By Ray Hamill — A strong group of incoming freshmen talent is expected to complement a core group of returning sophomores for College of the Redwoods volleyball this fall.
For head coach Petra Lorenzi, who took over the program right before the 2017 season, this past offseason was her first with the team and the recruiting drive seems to have paid dividends.
“They’re looking pretty decent,” Lorenzi said of her players, who have been busy with preseason practice for the past two and a half weeks. “They’re putting in a lot of hard work, they’re getting in shape, and they’re getting used to playing volleyball at a higher level.”
A large freshmen contingent features eight new faces, and while the coach says it will take time for them to adapt to the speed of the game at this level, she feels it’s a talented group.
“We have some pretty athletic kids,” Lorenzi said. “They can move, they can jump, and they have a pretty good work ethic.”
The Corsairs are, in the coach’s words, “not a giant team,” and will rely on that athleticism.
“We’re going to be a shorter team, so defense is going to be very important for us,” the head coach said.
Lorenzi and assistant Bethany Rapp are trying to turn around the fortunes of a program that has traditionally struggled, and are hoping this year’s recruiting class can start to build a winning culture at CR.
They’ve also installed an offseason program that includes spring beach volleyball and more summer camps, something the four returning sophomores seem to have benefitted from.
“The sophomores have been working hard,” Lorenzi said. “Coming in they definitely bring a little leadership and an awareness and understanding of what’s happening. They understand the pace of the game better.”
In particular, returning Golden Valley Conference Honorable Mention Elise Wilson, who improved her game this offseason playing beach volleyball.
“She’s developed a lot,” Lorenzi said of the libero from Golden Sierra High in the Sacramento area. “And we’re expecting great things from her.”
Also back from last year are a trio of local players, Fortuna’s Mikenzie Palotas, Ferndale’s Olivia Wilma and Hoopa Valley’s Rhea McCoy, and all three are expected to play a big role in what is shaping up to be a deep squad.
According to the coach, some starting positions are still open, and some will be open all season long, most notably the defensive specialist spots, with four players vying for time.
The Corsairs also have competition at the setter position.
“We have some strong freshmen coming in that we are expecting to take on leadership and play key roles,” the coach said.
Among the newcomers, middle blocker Ashlynn Maddeoux, outside hitter Katie Bergor and setter Ariana Gallegos will all see plenty of game time.
Maddeoux will also play basketball for the Corsairs this year, while Bergor will also compete in track and field. Gallegos comes to Redwoods from New Mexico.
The Corsairs open the season at Alameda on Sept. 1, and won’t play a home game until early October, against Siskiyous in what will also be their conference opener.