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Prep girls volleyball: Fall approaching fast

Area teams fitting in tournaments, scrimmages and practices for the summer

Posted: July 29, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: July 29, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Saugus volleyball players from left, Ashley Pagan, Sarah Blomgren, Kristin McCord and Makenna Wasserman compete in a scrimmage against Notre Dame on Wednesday at Saugus High, one of the sites of this weekend’s varsity tournament which will involve five Foothill League teams.

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It seems like only a few weeks ago that girls volleyball competition was in full swing.

Well, technically, it was for most of the Foothill League’s varsity players.

Most of them wrapped up club volleyball season around the beginning of the month. Within two weeks, just about every Foothill League team was back in the gym preparing for the fall season.

“There is no break for girls volleyball,” said Saugus head coach Zach Ambrose.

The regular season officially begins at the start of September — league play on Sept. 27, but for most teams, this is the first chance they have to learn how to play as a unit.

“It’s kind of trying to get that chemistry and gel factor going before the season,” said Hart head coach Mary Keen.

Like most teams, Hart has been practicing since the second week of July. The Indians go from 6 to 8:30 a.m. Monday through Friday with scrimmages and tournaments mixed in along the way.

They’ll be one of five Foothill teams taking part in this weekend’s varsity tournament hosted by Saugus.

Beginning on Friday, all the league’s teams, with exception of Golden Valley, are competing in a two-day tournament featuring a handful of regional teams at both Valencia and Saugus High School.

It’s one of many preseason tournaments going on this summer where players can get an early feel for true game situations.

“It should be a good early test to see kind of where we stack up against the regional competition,” said Valencia head coach Ray Sanchez.

Valencia is taking a different approach than others, starting practice a week late and scaling down the long, every-day sessions.

“I just think the kids really need a break,” Sanchez said. “They go right form high school to club ... I think the kids are a little gassed, and I’m gassed too. An extra week or two is really good for the kids.”

Others see the advantage in going all out early in the offseason, leaving time for X’s and O’s of the game later on.

At least that’s the theory of West Ranch head coach Nate Sparks, whose team practices four hours a day excluding tournaments.

“It’s the way I like to do it because I can focus on the more real stuff when the season starts,” Sparks said. “That way, I don’t worry about conditioning when the season starts.”

Outside of conditioning, the next month of preseason is more importantly used to get every player on the same page. In the case of Canyon first-year head coach Brandon Johnson, now is the time to build rapport between himself and the team he took over less than two months ago.

“It’s basically just me coming in as a new coach trying to get acquainted with the girls,” Johnson said. “Right now, we’re just working with ourselves because I came into the game a little late.”

This weekend’s tournament will be Canyon’s first of the preseason, making it an important measuring stick for sizing up the final varsity cuts.

Until then, most teams are still merging practices between the varsity, JV and freshman teams.

Regardless of the talent level, teams use the summer to start building consistency from the bottom up.

“You don’t know what type of playing experience they have,” Keen said. “You don’t know what type of defense they have so you kind of have to conform everyone to your style of play.”

This weekend, coaches may get a glimpse of how well their preseason routines have panned out.

The true test will come in September.

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