By Ray Hamill — The Corsairs should be a force defensively on the volleyball court this year, and if a young roster can come together over the first half of the season there’s every reason to expect them to be among the leaders in the Golden Valley Conference.
The College of the Redwoods women open the new season with a pair of games in Santa Rosa on Friday, playing the host Bear Cubs and Yuba, and head coach Petra Lorenzi is looking forward to seeing what a very new-look roster can do.
Lorenzi has a sizable squad of 11 this fall, but just one returning player.
It’s also a team that is gelling nicely, and that more than anything has the coach excited about the upcoming campaign.
“They had a players only meeting to talk about their vision for the year, and the word they used to sum it up was ‘family,’” Lorenzi said. “They want to be a team. They want that to be the focus. They want to use each other to maximize each other’s performances.”
The Corsairs certainly should be a good defensive team, with a deep pool of defensive specialists, and Lorenzi wants to use that to their advantage.
“If you can defend and you can transition quickly, you can force a lot of errors on the other side,” the sixth-year head coach said. “And you can win a lot of games just being able to control the ball.”
Former Fortuna Husky Zoe Zerlang is the team’s only returning player and has been setting the tone for the newcomers at middle blocker.
“Zoe’s doing an amazing job inn the gym,” Lorenzi said. “She’s grown so much as a player over the last year. Right now, she’s strong on the court and making the right choices.”
Five other former H-DNL players have also joined the team this year, including Arcata’s Abby Costello-Anderson and Ella Day, Fortuna’s Lily Larue, Del Norte’s Molly Slayton and McKinleyville’s Haylee Howell.
All five are expected to play a key role on the team as they adapt to the collegiate level.
The two Arcata players will bring a winning mentality after a successful run with the Big 5 champion Tigers and both will contribute as outside hitters.
“They’re doing a really good job working and finding their shots,” Lorenzi said.
Larue, meanwhile, is quickly adapting to the college game.
“She’s a great athlete that is taking the time and cues and applying them and she’s getting better fast,” the head coach said.
Slayton missed much of her high school career through injury, but is back healthy again and has been a versatile addition to the team.
“She’s hitting for us and she’s playing defense and she’s doing an amazing job as our back-up setter,” Lorenzi said. “She’s been kind of a jack of all trades and she has one of the toughest serves in the game.”
Howell is another talented all-around player who gives Lorenzi more depth on the defensive side of the ball.
“She’s another of our defensive specialists,” the head coach said. “She’s a very athletic player, a versatile player.”
Five players from out of the area round out the squad and all are expected to have an immediate impact, including Holcomb, who transfers in from Blue Mountain Community College in Boise.
“She absolutely is going to be a key piece for us,” Lorenzi said of the sophomore. “She’s the first setter I’ve had with true experience.”
Defensive specialists Perla Ceballos from Fresno and Heavenn Fults from Oklahoma also join the team this year and should see plenty of time on the court right away.
Likewise with Mandy Yoshizawa and Maile Kapahu, who both come to CR from Hawaii, where they played on the same club team.
“They all understand the importance of team, the importance of playing together,” Lorenzi said. “And every day they’re progressively getting better, and that’s all you can ask for as a coach.”
The coach admits that it will take some time for such a new-look team to come together, especially on offense, but she believes there is a big upside for this team and is confident the Corsairs can compete for one of the top spots in conference.
“We want to go and compete,” she said. “We want to give ourselves a run at one, two or three in conference and I think we have the ability to do it. We have the athletes and experience on the court.”
Lorenzi also has added some experience to her coaching staff this fall, with former Cal Poly Humboldt player Kayla Costello joining the program as an assistant coach.
Costello, who is from Del Norte, was a defensive specialist and team captain with the Jacks, before graduating in 2020.
“Kayla has a lot of volleyball knowledge and high level experience,” Lorenzi said.