Scotts Valley girls volleyball head coach Margaret Anderson has been preaching confidence since the beginning of the new season.
It was something extremely important to her, especially in a sport where players can easily lose focus during a match after making a mistake on the court.
“Whatever it is, you have to talk yourself up and believe in yourself,” Anderson said. “Don’t start backing up on the court emotionally, you’re moving forward. I tell the girls if you’re not doing something to the other team, they’re doing something to you.”
The Falcons’ confidence level continues to escalate following a three-set (25-22, 25-16, 31-29) victory over Monte Vista Christian, which was recently bumped up to the Pacific Coast Athletic League Gabilan Division—the top tier of four divisions within the league.
Both teams went deep into the third and deciding set, yet Scotts Valley senior Grace Emanuelson knew they had just enough in the tank to close it out for the non-league win Aug. 30. She finished with 13 kills and a pair of aces for the Falcons, who improved to 4-1.
“The biggest thing we’ve noticed that we’re pretty good at this season is not giving up and pushing to the end to the very last point,” she said.
The Falcons placed fifth in the Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League with a 4-8 record in league play and finished with an 8-16 overall record in 2022. They showed glimpses of that never-give-up attitude throughout last season, helping them qualify for the Central Coast Section Division IV playoffs.
Scotts Valley lost some key seniors from last year’s squad, including Naiya Samios and standout setter Morgan Lipman, who finished with a team-best 287 assists in 2022.
Lipman is now an assistant coach under Anderson and working with several of the underclassmen who are elevating to the varsity level.
Anderson said her new assistant coach is a huge help because the setter position will make a difference this season.
“That’s part of getting the number of kills we need to compete in our league,” Anderson said. “So, we’re working really hard training our setters.”
The Falcons have three options on the net with Emanuelson and senior Natalia Cash leading the way. They also feature a back row attack that will make them strong on the net.
The Falcons were without Emanuelson, who sat out her junior year after she had surgery on her left ACL and patella following an injury as a sophomore during the 2021-22 soccer season.
“That was life changing,” she said. “That was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever been through.”
Emanuelson continued to support her teammates from the sidelines, yet it was difficult for her not being able to participate. Anderson helped through the recovery process and she played a tremendous role in her star player’s return.
“That’s why I’m just really thankful I’m able to play this season,” Emanuelson said. “It’s fun and I’m really, really excited, getting off to a great start.”
Emanuelson is a strong hitter and she’s crafty, using her skills to hit a corner or do a roll shot and can forcibly put the ball down from the outside or the back row.
Cash is also drilling the ball straight down as one of the best middles in the SCCAL, Anderson said.
Cash said there’s definitely a sense of self-assurance in the locker room after beating a top notch opponent in MVC.
“It definitely helps us get better when we play tougher teams,” she said. “In this game when we got down, we pushed ourselves back up and we were like we can do this, we can win.”
Emanuelson and Cash play for Main Beach Volleyball Club based in Santa Cruz, which keeps them occupied during the offseason. Fellow teammates Ava Morrison, Lunden Maeda and Brooklyn Gunderson also play for club teams.
Anderson said the players are all in by showing signs of commitment, such as arriving early to practice and staying late to hone their craft. She’s been moving some pieces around on the court, putting players in different positions and giving everyone some game-time experience.
“We want everyone to play, everyone to feel part of it,” Anderson said. “And I feel really good about that philosophy. It’s preseason right now, I want to get girls in the game.”
Emanuelson said the chemistry between teammates is stronger than ever and they trust each other to be in the right place at the right time.
“One of the most important things is knowing that we can all play a lot of different positions and still succeed in games is really nice,” she said.
Scotts Valley will try to make some noise in a very competitive SCCAL that includes defending league champion Santa Cruz, Soquel and Harbor high schools, which all qualified for CIF NorCal playoffs.
Soquel features UCLA Beach commit Jessie Dueck—a member of USA Volleyball’s National Team Development Program since 2018 and winner of a Junior Volleyball Association’s Best in Beach Award last season. Senior setter Kayla Rhee-Pizano led the Knights to a CCS Division IV title as a sophomore in 2021.
The Falcons begin SCCAL play against Santa Cruz tonight at 7:30pm, followed by a non-league match at St. Francis of Watsonville on Friday at 5:30pm.
Scotts Valley will continue league action against Soquel on Sept. 12 at 7:30pm.
“We’re like the underdogs who have to work harder and show everyone that we can be just as good as them,” Cash said.