To many volleyball players, a good kill is the most satisfying play. But Los Banos High’s Evelyn Johnson and Veronica Lampreda disagree.
“Denying someone the chance to hit it down on your side is the best feeling,” Lampreda said, describing how she feels after getting a block.
Added Johnson, “It feels amazing. ... The sound of the ball off your hands and hitting the floor – it’s like the best feeling in the world.”
The Tigers will rely on Johnson as the middle blocker and Lampreda as the right side (along with sophomore Bailey Allen, another middle blocker) to get those blocks if they want to make another playoff run this year.
“That’s what I’m excited about. I think we’ve got some good middles this year, with Evelyn and Bailey,” Los Banos coach Greg Soliz said. “They’re going to bring a lot. Bailey’s still a sophomore, but when she hits, she puts it down. So right now we’re really excited about our middles.”
With senior outside hitter Jade Fachin, who has been a starter since her freshman year, the Tigers know what they have. But with Lampreda moving from outside hitter to the right side, she will contribute more to the defense, which she said is where she feels more comfortable. In her spot as Fachin’s complement on the outside will be senior Breanna Cascia, who spent most of her junior year on the bench.
“Now, Bri is going to have to step up,” Soliz said. “She’s starting to understand that she’s not a girl who’s going to put the ball straight down like Jade, so we’re trying to teach her to be smart about her hits. If you notice, a lot of her hits were in deep corners.”
The player who probably brings the most stability to the team is setter Julia Waldron, who has started on since her sophomore year. Soliz said Waldron has taken on a vocal leadership role in the middle of the floor.
“She’s already coming in with so much experience, but she right now is coming in and running the team,” Soliz said. “She’s talking to the girls, and her and Bailey are working on timing, but it’s just the fact that she brings that presence of a setter that we can count on.
“She lets the girls know that she’s going to get to every ball, so she lets them know, ‘Get away from it. I’ve got it. I’ll get you that ball.’ It makes it nice that other players know that,” he said.
As is typical for the Tigers, the preseason will have its fair share of challenges, starting with a late-August tournament in Reno that tends to attract the top teams from Nevada and Northern California, along with tournaments at Golden Valley and Lincoln-Stockton.
Where Los Banos has the biggest question mark right now is on defense, with the libero position still unclaimed. “Defensively in the back row, it’s still open right now,” Soliz said. “We have girls that can play that position, so basically it’s open.”
The main goal for the Tigers is getting further in the playoffs. Last year’s team won its home opener in the playoffs, but dropped a second-round match to Bear River. Soliz said if the team continues to improve the way it has so far, the Tigers could compete with the power teams from the Sacramento area.
“We took WAC last year, made it through first round and lost that second round,” Johnson said, “so let’s see what we can do this year, because I’m not ready to stop.”