After being up four match points in the Sunset Region semifinals last season and eventually losing to rival Centennial, it’s understandable that Palo Verde girls volleyball coach Greg Siqueiros says his team’s main goal this season is to stay humble.
Seven seniors are back, including outside hitter McCall Phillips, the Northwest League’s Most Valuable Player in 2012, and first-team setter Stephanie Herman. So while staying humble might help keep them focused, the Panthers are ready to roar into the 2013 campaign with revenge on their minds.
“Last year we had a pretty good season, and with our ups we did have our downs,” said Herman, who had 65 service aces, 133 digs and averaged 9.3 assists per game. “But what’s really special about this season is that we learned from our mistakes and how we ended our season.
“We’re so much closer than we were last year. We’ve learned how to work together and support each other and encourage each other. And when you have that team foundation, you can do anything. We’re really excited because of how well we work together and our work ethic.”
Siqueiros said he hasn’t been this excited since his first year coaching the Panthers, six seasons ago, because of how hard his team has worked during the offseason building team chemistry.
“We have seven seniors that all have the same focus and determination, and they bring the younger ones up to have that same focus and determination,” said Siqueiros, the Northwest co-Coach of the Year last season. “It makes it better on me as a coach because I know they’re focused; they’re ready to go.
In addition to seniors Herman and Phillips, juniors Kendall Cheval (first team) and Faryn Duncan (second team) are expected to play pivotal roles for the Panthers.
Phillips, who had 185 kills, 27 blocks and 161 digs last season, said team camaraderie has been built because the players “are best friends” on and off the court, and that is what has everyone working together and optimistic for this season.
“They’re unlike any other team I’ve ever played with,” Phillips said. “Everybody can learn skills and things like that. It’s just the things like shag someone else’s ball or be able to pick each other up and (go) the extra couple miles (for one another). That’s really nice, and that’s what really helps us, I think.
“We’re prepared; we’ve been hitting the gym, running hills outside, conditioning like crazy, so it should be fun.”
In order to compete in the Northwest League, Siqueiros said he’s changed his practice plans to work on the team’s weaknesses, while keeping the girls’ outlook fresh with new drills.
“We don’t want to get stuck in doing the same thing over and over again,” Siqueiros said. “We’re throwing in weight training again, which will be great for these girls. Changing up different practice sessions and how we run things will make them focus on specific weaknesses that they don’t really know (they have) … but they’re getting better at.”
And with the hard work and constant change in game plans, it keeps his players’ minds off the obvious goal any team with seven returning seniors would have — winning a state title — and on the immediate goal heading into the season.
“We overlooked Centennial (in the playoffs), and we can’t do that this season,” Siqueiros said. “If we are humble with everything that we do, good things will happen. We know that we have the potential to get to regionals, to get to state. But we can’t overlook the little things, and that’s something that we did last year, and that’s one thing that won’t happen this year.”
Said Herman: “It is really hard to take it step by step, but that’s exactly what we have to do this season. Game by game, point by point, we have to focus. Once we get past regionals, then we can get to bigger goals.”