Talented Vikes plan to talk it up a good game | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Talented Vikes plan to talk it up a good game

Steve Yingling

Jessica Bettencourt lines up for spike during preseason drills as the South Tahoe High volleyball team readies for what could be a highly successful season.

Communication between teammates is a key to success in any sport. Without it, a good team can fall apart at the seams.

Last year, the South Tahoe High volleyball team took an impressive 10-2 division record into the postseason. But the Vikings’ silence on the court contributed to their first-round regional tournament ouster.

A season later, the Vikings’ senior class vows not to let that happen again. Setter Stephanie Morrow and outside hitter Jessica Bettencourt are comfortable giving the younger Vikings direction in their final seasons.

On Wednesday, floor captain Morrow orchestrated a team meeting, communicating that on-court tantrums and tension wouldn’t be tolerated. Players would be expected to communicate at all times.

Later, underclassmen giggled and marveled at Bettencourt as she expressed herself at length while being interviewed by the media.

“What happened last year is we all got a little bit defensive about things. We weren’t as close at the end of the year,” Bettencourt said. “We were looking at each other for blame too much and not taking responsibility for our own actions.

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“This year we want to say, ‘That was my bad and I’ll get the next ball.'” We don’t want anybody looking back. We’ll be looking forward to the next play and the next ball.”

Morrow, last year’s Sierra Division Most Valuable Player, emphasized that her teammates can’t dwell on their mistakes.

“A lot of people have a hard time dealing with mistakes on the court,” she said. “There is no time during the game to think about mistakes. The time to reflect on how bad you did is after the game.”

The Vikings, however, should be in position to reflect on more good than bad. Besides MVP Morrow and second-team all-divison selection Bettencourt, veteran coach Gary Hankoff welcomes back second-year varsity player Dana Jensen and part-time starter Christina Baghdikian.

“We can match up talent-wise with anyone in the state,” Hankoff said. “If we play our best volleyball, there’s no reason why we can’t contend for the state title. That’s not bragging, it’s a fact. Of course, Fallon, Galena, Douglas, Manogue and a couple others can pretty much say the same thing.”

Morrow believes it, too.

“Galena and Fallon are decent teams, nothing that we can’t hang with,” she said. “Everyone is going to be playing that competition and we are definitely one of those teams that will make it most competitive.”

Hankoff put his own spin on why things turned sour after a sensational start.

“This is a game that has to be played with passion. It’s hard to be passionate if you aren’t having fun. We’re working on that,” he said.

Last year, Morrow led the team in both aces (36) and assists (428). She’ll set the Vikings’ three big hitters out of the team’s 51 offense.

“I think she is probably the best setter in Northern Nevada,” Hankoff said.

Morrow said the transition from club to high school ball is difficult because of the timing bumping the ball to players she’s not accustomed to setting.

“It’s difficult right now, but we’ll get there,” she said.

Hankoff doesn’t mind the inconvenience of his players relearning to play with one another. He was pleased that almost everyone on this year’s squad played some club ball in the offseason.

Hankoff and the players are excited about the addition of assistant coach Torril Purvis, who coached the eighth-grade team at South Tahoe Middle School last year.

“She has a wealth of experience as both a player and coach at a very high level,” Hankoff said. “The players respond to her and it’s already making us better.”

The Vikings are also responding to the two faces of Hankoff.

“I like how very relaxed he can be and how tense he can be,” Bettencourt said. “There are times where we’re working on something where he doesn’t care about the results because we will get it eventually and there are other times where he wants us to do something perfectly and he can get tense because he wants us to get better. He has expectations for us and we need to meet them.”

And there other times when Hankoff just makes his players laugh.

“He’ll say something like: ‘Shag the balls like a bunch of banshees,” said Bettencourt, who topped the Vikings with 121 kills and was second with 38 blocks as a junior. “It’s the way he says it, and we wonder where he gets that stuff.”

To keep the tension to a minimum, Hankoff allows his girls to play their favorite music during practice and prior to matches. Despite their age differences, the girls have been shocked to learn that their coach has the same musical tastes.

“He has two daughters himself, so he relates to us very well,” Bettencourt said.

The Vikings will get started on what they hope will be a special season by participating in the Lowry Classic on Friday and Saturday in Winnemucca. Then the Vikings don’t have to wait long for two of their bigger tests – Galena comes to town Sept. 6 for their home opener and then two days later they travel to Fallon.

“I just don’t want a repeat of last season. I really want to get past that first-round match at the zone tournament,” Jensen said.

Vikes’ 2005 schedule

Date Opponent Time

Aug. 26-27 Lowry Classic TBA

Sept. 6 GALENA 6 p.m.

Sept. 8 At Fallon 6 p.m.

Sept. 9-10 Galena Inv. TBA

Sept. 13 At Damonte 6 p.m.

Sept. 15 RENO 6 p.m.

Sept. 16 OAKMONT 6 p.m.

Sept. 20 At Wooster 6 p.m.

Sept. 22 At Douglas 6 p.m.

Sept. 24 *Alumni match 10:30 a.m.

Sept. 27 CARSON 6 p.m.

Sept. 29 N. VALLEYS 6 p.m.

Oct. 4 At Hug 6 p.m.

Oct. 6 DAMONTE 6 p.m.

Oct. 11 At Reno 6 p.m.

Oct. 13 WOOSTER 6 p.m.

Oct. 18 DOUGLAS 6 p.m.

Oct. 20 At Carson 6 p.m.

Oct. 25 At N. Valleys 6 p.m.

Oct. 27 HUG 6 p.m.

Nov. 1-5 Regionals TBA

NOv. 11-12 State TBA

* Homecoming