Finish the job.
That is what Robert Maw and his Carson High volleyball team want to do this year after finishing second in the region the last two years.
“We have been to the regional finals the last two years and lost,” said Maw whose team was 13-3 in league and 22-11 overall. “I’m tired of finishing second. We need to finish.”
And, with talented players like outside hitter Jaycie Roberts, setter Natalie Anderson, libero Abby Pradere and left-side player Keelin Pilgrim back in the fold, Maw has some weapons.
Roberts led the team in kills (262) and digs (309). Anderson averaged 7.3 assists per set (678 total), 64 aces and added 176 digs. Pradere, a sophomore, contributed 249 digs and 160 assists, while making many sensational plays. Pilgrim was a solid contributor until academic difficulties sidelined her the last part of the season.
Carson lost some firepower in Juliana Anderson, Maddie Jergesen, Kylie Riske and Ali Kibbe, but some of the other top teams lost key personnel, too.
“Manogue lost their setter, two outside hitters and their big middle (Katelyn Oppio),” Maw said. “Douglas looks fairly solid, Damonte Ranch has a new coach and they lost their two big middles. I think Douglas, Manogue and ourselves should be in the hunt. There is no one team that looks to be something special at this point.
“We have a cohesive unit. Everybody is working well together.”
Roberts is expected to carry the load, and the four-year star is arguably the best player in northern Nevada. That comes with a price, however.
“Teams will be looking to stop Jaycie,” Maw said. “We will be looking to attack with her from different points; move her around. We want to make defenses find her.
“She is one of the smartest volleyball players I’ve been around. She has spent so much time on the court. Her dad and mom both played. Her volleyball IQ is off the charts.”
Help up front will need to come from Pilgrim, freshman Stephanie Schmidt, senior Ari Schmidt, Dejarrah Navarro, Shea DeJoseph and Maya Vasquez, who saw limited varsity time a year ago. Also in the mix is basketball standout Ku’ulei Haupu.
“Stephanie had a phenomenal tryout,” Maw said. “She kept up with the older kids.”
Middle blockers are key to running a quick-hitting offense, and the Senators are inexperienced in the middle. Navarro saw some varsity action last year as did Ari Schmidt.
“Timing is so critical,” Maw said. “We are having the middles put in extra work with the setters.”
Pilgrim gives CHS experience on the left side. If she can stay eligible this year she will be a valuable asset.
“Keelin gives us a solid left,” Maw said. “We have some depth there with Shea.”
Anderson starts her third season on the varsity.
“She won’t be with us for the tournament in Las Vegas (this weekend),” Maw said. “She really understands the offense, and what we’re trying to do out there. She has worked hard on her defense.”
Pradere will set in Las Vegas and then go back to her libero duties. Maw said he would like to play a 6-2, but won’t at the start of the season.
Abby Paulson, Natalia Smith and Shelby Kuhlman give the Senators defensive depth. Smith moved to Carson last year according to Maw, but didn’t arrive until after tryouts. She played club volleyball last spring.
Dayton boasts experience
Coach Monica Halverson has nine returning players, six seniors, from a team that finished second in the league behind Truckee and reached the state tournament again.
The Dust Devils finished 23-8 under Halverson, who arguably has the best program on the DHS campus.
Halverson doesn’t beat around the bush. She believes her team can equal or better last year’s performance.
“If we can play the way we know how to play, we should breeze through league,” Halverson said. “Right now as I see it, Truckee is the only team I worry about. Most of the teams lost a lot (of seniors). There really isn’t a lot there. Truckee is my main focus. I’d like us to knock them off their pedestal.
“We had an amazing off-season. We played in two summer leagues. We played in a league at Silver State (Volleyball Club) and we went to Manogue. We played all the upper schools (including Carson). We have been going at it strong since the first week of June, and it shows.”
Halverson said she’s concerned about her team wearing down, especially four of her club players.
“It is really an issue,” she said. “I’ve been keeping an eye on it. We’ve been doing some non-volleyball activities; team building sort of thing.”
Halverson’s top returner is sophomore Brianda Diaz, a defensive specialist and left-side player. She finished with 81 kills, 14 service aces, and 74 digs. Those are strong all-around numbers for the 5-4 sparkplug.
“She is the best player on the team hands down,” Halverson said. “She played a lot of volleyball. She went to Florida for a Junior Olympic tournament. She can really jump well. She is a high-level player.”
The Dust Devils are strong up front with middle blockers Kassie Strong and Makenna Olsen. Kassie Strong had 52 kills and 25 blocks, while Olsen had a team-leading 80 kills and 21 blocks. Rebecca Mason had 40 kills and 69 digs a year ago.
Returnee Kayla Celedon (6 kills, 13 digs) will be on the left side along with sophomore Grace Wells, who is up from the JV team. Ashley Mason (31 kills, 66 digs) will play left back. Kali Lampshire, who played just 17 sets last year, is a back-up setter and opposite.
“We have a lot of height this year,” Halverson said. “We won’t have any the following year.”
Kallie Strong takes over for Shalia Powell, and she will be entrusted with running the show on the floor. She had 48 kills, served up 16 aces and 70 digs last season in a utility role.
“She won’t come off the floor unless we are winning easily against a not very strong team,” Halverson said. “She is a solid setter. She is still coming on. We’re playing a 5-1.”
Haley Wells has moved to libero. She had 45 kills and 66 digs a year ago.
“She does a great job,” Halverson said. “She knows how to read the ball well.”
Aleea Howe, a sophomore, is a setter and will probably see action in back-row situations. Juniors Louisa Suarez and Macie Callan round out the roster.