After every match, each Valencia volleyball player types up an email to coach Ray Sanchez. The message addresses a handful of topics decided on in advance by the coaching staff.
“They’re encouraged to find example of players that did a great job at that particular topic, find examples of players who maybe did not do a great job,” Sanchez said. “We really encourage them to be honest.”
Sanchez takes a look at all the emails he receives, then selects a few player responses to highlight at the team’s weekly Friday meeting.
“It’s a big factor that helps us a lot,” sophomore setter Kaelyn White said.
The goal is to create an environment where players embrace their successes as well as accept constructive criticism.
The Vikings’ team chemistry is evidenced by the amount of Foothill League titles the team has captured. Valencia has claimed a share of the league title or won it outright since 2012. With a win against Golden Valley tonight, they will claim at least a share of this year’s crown.
“If you’re a good teammate, that definitely helps with the team chemistry,” White said. “And if you have good team chemistry, that makes everyone play a lot better.”
The dynamics lured senior Jess Throckmorton back to Vikings volleyball after taking a season off to better manage a tough academic schedule and nurse some knee and back issues.
“I knew I would regret not coming back,” Throckmorton said. “I knew would love to be with my friends – and practically my family – for the last year and I knew that my family really wanted me to too.”
It’s hard to pin down a singular star player for Valencia, which was ranked fifth in Division 2 in the latest CIF-Southern Section polls.
Lo Russ and Lauryn Shockley take turns leading in kills in matches and Throckmorton has excelled as an opposite hitter this year, although she’s able to play just about anywhere on the court.
White sets a variety of hitters with ease – it’s not unusual to see her assist count in the 50-60 range in a single match.
The pieces came together in the Redondo Power Tournament over the weekend where Valencia fell to eventual tournament champion Redondo Union.
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“That was a huge eye-opener,” Throckmorton said. “Playing against a top tier team … I think it brought out the best level of play in all of us, playing against (Redondo Union).”
The hope is that playing tough tournaments throughout the season will help the Vikings achieve their yearly goal of winning a state title in addition to having a long playoff run. Two things that, combined with a team-first mentality, comprise the Valencia volleyball standard.