“That was an exciting time,” said Coach Bess Haldi, who has helped build the boys volleyball program from scratch. “There’s always a stigma (with boys volleyball) – they think it’s a sissy sport to begin with. But Heritage has some tremendous athletes. They tend to get pigeonholed into a particular sport and go into the off-season and stay with that sport. We have always been able to scrape by. Last year’s JV team only had seven players; varsity we had like 10. So it’s sort of an uphill battle for us. Last year was a pretty nice ending for us to even make the playoffs.”
Anyone who has watched competitive volleyball, with its rocket spikes, body-sacrificing digs and leaping blocks, knows it’s anything but a sissy sport. And the word seems to be getting out. “This year I had an influx of senior football players who are learning the sport and loving it and saying they wished they had played since they were freshmen,” said Haldi.
The starters include center Josh Ibarra, outside hitter Daniel Regan – “he’s being recruited right now by a few colleges,” said Haldi – middle blockers Robert Uwaechie and Nick Monroe, and liberto Estefan Garcia. “We have a lot of talent,” said Haldi. “This year I think once we start gelling a little more in terms of confidence, I think we should be able to do OK.”
The Patriots have started the season slowly. As of last week they were 3-6 overall and 2-1 in league play. Facing very tough preseason competition, they lost their first five matches, failing to win a game in any of them. But since then they’ve done much better, sweeping Livermore, Liberty and Pittsburg – although they did lose a shutout to Antioch.
Although it will be a challenge to repeat 12-3 in league – particularly with Deer Valley looking as strong as ever – Haldi is optimistic her team will again be competitive. “I am thinking that we can do fairly well if we are consistent and stay on our game here,” she said. “I have got great enthusiasm for it. That alone will be able to give us some momentum going into the season.”
On Tuesday Heritage visited Freedom and on Thursday hosted Deer Valley, the results of which were not available at press time. The Patriots’ next game is slated for Tuesday, April 13 at Antioch.
Heritage also recently held a volleyball clinic that attracted 18 participants. The clinic is both a fundraiser for the team and an opportunity to introduce younger players to competitive volleyball.