STHS volleyball preview
South Tahoe High girls volleyball coach Gary Hankoff has a problem on his hands.
Returning a varsity team loaded with talent, filling out his starting lineup card may prove a difficult task.
“I’ve been coaching for nine years and this is hands down the best team I’ve coached,” Hankoff said. “There’s definitely going to be a lot of competition for playing time, but were hoping that will be a positive for us.”
Welcoming back two all-league players in Jessica Urreaga and Jessica Dilegame, the Vikings certainly are thinking positively.
Urreaga, the team’s top setter is a virtual jack of all trades. Last year, she was second on the team in kills, while also finishing first among Northern Nevada teams in kills for a setter.
“That was huge,” Hankoff said. “She can take over a game all by herself, and I’m counting on her doing that this year. She really sets the tone for us.”
Dilegame will be expected to contribute up front as well. She returns as the team’s top kill leader.
Other standouts include senior Kevin Comlossy, a crafty defensive specialist who Hankoff said has come into the preseason in great form.
“I’ve been shocked by her play and how good she is this year,” Hankoff said.
Junior Rachel Hankoff, a returning all-league player is also expected to step into a starting role. Last year, Rachel was an outside hitter, but with coach Hankoff’s team loaded with so many strong outside hitters, he may be playing her in other roles this year.
“Rachel is a good all-around player,” coach Hankoff said. “But I’m hoping I can move her back to the outside as we get stronger on the right side.”
Two other heavy outside hitters rounding out the squad are juniors Brittany Young and Myrna Sanchez. The duo gained a lot of experience splitting playing time last year.
“We have a ton of outside hitters and they’re all fairly equal,” coach Hankoff said. “I really have no idea who I’m going to start.”
Playing in a tough 4A division with teams like Douglas and defending state champion Fallon, the level of competition will certainly be at a high caliber.
“The general consensus around Northern Nevada is that Douglas is probably the team to beat,” coach Hankoff said. “They’re real solid psychologically and they’re tough girls all-around.”
However, Hankoff seems confident his Vikings can beat teams like Douglas and Fallon.
“I look at these girls and I think they can dominate,” he said. “And nobody knows about us considering half my team played on JV last year. I’m sure we’ve been checked off the list as far as teams to beat and I think everyone’s in for a huge surprise.”
In order to pull off some surprises this year, coach Hankoff has emphasized the importance of putting the ball away early.
“We want to receive that serve, pass the ball, set it and then kill it,” he said. “If we can do that, I don’t think we can be beat.”
“It’s a huge thing,” he added. “Psychologically, when you put the ball on the floor, you can just sort of feel the wind go out of some team’s sails.”
One thing Hankoff is not worried about is his squad’s unity. Having coached each of these girls in previous seasons, he knows the chemistry they share as a unit is a huge advantage.
“This is the best team I’ve ever had and it feels good. It’s been a grind the past couple of years building up this program and now it’s finally paying off, so I’m excited.”
Coach: Gary Hankoff, fourth year
Last season: 7-10, fourth place, (first round loss to Fallon in 4A playoffs)
Returning players: 6 (three starters from last year)
Opener: Tuesday vs. Whittell
Quote: “We’re all friends both on and off the court. We’ve all played together before, so we know how to work well as a team.” – senior Kevin Comlossy
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“Let Them Play,” rallies are taking place across California with a mission to bring back high school and youth sports.