Vikings ready for another postseason run
If there was any question the South Tahoe volleyball team would struggle through a transition year after a coaching change, the Vikings’ Christina Baghdikian answered it like a team leader should.
“We can make the playoffs and go all the way,” said Baghdikian, South Tahoe’s lone returning all-league player. “We have a lot of drive here. We don’t have the same usual starters as last year, but we are learning as we go along. We have a lot of potential.”
Some of that potential was on display this week, when South Tahoe lost to defending 4A state champion Galena on Tuesday and bounced back to sweep Northern 4A regional tournament qualifier Fallon on Thursday. The Vikings lost two close games to the Grizzlies, who posted a 25-20, 25-12, 26-24 victory in Reno, but then beat the Greenwave 25-16, 25-16, 27-25 at STHS.
Both games highlighted positive developments to first-year coach Sarah Poulack, who was hired last month after Gary Hankoff resigned. Baghdikian has a combined 27 kills in two matches this season and Shaylene McLaughlin’s 18 assists against Fallon (5-2) established them as the team’s offensive motors.
Baghdikian and Alli Bratton combined for 23 digs against the Greenwave, whose only other loss this season was to 3A powerhouse Yerington. Poulack, who has coached the STHS JV team the past three seasons, is happy to inherit a varsity program that has qualified for the Northern 4A playoffs the past two seasons.
South Tahoe went 25-10 and lost to eventual regional and state champion Galena in the Northern 4A semifinals. Poulack, 26, doesn’t see any reason why the Vikings’ postseason streak will end this season.
“I don’t think it’s far-fetched at all for us to make the playoffs,” Poulack said. “I’m not familiar with a lot of the players on the other teams, just because I am not involved in the club teams around here and also because this is my first year on varsity. I like that because I am not worried about the other teams. I am focused on my team and bringing it all together.”
Bringing it all together will involve meshing Baghdikian and fellow returners McLaughlin and Hillary Santana with a talented group of newcomers. Leanne DeBella recorded 11 kills on Tuesday against the Grizzlies and should provide a solid 1-2 punch with Baghdikian on South Tahoe’s front line.
Santana and Nikki Karetov had outstanding defensive games against both Galena and Fallon, while McLaughlin gets the opportunity to lead the Vikings’ attack as a senior setter.
“Christina carries the team very well,” said Poulack, who coached the team’s seniors when they were freshman on the JV team. “They look to her, but looking to one person can only get you so far. That person isn’t allowed to have a bad day, so that puts a lot of pressure on them.
“Shaylene is the quarterback and needs to develop plays for everyone else. Hillary has an awesome attitude and is very coachable. She will run through a wall for you.”
The Vikings (1-1) play at the Galena-hosted High Sierra Invitational this weekend in Reno. Without the services of longtime varsity stars Jessica Bettencourt, Stephanie Morrow and Dana Jensen, who are all playing college volleyball this year, South Tahoe opens Sierra League play on Tuesday against a much improved Damonte Ranch team.
“Some teams are definitely going to be on the rise, and everyone who was good is still going to be good,” Santana said. “I think things will be a little more even since a lot of teams have senior losses, like we did. We’re not exactly the tallest team, but everybody has something to offer. I am so excited that I can’t even describe it.”
Coach: Sarah Poulack (first year)
2005: 25-10 (Northern 4A semifinalist)
Key returners: Christina Baghdikian, Shaylene McLaughlin, Hillary Santana
Key losses: Jessica Bettencourt, Stephanie Morrow, Dana Jensen
Next: Friday-Saturday, High Sierra Invitational
Date Opponent TBA
Fri-Sat High Sierra invite TBA
Sept. 12 Damonte 6 p.m.
Sept. 14 Reno 6 p.m.
Sept. 19 Wooster 6 p.m.
Sept. 21 Douglas 6 p.m.
Sept. 26 Carson 6 p.m.
Sept. 28 No. Valleys 6 p.m.
Oct. 3 Hug 6 p.m.
Oct. 5 Damonte 6 p.m.
Oct. 10 Reno 6 p.m.
Oct. 12 Wooster 6 p.m.
Oct. 17 Douglas 6 p.m.
Oct. 19 Carson 6 p.m.
Oct. 24 No. Valleys 6 p.m.
Oct. 26 Hug 6 p.m.
Note: Home are in bold.