The Estancia High girls’ volleyball team is young this season, with just one senior on the roster in senior opposite hitter Sydni White.
With four sophomores and freshman setter Makena Ray in the mix, second-year coach Alejandro De Mendoza can expect a few growing pains.
De Mendoza saw his Eagles battle with visiting Bolsa Grande in a back-and-forth first set during Tuesday’s nonleague home match. The Matadors were eventually too strong, opening their season with a 25-22, 25-13, 25-11 sweep.
Serve receive proved to be an issue for Estancia (2-3), which tied for fifth in the Santa Ana tournament on Saturday. Bolsa Grande had 14 service aces in the match. Five came from Amanda Cueva and Jenny Phung added four aces.
“I believe that serve receive is something that you never stop working on, no matter what level you’re on,” De Mendoza said. “It’s the thing that takes the longest to learn, and we’ve got three sophomores that are learning the ropes right now. But, you know, there’s a lot of positives. They had good moments, good glimpses. We’ve just got to be a little more consistent in serve receive.”
Sophomore co-captain Sydney Bilderback and Ray led the Eagles with five kills each. Estancia actually led 19-18 in Game 1, but couldn’t hold on.
The following two sets weren’t as close. In Game 3, Bolsa Grande opened up an 18-1 advantage before Estancia junior co-captain Cassie Corrigan recorded a kill. The Eagles followed with three more successive points, two of those on aces by sophomore Ruby Uchytil, but couldn’t chip away further.
“You know what, we got to double digits,” Corrigan said with a grin after the match. “That’s the only thing we could hope for. We knew going into it that it would be tough, but we still tried very hard. We’re just figuring out the roles that everyone plays. We’re just trying to figure out where everyone fits in, but I think we have a really good team coming up.”
Destiny Jimenez led Bolsa Grande with nine kills, and Ivy Nguyen added six kills. Coach Dustin Wagner said the Matators, who were one of 14 teams on the CIF Southern Section Division 6 preseason watch list, will be trying for their first Garden Grove League title since 2013 this season. Bolsa Grande finished second in league last year, advancing to the second round of the Division 8 playoffs before being swept by Temecula Rancho Christian.
“You could tell the first game was the first game of the season for us,” Wagner said. “It looked like it and felt like it. The team definitely played slow starting out, but we picked it up. We just kind of let them know they weren’t playing to their potential, and by games two and three they kind of put that together.”
Estancia has not made the CIF playoffs since the 2016-17 season. The Eagles finished 3-7 in the Orange Coast League last season for fifth place in the six-team league.
This year’s squad may be young, but De Mendoza believes the team will make strides throughout the season. He said he was impressed that Uchytil was able to tally 13 digs in Tuesday’s three-set match.
Estancia hosts Anaheim in another nonleague home match on Friday.
“It’s a super-young group, but they’re figuring it out,” De Mendoza said. “It’s a work in progress. They know what they need to get better at, and all we can do is just move forward and do better next time. Hopefully we keep our confidence up and just be good learners. That’s the lucky thing about them, they’re sophomores and they’re already getting a lot of good experience in pressure situations. You can’t really replicate that in practice. Now, it’s a struggle, that’s the reality. In the future, who knows?”
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