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Newcomers fuel 2009 Cardinals

Four players are taking part in volleyball for the first time this season

Posted: March 5, 2009 1:53 a.m.
Updated: March 5, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Santa Clarita Christian's Owen Jessup blocks a kill attempt by Cate Wednesday at Santa Clarita Christian School. The Cardinals lost their opener 3-0.

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Santa Clarita Christian scored at least 17 points in all three games of its opening match against Cate of Carpinteria Wednesday.

The Cardinals also had nine aces and pushed the Rams to the limit in the decisive game.

Not a bad start, especially considering almost half the team is new to volleyball, period.

The Cardinals fell to Cate 3-0 by scores of 25-20, 25-17 and 26-24 at the Santa Clarita Christian School.

But the loss provided those players with their first game experience, and according to head coach Jason McMillen, the live action made a huge difference.

“We tried to do some scrimmaging (Tuesday) at practice,” he said. “They were nervous, they were confused on rotations. Today, it flowed. For the first game, we did very well.”

Because the Cardinals lost most of their 2008 squad to graduation, newcomers Rudy Acosta, Owen Jessup, Cameron Taylor and Eric Waschak needed to be quick studies.

Acosta had success on Santa Clarita Christian’s CIF-Southern Section Division I 8-man championship team this past fall, but the other three are new to sports entirely.

They joined the team a little more than three weeks ago, when members of the team informed them of the need for players. As a small school, Santa Clarita Christian doesn’t cut anyone who wants to join.

“The guys had been saying volleyball’s starting soon, and I said, ‘Why not go for it?’” Waschak said.

Waschak, a senior, had played volleyball for fun during church functions, but never in any sort of organized

Taylor, meanwhile, is a freshman who entered the match against Cate when Jessup, the Cardinals’ freshman middle blocker, re-aggravated a knee injury early in the match.

Jessup was carried off the court by several teammates, including returning senior captain Adam Manning.

“Last year, there were so many guys who were returning as seniors, and I had no idea how much work they actually did for the team,” Manning said. “Now it’s on me. Now I’m realizing how much they did, so hopefully I can get everybody to do the same things.”

McMillen recognized Manning’s role in bringing along the new players after Wednesday’s game.

“He’s a leader on the court,” McMillen said. “When the newcomers came in, he told them exactly where to go, and that’s a blessing.”

Manning has also taken it upon himself to keep the team energized. After the Cardinals score a point, he leads the team in a chant of “1-2-3, Cardinals!”

“I definitely try to pump up the guys as much as I can,” Manning said. “I’m not trying to yell at them. I’m just trying to get their adrenaline pumping.”

Because the new players have almost no background in other sports, McMillen noted it was a bit easier to mold them as volleyball players.

Still, he would rather have the opportunity to teach them over the course of four years, which he can do with Taylor and Jessup.

“As a coach, it’s always nice to have them as freshmen,” McMillen said. “You just try hard. Every practice is fundamentals for the first 30 minutes, then we get into game scenarios.”

Despite the loss, the first match of the season indicated that the new players have already come a long way.

“If I wasn’t playing volleyball, I would probably be doing my AP homework,” Waschak said. “I would be hanging out with my neighbor or reading a good book.

“But I love it. I’m having a lot of fun.”


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