GIRLS VOLLEYBALL PREVIEW: Lady Lancers ready to ‘spike’ into Freeway League season

Opposite+hitter+senior+Sophia+Freiboth+winds+up+for+a+serve+during+an+Aug.+11+practice.+The+Lady+lancers+are+2-4+leading+up+to+their+first+Freeway+League+season+game+against+La+Habra+High+School+at+5%3A30+p.m.+tonight%2C+Sept.+13%2C+in+the+gym.

Rebekah Kim

Opposite hitter senior Sophia Freiboth winds up for a serve during an Aug. 11 practice. The Lady lancers are 2-4 leading up to their first Freeway League season game against La Habra High School at 5:30 p.m. tonight, Sept. 13, in the gym.

Kristima Aryal

Coach: Amanda Donaldson (head coach), Katie Pascoe (assistant coach), Madison Rumenap (assistant coach), Jane St. Paul (assistant coach), Allison Wong (assistant coach), Elyse Yoon (assistant coach)

Top Returning Players: Olivia Haptonstall (11),  Grace Min (11), Jocelyn Penaloza (12), Kayla Taylor (10)

Top Newcomer: Dylyn Williams (9) 

Last Season: The Lady Lancers finished Freeway League play with a 2-6 record. However, no overall standings were given out to the teams because of the pandemic condensed season, said head coach Amanda Donaldson.

The California Interscholastic Federation also condensed the regular three high school sports seasons into two: fall and spring. As the boys and girls volleyball teams were set to play during the spring semester of 2021, sharing facilities became a pressing problem, which created practice time constraints for the program.

“Last year, there were always time switches for practice or games canceled — it wasn’t a normal season,” the head coach said.  

Outlook: The girls volleyball team hopes to bounce back and establish their dominance with a goal of taking the Freeway League title for the first time in the seven years that Donaldson has been in charge of the team.

“They’re more hungry because last year made us really appreciate what we will get to have this year,” she said.

With only the summer to prepare her returning players and any newcomers for the regular fall season this school year, the head coach said she wants to focus on the fundamentals of the sport.

“Right now, we’re focusing on the process and being fundamentally sound because that’s going to take us further in the rest of the season and the next year,” seven-year head coach Donaldson said. “Everybody’s all excited about hitting, blocking — those things are great and important but serving and passing are going to win games.”

Heading into her second year on varsity, setter senior Jocelyn Penaloza said she is ready to start off the year on a good note and plans to improve team chemistry.

“We haven’t really had much time to prepare for this season. It’s just been go go go; we just [have] to keep working and stay consistent,” Penaloza said. “I want us to be stronger mentally and emotionally because that plays a big role in volleyball itself.”

La Habra, Sonora and Troy will be the teams to beat in the Freeway League, Donaldson said. 

“This will be my seventh season as the head varsity coach here, and we have yet to clinch first place in league,” she said. “I want to prove to everybody that we are a force to be reckoned with; we’re here, and we’re here to fight.”

With six preseason matches under their belt, the Lady Lancers have experienced a mixed result. They secured two wins against Kennedy (3-1) and Brea Olinda High School (3-2) but have suffered four losses against Whittier Christian (3-0), Crean Lutheran (3-1), Villa Park (3-0) and El Dorado (3-1) high schools.

“Last year was tough but now I expect [my team] to work harder than everyone and go into this season and fight,” Donaldson said. “I think a lot of younger players are going to step up to the plate … I can’t wait to see what these kids can really do.” 

Despite their not having a winning record going into the start of Freeway League matches, many of the players remain focused on their goals for the season.

“We want to win the league and make it to CIF this year,” outside hitter sophomore Kayla Taylor said. “Looking [at] our last game, I want to improve my leadership and be more vocal on the court [going forward].” 

The Lady Lancers will kick off the Freeway League season with a home match against La Habra High School at 5:30 p.m. tonight, Sept. 13, in the gym.