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