Pacheco High's volleyball team is looking to build upon it's run to the playoffs last year and once again, the Panthers will try to win without a lot of height.
"We're a short team. Last year I think Jasmine (Garcia) was really the only tall player," Pacheco coach Cory Henwood said. "We've got a fairly tough front row, a smart front row, but they're not a big front row. So they kind of have to be an extra ounce of smart and persistent to get the blocks that the taller girls would get."
With Garcia graduated, along with libero Tracey Alvarez and hitters Claudia Garcia, Kiana Lee-Mamea and Angie Gines, the Panthers lost their tallest player. Into that void steps middle blocker Isabel Quintero, who welcomes the pressure of taking on an important role.
"It's good pressure. It's pressure that I look forward to, that I feel I can overcome and get better as a player," Quintero said. "I think speed is the biggest part (to overcoming height differences). Going up over the net isn't our biggest accomplishment as far as our team, but if we have our speed and it's there, we'll come off as a threat to other teams."
As the middle, Quintero will need to play bigger than she really is, and that's something Henwood hinted he's been seeing out of her.
"Isabel, she's gone from the point of getting one or two touches a game to every time we're out here she's stuffing people," he said. "The amount she gets over the net is really impressive. She's not super tall, but she's tall enough to get the block."
As with last year, two of the key cogs for the Panthers are setter Linda Thompson and outside hitter Nicole Terry. Thompson will be the one to set the up-tempo offense Henwood is looking for.
"It's important because being a short team, we need to move faster because we don't have a lot of height. I'm going to have to move quicker, just setting up those hitters," Thompson said. "I feel that being a leader, I can encourage our team to work as well as possible. If we work together we can pull it off and win some games."
Defensively, Brooke Garza split time with Alvarez a year ago, and now steps into the starting position.
"Brooke is a really strong libero," Henwood said. "We have a defensive squad, which makes up some for our height. We have a scrappy defense."
On the outside, Terry is a leader, but Francine Bolling and junior Jen Eagleton, who has played varsity since her freshman year, will get their fair share of hits.
The Panthers' main goal this season is a Western Athletic Conference championship, but before thinking about that they will tackle a rough preseason schedule, which includes Golden Valley, Gregori and a few tournaments.
"We want to win league this year. Playoffs is kind of too much of an unknown to have strong goals right now," Henwood said. "But we want to win league. We feel like we kind of know the league well. That's a goal we feel like we can achieve."
Enterprise reporter David Witte can be reached by phone at 388-6565 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org