All-local Yuba College volleyball squad optimistic
The first month of the Yuba College volleyball team's season has been somewhat nomadic.
With a renovation project forcing the 49ers out of their home gym, coach Greg Chapman had to find some way to keep his team of 10 players sharp.
Instead of a consistent practice schedule where every session is conducted in the same spot every day, Chapman had to improvise.
Preseason practices were held at off-campus sites, including River Bend Elementary School across the bridge in Yuba City. After practice, it was back to Yuba College's track for conditioning and plyometrics. Capping the day were weightlifting workouts.
Through it all, nobody quit, nobody complained, nobody blew it off. Every player on the roster complied, and that dedication to the program has Chapman optimistic about this season.
"This group is already leaps and bounds ahead of other (programs) at this time," Chapman said. "We're going into conference (play) fully prepared. Usually we're not quite there yet."
Yuba's final nonconference game also happens to be the team's 2011 home opener. The 49ers christen the renovated gym on Thursday against Lassen at 1 p.m.
Bay Valley Conference play begins on Sept. 28 at Los Medanos.
The 49ers have already faced some of the top volleyball teams in the state at tournaments. Yuba opened the season at the Modesto College tournament with a 2-1 record. The Niners' biggest test was at the Santa Monica tournament where they faced No. 13 Cypress and No. 16 American River.
With a team comprised of seven true freshmen, Chapman said the 49ers are quickly adjusting to the college level. While they don't have the experience of playing collegiately, most of his players have seen top talent while playing club volleyball.
"The competition is nothing new to them," Chapman said. "I haven't seen one kid take a play off. They all go full speed, all the time."
When Chapman took over as Yuba's head coach in the fall of 2006, he said his predecessor Thea Bordsen-Post and Athletic Director Rod Beilby stressed to him the importance of local recruitment — Chapman heard that message loud and clear.
All 10 of the players on his roster hail from Mid-Valley high schools. Half of them are previous A-D All-Area selections.
Almost the entire starting lineup from Sutter High's Northern Section runner-up squad of 2010 is with Yuba including Allison Foster, Sam Foster, Shaila Gidel, Brenna McDonald and Katie Olson.
Former All-Area outside hitter Emily Toledo of East Nicolaus will see time for the 49ers along with Wheatland alumni and sophomore returnees Brittany Keys and Megan Dodd. Yuba City High grad Katie Reiland, a true freshman, is at middle blocker.
The integral piece of the 49ers is sophomore Taylor Thompson at setter. She was the team MVP last season and a first team All-Bay Valley Conference selection.
Though one of only three sophomores, Thompson said she hasn't had to do much leading. She said every player knows their role on the team and the chemistry is "really easy."
"Last year was a lot of work and this year it's not that much because these girls already know what they're doing," Thompson said. "Everyone here wants to win, not just have fun.
"Last season we started off really slow and we're already ten times better than that."
Chapman said getting local talent to stay home and come play for the Niners wasn't a challenge. He coached six out of the 10 players on his club team and watched matches of all seven of his freshmen when they were in high school last year.
Allison Foster said the fact that Chapman is coaching the 49ers was the main reason she and her Sutter teammates decided to come out to Linda.
"What I've seen so far is that we can hang with the big teams and I want to see us do that 100 percent of the time, because I know we can," Foster said. "Once we get to that level, I know it's going to be awesome."
Yuba has made the postseason in two of Chapman's five seasons as head coach (2006 and '09). The team won its only BVC title under Chapman in '09.
He pegged Napa and Solano as the two teams to knock off in the conference. He thinks his team is going to "keep them on their heels." Everyone on the roster believes that, too.
Thursday the 49ers are back home where championship banners line the north wall of the gym, commemorating past volleyball championships. This team has one goal — adding another one.
"Obviously we don't have the 6-foot-7 girl walking in, but we play hard and play good as a team," Sam Foster said. "We just click together."