By David Wilson
After winning four straight games to end a disappointing season overall, volleyball has returned its entire team and added four players so far in the offseason.
The Broncos finished last place in the California Collegiate Athletic Association South Division with a record of 5-12 in league and 9-17 overall, but according to junior opposite hitter Alex Gresham, “something just clicked” towards the end of the season.
“That first part of last season doesn’t define us and that is what we are leaving in the past,” Gresham said. “The last four games are something that we can draw upon to say, ‘That’s our starting point,’ and we can only get better from there.”
Incoming freshmen middle hitters Kathryn Capua, Jordan Hilst, outside hitter Chloe Owens and transfer outside hitter Jenna Goldsberry have signed on for next year with head coach Rosie Wegrich looking to add as many as two more players.
According to Wegrich, Capua and Hilst were signed to add depth to a position where CPP was thin last season, while Owens and Goldsberry will bring, “smarts and size” to the outside position.
“The offenses of the CCAA are getting faster,” Wegrich said. “We’ve looked at mobility. You can’t just be tall and a good blocker, you have to be mobile. There’s really no position left in this game for immobile players.”
Hanging on the wall of Wegrich’s office is a white board with stats of all the teams in the CCAA.
The number that sticks out to Wegrich is the team’s hitting percentage of .155 from last year.
Hitting percentage is calculated by taking kills subtracted by errors, divided by total attempts.
The team is aiming to match first place in the CCAA Cal State San Bernardino’s hitting percentage of .256.
CPP committed 671 errors last season.
Improving on that stat falls directly on individual players, according to Wegrich.
“The individuals of our team have to individually cut down their errors and add more kills,” Wegrich said. “Just be more productive.”
Offseason practices have been geared toward improving hitting percentage by becoming more efficient. To that end, Wegrich described, “becoming more data aware” and focusing on how the team was practicing rather than what was being practiced.
The plan for this offseason included working on first swing offense and defense. On offense, Wegrich compared a first ball kill to needing one pass to score in basketball without an offensive rebound.
In volleyball terms, it’s getting a kill on the first attempt. First swing defense means digging an opponent’s kill attempt and turning the next swing into a kill. In both cases, the goal is becoming more efficient.
In addition, the team worked on becoming more versatile by using different lineups that included sophomore middle blocker Kristen Hamlin playing outside hitter.
Hamlin was named freshman of the year for the CCAA in 2015 but was injured for much of last season.
Gresham described the transition as not only a change in location on the court but a shift in a player’s mentality.
“In the middle, everything is fast twitch. You need to be blocking in both directions all the time,” Gresham said. “On the outside, it’s all about waiting. Waiting, waiting, waiting and then taking a fast approach to the ball.”
The Broncos’ last official practice was on May 10 with their next official practice set for the second week of August.
In the next three months, a break is not the word junior setter and captain Alina Smith would use to describe time spent away from the team.
Players coordinate amongst themselves to find open gyms to work out in or play beach volleyball and are in constant communication to stay connected.
“We try to play as much as we can because you don’t want to lose that skill,” Smith said. “Volleyball is very technical so you don’t want to lose your touch ” I wouldn’t consider it a break, if anything it’s the most intense season before actual season.”
Courtesy of CPP Sports Information
Volleyball has signed three incoming freshman and one transfer while returning all of last year’s team.
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