PREP VOLLEYBALL: Cohesive Lady Miners look to keep winning as they dig into league play
The Lady Miners have been very busy and very successful of late.
That’s the way they like it.
Through the first five weeks of the season, Nevada Union’s girls volleyball team has won 23 of its 26 matches, grabbed a pair of tourney titles and notched win streaks of 11 and nine along the way.
If you ask senior setter Kendall Hughes, the team’s success is a product of good teamwork.
“Our strength is we all work really well together,” said Hughes, now in her second season at the varsity level. “Even though there is a large gap in ages, we have two sophomores, it doesn’t feel like it. It feels like we’ve all been playing together for a while, and I feel like we work really well together.”
According to senior outside hitter Faith Menary it’s the fruits of continually improving both as a group and as an individual.
“Our strength is working together, improving individually and then adding that to the team,” said Menary, who was an all-league selection a season ago. “Just working on our own skills in our positions and then putting it all together.”
For senior libero Kendall Gould, it all comes down to the team’s attitude and approach to the game.
“The positivity,” said Gould, now in her third year on the varsity team. “We’re all super positive and pick each other up.”
Head coach Chrys Dudek, said it’s all about team unity and chemistry.
“Our word for the year us cohesion and we really try to stick to that,” said Dudek, who took over the program in 2015. “In practices, we mix up who they warm up with, we sit down and talk to each other about how to react to mistakes, how to react to each other, what makes us play well together and what kind of player do you want to be on the court. And, we came up with a list of 10 or 12 words that describe that and we always reflect back on those words. Are you being a supportive person for your teammate? Are you being someone you want to be on the court with? I think that’s really helped build that cohesion we’re trying to achieve.”
There are several reasons for the Miners’ success this season. It’s likely a combination of those stated above as well as their overall talent and experience.
Nevada Union is 23-3 overall, ranked No. 3 in the Sac-Joaquin Section and off to a 2-0 start in Foothill Valley League play. With all the early success, the Miners have set championship goals.
“We set some pretty high ones,” Menary said of the team’s goals. “We want to go to Sections and hopefully bring home the title. We also want to go undefeated in league, and we think that’s possible because of the skilled players we have on the team.”
MEET THE LADY MINERS
Menary is been a big reason for NU’s hot start. The 5-foot, 10-inch, Louisiana Tech University commit leads the team in kills (317), digs (109) and aces (47) this season. She’s also third on the team in blocks (32).
“Her skills have definitely continued to progress, and her leadership skills have really taken on a new level,” said Dudek of Menary. “She supports the other players, she owns her own mistakes and she congratulates her teammates for a good set or good pass that allows her to get a big kill. Not only is she the person we look to as the go-to-person, but she’s also someone that is wholeheartedly bringing the team together.”
In addition to Menary, the Miners feature another strong senior hitter in Emerson Dunbar.
“She’s quiet and has this laid back demeanor to her, but she brings some firepower and she sees the court really well,” said Dudek. “Her arm speed may not be as fast as Faith’s, but she can put the ball down anywhere. She sees where the defense isn’t and puts the ball there. She’s got a great cut shot and can bring the hammer when she needs to.”
Nevada Union also has talented players in Kailee McLaughlin, Kayda Kinch and Ashlyn Franssen who add punch to the offensive attack.
Running the offense this season is Hughes, who has stepped into the setter role seamlessly.
“She does a great job running our free ball plays and our side out plays,’ said Dudek. “She has taken on a leadership role as well. She a quiet person, and she’s turned that around. She knows she needs to talk more and communicate with her team and run the offense.”
Defensively, the Miners have a plethora of talented players, including back row standouts in Gould, Reese Werner and Kiana Spillner.
“(Gould’s) doing a great job,” said Dudek. “She’s our spirit. She’s always happy. She’s always positive with people.”
At the net, NU’s block is led by McLaughlin, who leads the team with 69 total blocks.
“She’s a beast in the middle,” said Dudek. “She has a great vertical and she’s doing a great job.”
The Miners have depth as well with Lydia Moore, Marley Porter, Dani Gil and Delaynee Dunbar making contributions off the bench.
FIGHT FOR THE FVL CROWN
All the talent, teamwork, positivity and cohesion propelled the Lady Miners to an impressive start in FVL play. NU pounded Placer on Monday and upended Oakmont on Wednesday to start 2-0 in league.
“It would be great to get first or second in league,” said Dudek. “It will be a tough road, but I think we have a team that can do it.”
A season ago, Nevada Union went 5-5 in FVL play, finishing third overall behind league champ Ponderosa and runner up Oakmont.
Of the six FVL teams, five entered league play with winning records. As of press time Thursday, Lincoln, Ponderosa, Oakmont and Rio Linda all had records above .500. Placer (3-12) is the lone sub .500 team.
The Miners have a tournament at Oak Ridge this weekend, but get back into league play Monday when they host 2018 league champ Ponderosa at Albert Ali Gymnasium.
DUDEK AT THE HELM
Nevada Union’s girls volleyball program is a revered one. The Miners have seven Sac-Joaquin Section titles to their credit, the last coming in 2008.
Dudek, who led the Miners to the 2008 championship, has continued NU’s tradition of winning since his return. After stepping away after the 2008 season, Dudek returned to lead the program in 2015 and his teams have reached the playoffs each of the last four seasons.
Dudek bolstered the coaching staff this season as well, adding assistant Brad Keethe, who brings 20 years of coaching experience to the staff.
With all the success the Miners have experienced early on this season, Dudek is quick to spread the credit around to his players, noting “It’s a group effort. We can’t do it without every girl on the team.”
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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