After a tough season with injuries and missing the playoffs, the La Cañada High School varsity girls’ volleyball team is well on its way back to being one of the most competitive programs in the area.
The Spartans (4-2 overall record) won four of six matches at the Lakewood Molten Classic and displayed a bond that will only help the team in the future.
“That is important for me,” said first-year head coach Laura Browder. “We had dinner after practice recently and had a good time. It’s a big priority for me to create an environment where girls look forward to practice and want to play with each other. We’re playing games with each other in between matches. I’m just super proud of the girls and how we started the season. Unlike boys, girls have to bond first before they can compete. Boys tend to bond through competition.”
The Spartans dropped matches against Long Beach Wilson and Lakewood Saint Joseph but came away with victories over Cerritos, Hacienda Heights Los Altos, Lakewood Mayfair and Cerritos Valley Christian.
“I was happier about the loss against Long Beach Wilson,” said Browder, whose team was defeated in four sets. “I felt our loss to Long Beach was a great game. We fought back and won the second set. They played at a very high level. There’s a difference between us losing a game and a team beating us. I believe more teams find ways to lose games than to win, and I’m trying to get the girls to learn more about themselves.”
The girls have responded to Browder’s approach and are working toward maximizing their potential. The coach has noticed a new work ethic and is confident they will soon have what she calls “fuego.”
“I call it ‘fuego,’ but it’s that competitive fire and grit,” Browder said. “It’s my biggest challenge as a coach, to challenge their mindset and get them excited about their own personal growth and develop that ‘fuego.’”
Players developing that spark are the seniors, who want to win the Rio Hondo League championship and make a good postseason run.
“We have such an incredible senior class,” Browder said. “Emily Weirick has natural spunk on the court and is very vocal. She’s a competitor. We also have Claire [Kevorkian], who is committed to beating anyone and driven. Ally Budde is another middle blocker who is excellent. They are so good.
“Then there’s Alex Gates, our setter. I rarely find a player who competes at 150% on every play and athletically able to do it. She’s so good at setting and makes our game so much better. Sam Meyer is the ultimate utility player and just a freak athlete. Katherine Albano is a wonderful specialist. We are very fortunate to have a solid base of seniors.”
Browder is also fortunate to have a seasoned group of underclassmen. Sophomores Maya White and Olivia Toland are a solid core for the future, along with Claire Saydah and freshman Nikki Hughes.
“We have a very complete team,” Browder said. “My mind is blown when I look at this group.”
LC will travel to Newhall to face Hart today at 5 p.m. The Spartans will compete in the Burbank Tournament this weekend. The team’s home opener will be against Glendora on Monday, Sept. 9, at 3:30 p.m. The program’s annual Dig for the Cure match against Flintridge Sacred Heart will be on Oct. 14 in the north gym.