Laying the foundation for the future
Three years of developing a system in place, Viking volleyball is ready to make a run at the state title.
Building a complete program is what every coaching staff strives for. Finally, this fall, South Tahoe volleyball coach Gary Hankoff is starting to see all his hard work pay off.
“The system is starting to sink in finally,” Hankoff said. “Three years ago we started a freshman team and now all of the players have been in the pipeline for a couple years and I can put anyone in any place and not have to show them how to play that position.”
Although the players now know Hankoff’s system, his varsity squad is loaded with youth. There are only five returners from last year’s team. Jill Barna, Heather Roderick, Kevin Comlossy, Jessica Urreaga, and Jessica Dilegame come back to anchor a team that went 9-9 in league and 13-15 overall.
Hankoff attributes most of the ongoing success to the addition of coach Janae Nead to the program a year ago and that the two of them work closely together to create base for players.
“Since Janae has come aboard the program has gained some continuity,” Hankoff said. “She is a huge part of this program.”
Barna agrees with her coach’s assessment.
“She started with the JV when I was a freshman,” Barna said. “She’s really made a difference with the team.”
Hankoff and Nead attribute most of the success to the club system they have started and that Nead is also the coach of the eighth-graders at South Tahoe Middle School.
“We’ve started the club system again, which has definitely helped,” Nead said. “There were four teams last year, which is something that has always helped the soccer teams around here.”
Now it is all a matter of getting the team out there and playing in live competition – something that Hankoff is trying to do any chance he gets.
“The kids are working harder than ever, they’re really busting it right now,” Hankoff said. “It’s just a matter of fitting the pieces together.”
The talent is there for Hankoff. He is now concentrating on the mental approach of his players. During the past weekend, he brought in a clinician from Ohio to teach the team the importance of positive visualization.
“If they can believe in themselves, they can go all the way,” Hankoff said. “We’re so far along right now as far as the physical play is concerned. It’s just a matter of them believing in themselves.”
Barna was a little apprehensive about the idea of the clinician working with the team.
“It was kinda funny at first because we were meditating,” Barna said. “But it really helped us focus and visualize playing well.”
The trio of seniors will also have a great claming affect on the younger varsity players. Barna and Roderick are also members of the South
Tahoe softball team and know how to compete at a high level.
“For the first time in a while the seniors will make an impact,” Hankoff said. “Players like Jill and Heather know what it takes to win.”
Barna knows the team will rely on the seniors to help guide the way.
“We’re more of a scrappier team this season,” Barna said. “We are a lot more close this season. We’re going to lead the team on and off the court this year.”
Beating division rivals and league powers, Fallon and Douglas, is not out reach for the team that failed to make the zone playoffs a year ago.
“We can play with both Fallon and Douglas this year,” Hankoff said. “We faced Fallon last weekend and held our own, so I think that we could very well surprise both of them this season.”
South Tahoe recently hosted a five-team scrimmage with Fallon, Douglas, El Dorado and Golden Sierra. The Vikings squared off with Fallon and came away feeling good about the outing.
“I was a little scared coming into the game,” Barna said. “But we played very well and it helped with our confidence. We also watched Douglas play and they looked like we could beat them.”
Last season record: 13-15 overall, 9-9 league)
Coach: Gary Hankoff, third year
Returning players: 5 (Jill Barna, Heather Roderick, Kevin Comlossy, Jessica Dilegame, Jessica Urreaga)
Player or coach quote: “If they can believe in themselves, they can go all the way,” Gary Hankoff
Key to season: Playing as a team and staying positive
Opener: Connie Romero Volleyball Classic at Lowry High School Aug. 25-26
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