A little on the short side, but they’ve heard that one before.
They certainly don’t look much like volleyball champions, but they’ve heard that one too.
The South Tahoe volleyball team heard all kinds of naysaying en route to an improbable state championship title last season. There were few people outside the team who believed the Vikings would make the semifinals, let alone win the whole thing. The girls, however, never doubted.
This year, that mentality has endured. Sure, the Vikings have lost a Division I starter. And sure, the same quips can still be made about their average height, but the team has somehow hung on to most of those ingredients that earned it that deep postseason run.
“We’re tiny, but we’re mighty,” captain and setter Raquel Marchesseault said.
Last year, the Vikings volleyball team proved this. It ground out wins with two key ingredients — well, three when considering a 6-foot-2, All-State middle named Drew Norberg who graduated. The remaining two key ingredients are still there.
The first was the mentality that sloppy play is unacceptable. Every team says this, of course, but the South Tahoe volleyball team took that concept to a level well beyond high school. Every mistake, every point left on the court, every match lost by poor playing, rippled through the gym with enormity last season.
“You can see it when the ball drops. We take it out on ourselves a lot harder than anyone else,” Marchesseault said. “It’s not about being a poor sport. It’s about hating losing.”
The Vikings, and especially head coach Dan McLaughlin, don’t take kindly to sloppy moments, which brings up the second state-championship ingredient — fundamentals.
South Tahoe grinds down its opponents with the unglamorous tidbits of fundamentals. It’s fundamentals in the backcourt, where girls don’t swipe at the ball. It’s fundamentals at the service line, where the Vikings rarely give up free points. And it’s fundamentals at the net, where the hit is expected to land inbounds no matter the set.
The Vikings wear down opponents when those fundamentals are firing.
McLaughlin will make sure they are, but the reigning state champs still have a ways to go. The Vikings graduated four key pieces to last year’s title.
The returning five — Marchesseault, Jade Child, Kaila Griffis, Hannah Neiger and Kendhyl Delacour — still need to bring the team together to carry that newly lit torch.
“It all depends on how we progress. Whether we learn the system we need to play. Whether we improve our skills enough, and how we play as a team,” McLaughlin said. “At this point last year, we were still struggling to understand who we were. So we are at the same point.”
And while this year’s Vikings might not have a showstopper, like Drew Noreberg, make no mistake they have some serious players.
Marchesseault is now one of the best setters in Nevada.
Delacour, who was out with an injury last year, has the technique and power to emerge as one of the most dominating outside hitters.
Griffis has two years of varsity under her belt and is a big part of those grinding fundamentals.
“Kaila’s been on varsity for a reason,” McLaughlin said. “She plays defense and she plays intelligently.”
Neiger brings height, strong serves and veteran consistency, and Child has already emerged as a reliable defensive wall at libero.
A repeat, however, will be a matter of fitting in some new pieces to that already existing structure.
“We’re a new team so the beginning of the year could be rough,” Marchesseault said. “But we’re a really good serving team, and we’re scrappy. We’ve got a passion for winning and now that we’ve had a taste of that, we don’t want to lose that flavor.”