By Brandon HENSLEY
No matter who you talk to, members of the Crescenta Valley High volleyball team feel they are better equipped to handle this season than any recent one. It doesn’t have to do with just the attitude or the talent on the court. It’s also literally because the equipment itself is vastly superior this year.
“I’m not worried about breaking my finger now,” said senior Elise Boyle, referring to an incident her freshman year. She was setting the poles in the gym, and one of them retracted and smashed her finger. It took several days to recover.
This season, thanks to tireless fundraising spearheaded by Head Coach Kevin Boyke, the new net and pole system is something Boyle doesn’t have to worry about anymore.
“It’s so much lighter, and easier,” Boyle said.
Not only do the girls have a new net system, but also brand new volleyballs, making practice that much easier.
“The balls are all the same weight so we can focus on our consistency and form instead of having to worrying about some that are heavier than others,” said senior Noor Alanizi.
From the time Boyke was hired last year, he set out to make wholesale changes not only with mental and physical preparedness of his team, but with an attitude shift to the program itself. The right equipment was part of that plan.
“That just has to happen because you need the equipment to go through the process of winning a league championship, and parents, administration, ASB all came through for us,” said Boyke, whose team begins Pacific League action Sept. 8 at John Muir High School at 3:30 p.m.
Last year the Falcons went 13-12. They were a mostly younger group, having only four seniors. Boyke said they started as a weak team but finished strong, playing well against the best of the Pacific League, including Burroughs and Arcadia, which captured the championship.
That’s where Boyke wants his team to be. He doesn’t know if the girls are going to get there, but every day in practice he’s making sure he instills the right concepts and attitude to make this year the best it can be. It’s a culture of improvement, he called it. The groundwork has been laid. Now it’s a matter of perfecting it.
“We’re not looking to change anything. We feel like we improved steadily all of last year, over spring, over summer,” he said. “That’s our culture. We’re a learning culture. We just want to keep that going.”
The walls of both gyms at CV are painted with the motto of the athletic program: Pride, Tradition, Honor. Senior PattyKerman said Boyke has given the team new words to live by – attitude, effort, focus.
“It’s a new culture here. We’re working so much harder and we’ve gotten better in all aspects of the game,” said Kerman, who was an All-Pacific League first team member in 2015 and the leader in points for the Falcons. “Winning league would be big for us. That’s been our goal since the offseason.”
Weight training, plyometric conditioning and more nuanced offensive sets and strategies are helping improve the team every day.
“Everywhere on the court, there’s someone attacking the ball to throw off the other side,” Kerman said.
“I think what will help us is being consistent in our passes and our sets,” Boyle said, “and also having confidence in yourself. I think last year, it was a transition year. It was very new for us. This year we’re used to it.”
While some girls left for their club teams over the summer, the others stayed in the program and learned something every day, Boyke said. The goal was on team building and practice. Players needed to learn to build a foundation of skill, and the importance of chemistry. Boyke said this group, which has integrated standout freshman Annamarie Alvarez to the starting rotation, cares deeply for each other.
All of this might lead to a successful season, or it might not. Boyle said the significance of this year didn’t hit her until she opened her locker for the first time this month. Wow, she thought, I’m really a senior.
To make her senior year special, and for her teammates, Boyke said it’s going to take hard work and sacrifice. He wants the girls to know that if they want that title, this is what it’s going to take.
The girls seem to agree.
“We have discipline. We’re not changing what we’re doing, we’re improving upon it,” Alanizi said. “We’re doing a lot of the same things we did last year, we’re just doing it better.”