Viking spikers picture a state title
A glass-covered photograph in a polished wooden frame hangs high above the Gold gymnasium floor. While the faces behind the blue and gold uniforms are discernible with a squint, the smiles and words clearly tell the story – South Tahoe High, Nevada State Volleyball Champions, 1990, 33-1.
It’s an image that beckons this year’s ultra-talented squad. And if the net stays taught, the spikes crisp, the teamwork solid and attitudes focused, the girls believe come November there will be another photo added to the wall.
“We want our picture up there,” said senior Sadie Sadrian, smiling wide while glancing at the picture. “We want to be satisfied. We know we can do it.”
The Vikings finished third in 4A Division II play last year, second in zone and fifth at state. While those results were momentarily disappointing, the experience gained make this a much-anticipated campaign.
“Our team has worked together so much. We know what it takes to make the clock work,” said Alicia Lambert, a setter whose father, Alan, left the team after last season. “I’ve always felt my dad was a great coach. But (Gary Hankoff) is a good coach and has some new stuff that I think is good for our team. Us girls have to suck it up, make it work and put everything into it.”
Gary Hankoff takes over the coaching reigns, moving from Eldorado High in Placerville and bringing with him a fresh approach for his seasoned squad.
“These girls have seen it all and they know that anything can happen. All we can do is be as prepared as we can,” Hankoff said. “It takes so much concentration. They can never let up. I’m trying to prepare them for the world championships and hopefully we’ll win state.
“These girls have been there. It’s not like they’re walking in afraid. They just want to take care of business. And they know they can.”
Eight returners highlight the 12-member team. Leading the list is the defending Northern Nevada 4A Player of the year and coach’s daughter, Adrian Hankoff. An intelligent leader with a devastating right arm, the senior hitter has verbally committed to play college ball at the University of Santa Barbara.
But Hankoff, who will move to outside hitter from the middle, says there is unfinished business for the Vikings before she leaves for volleyball’s collegiate upper echelon.
“I’m going to do everything I can to make the team intense and win state. I don’t care about anything else, MVP or awards,” she said. “Maybe it’s selfish, but I’ve never won anything big time. This is the last chance to make an impact. We come to the gym every day and look at that picture. We want one.”
She will have plenty of help. Seniors Lambert, Sadie Sadrian and Melissa Maxwell join Hankoff to form a tight nucleus of four-year varsity starters.
“That gives us a total advantage over anyone else. We’ve got the experience. It could be complete domination over some teams,” Maxwell said. “The expectations are huge. This is the year we know it’s now or never. We’re all putting our hearts into it.”
Added Sadrian, “This is what we’ve been trying for our whole volleyball careers. And we know what to expect.”
The returning starters include juniors Chantelle Young and Courtney Wilson. Senior Coral Cortez and sophomore Melissa Johnson, both who saw court time last year, round out the returners.
In all, it’s an experienced group that coach Hankoff is prepping to challenge for the state’s top spot this November in Reno.
“It almost has to be overkill. I want these girls to go into every game with the cockiness and the confidence to bury the other team. The other team shouldn’t even be a factor. I’d love to see us win every game,” he said. “We’ve got the ability and talent to be nationally ranked. I expect a lot out of them. I’ve seen the best high school players in the nation. We have just as good athletes as any of them.”
“The high school game is won with ball control. We’ve got some major power hitters, but if the setter can’t get a good pass, those hitters are absolutely wasted. We want to concentrate on defense and be known as a scrappy team, where no ball ever hits the floor. It’s a pride thing.”
South Tahoe opens the season hosting a scrimmage Friday. The first league game is Sept. 5 at Lowry.
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