By Ray Hamill — It’s been an eventful summer for College of the Redwoods volleyball.
With a handful of players leaving the team before the first competitive game for various reasons, things haven’t been easy for third-year head coach Petra Lorenzi, who was hopeful of having a large roster this fall.
But a few late additions have helped ease the pain of the losses, including the unexpected return of all-conference setter Ariana Gallegos, who rejoined the team this week.
“We lost a lot of local kids,” Lorenzi said. “Players who aren’t quite mentally prepared for college … kids who just aren’t able to handle the schedule.”
The coach now has just nine players on the roster, including one who is currently injured and won’t be available for a couple of weeks.
But Lorenzi likes the attitude of the players who have stuck with the team.
“We have a very, very strong core right now that have been there every day,” the coach said. “Everybody’s on the same page moving forward.”
Gallegos rejoined the team after paperwork on a proposed transfer fell through, and having her back is a huge boost for the coach and the team.
The addition of former Arcata and HSU player Kaylin Campbell is also expected to fill a huge void at the net.
“She definitely will be a powerhouse for us,” Lorenzi said of the former Tiger. “She’s a wall at the net and she helps us defensively. She hasn’t even opened the door of where she can be.”
Ashlyn Meadow also returns this season at middle blocker and has also been impressing through the early going.
“She came out very well prepared for this year,” Lorenzi said. “She’s in great shape and a year more experienced and a year more coordinated.”
Lorenzi also expects big things out of newcomer Sara Malone, a 6-foot-1 middle blocker from Pasadena who is out injured right now but expected back in a couple of weeks.
Another new addition is Del Norte’s Paula Mello, who will play outside hitter.
“She’s still figuring out her groove, but having our setter (Gallegos) back will definitely help,” Lorenzi said. “She’s strong on the block.”
Lexi Goodman also joins the team as the libero and back-up setter, and has been fitting right in, impressing at a showcase event for the team in Eugene last weekend.
“She did a great job last week filling in at the setter position,” the coach said. “She’s athletic, and she has a pretty good knowledge of the game. She can do whatever we ask her to do.”
Outside hitter Annabel Nixon also joins the team this fall after moving to CR in the spring from Santa Cruz and playing beach volleyball for Lorenzi.
Another player who joined the team through the beach volleyball program is Fortuna’s Brooklyn Hurst
“She’s got some pretty good ball control,” Lorenzi said of the former Husky who just joined the team this week and will play as a defensive specialist. “And she’s got a great attitude. She’s working hard and getting drastically better every day.”
Rounding out the roster is Pahoua Lee, another defensive specialist originally from Fresno who has been in the Eureka area for the past few years and this year decided to try out for the team.
The Corsairs got in some much-needed preseason action in Eugene last weekend after getting a last-minute invitation to a North Western Athletic Conference showcase event featuring teams from Oregon, Washington and Idaho.
“We played six two-of-three matches, which is a lot of volleyball in two days,” Lorenzi said. “We didn’t pick up a win, but progressively got better and better.”
The Corsairs followed that with a four-games loss at Mendocino in their official season opener on Wednesday, falling 25-23, 11-25, 11-25, 17-25.
The CR women will be back in action with two matches in Sacramento on Wednesday, playing Sac City and West Valley.