Scotts Valley senior Morgan Lipman, No. 7, and junior Natalia Cash, No. 15, will try to lead the Falcons' girls' volleyball team to a top-3 finish in the SCCAL standings this season. (Juan Reyes/Press Banner)

Scotts Valley senior Morgan Lipman and the Falcons girls’ volleyball team have some lofty goals this season, including at least a top-3 finish in the Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League standings. 

But the start of league play didn’t go as planned after a three-set loss (25-22, 25-22, 25-23) to Santa Cruz High on Tuesday evening. 

Despite the rocky start, the Falcons’ team captain said they hung around the entire match and gave the Cardinals a run for their money. 

“We knew what we were up against,” Lipman said. “We battled with Santa Cruz last year except this year was a much closer match. We worked a lot with each other, it was more unity than we’ve ever had before.” 

The Falcons got off to fast starts by building the lead in all three sets, only to watch it disappear due to minor mistakes such as unforced errors and players not calling for the ball.

“I feel like we’re either very on or we’re very off,” Lipman said. “We’re working on staying very on. When we have the energy, we are sparkling, out of this world crazy kills.” 

With the loss, Scotts Valley drops to 0-1 in league play and are 2-4 overall. Lipman said the goal from here on out is to keep the energy up even when they lose the point. 

“Keep battling through and we can get it,” she said.

Scotts Valley coach Margaret Anderson believes that Lipman is one of the best setters in the SCCAL and an amazing all-around player on the court. 

Apart from losing Tuesday’s league opener, the Falcons are missing senior outside hitter Hannah Fleming, a UCLA beach volleyball recruit, after she transferred to Santa Cruz. 

They also lost team captain Grace Emanuelson, a junior, who is recovering from ACL surgery but is hoping to join mid-season.

It was a big blow for Anderson but she managed to fill the void with hitters who are getting kills along the net. 

Anderson said the ball is getting distributed around and they’re not relying just on one hitter. 

“Everyone had to step up because they’re all more important, right?,” she said. “Losing Hannah [Fleming] was a big deal, and Grace [Emanuelson].”

Junior middle blocker Natalia Cash has been a strong presence on the net and senior outside hitter Chiara Benoit is contributing all around.  

Lipman said teaming up once again with Cash and Benoit is helpful because she believes last year’s group wasn’t as tight knit.

“This year, we’re all friends, we work together well,” Lipman said.

The Falcons finished fourth in the SCCAL standings with a 5-6 record and 10-12 overall in 2021. They qualified for the Central Coast Section Division IV playoffs and lost to Soquel in the quarterfinals.

 As a setter, Lipman said she definitely feels like the “quarterback”, making sure that plays are flowing and everything is working together. 

Lipman also enjoys the role because there’s times when it’s her job to lift her teammates’ spirits. Especially when they had just eight players show up for tryouts.

“We knew that we had to work together way more than we ever have before just because we had such a limited amount of people,” she said. “This year we’ve just been able to focus a lot on endurance and just a lot with communication to better help us.” 

Scotts Valley also has a new 6-foot outside hitter in freshman Hayden Smith, who has slowly become a strong hitter and complementary shot blocker.  

Anderson said Smith’s movement, understanding of the game and mental ability to be at this speed will make her stock rise as a player. 

“She’s going to be unstoppable on the net when she’s healthy and gets some varsity experience under her belt,” Anderson said. “You can see she’s already got the finesse, her passing. She is just a gifted volleyball player.”

Lipman said the players still have much more to gain and know what to work on in the coming weeks as the season continues. 

“We know that we have things to work on so we’re just gonna keep fighting,” she said.

Lipman, who plays with the Main Beach Volleyball Club, is friends with a lot of the players within the SCCAL. She knows what they have to give and their weaknesses, yet, it’s still going to be a battle given the amount of great players within the league. 

“But I know that our team has so much talent and I think this year we can be in the top-3,” Lipman said

Anderson said Santa Cruz and Soquel will always be a tough battle, but there’s also Harbor, Aptos, Mount Madonna and San Lorenzo Valley to deal with. 

Her goal is also to at least finish third in the league standings, maybe higher.

“Seeing this match tonight proved that to us, it’s anybody’s game,” Anderson said. 

This year’s flock of Falcons has put in the commitment to excellence and continues to perfect things to be the best that they can be together, Anderson said. 

“This team is committed to each other, to the game, to be the best that they can be and I can’t wait to see how the season goes for our Scotts Valley girls,” she said.

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A Watsonville native who has a passion for local sports and loves his community. A Watsonville High, Cabrillo College, San Jose State University and UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism alumnus, he primarily covers high school athletics, Cabrillo College athletics, various youth sports in the Pajaro Valley and the Santa Cruz Warriors. Juan is also a video game enthusiast, part-time chef (at home), explorer and a sports junkie. Coaches and athletic directors are encouraged to report scores HERE.


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