by Dennis McCall
Taft Midway Driller
Taft College won both of its matches Saturday in a season-opening volleyball round robin held on the Cougar court.
But after the Cougars defeated Allan Hancock of Santa Maria and Cerro Coso of Ridgecrest, both by scores of 3-1, head coach Kanoe Bandy was not smiling.
"We didn't play as well as a team as we should have," she said. "We sure have a lot of work to do on that."
First, it was the season opener and she has a young team that's larger than she's accustomed to – 14 players. That doesn't count the three players who are red-shirting this season.
"I don't think we ever got over the jitters," Bandy said. "We have some excellent, talented players, but they've got to figure out how to play together. It was hard to watch, so we've got some kinks to work out."
Second, everyone was trying hard – maybe too hard.
"They seemed so afraid to make a mistake," she said. "At this point everyone is battling for a position. I wanted to see how they manage their way out of it. They need to figure out how to get out of it."
They'll have a harder time, for sure, when they host another round robin Wednesday – also in the Cougar Sports Center – where the opposition figures to be considerably stronger.
This time northern California powerhouses Sacramento City and Foothill come to town. TC will play Sac City at 2 p.m. to kick things off. After Sacramento and Foothill play at 4 the Cougars will return to the court to finish things off against Foothill.
It will be the season opener for both Sac City and Foothill.
"We know they will be very tough," Bandy said. "Both have been playing together all summer."
Both have huge enrollments and draw plenty of talent from their districts. Taft, on the other hand, is small and rural and must rely on out-of-district athletes to field a team and, therefore, unable to hold a summer sports class like their opponents.
On Saturday TC defeated Hancock 25-13, 25-14, 21-25 and 25-19, then finished the day buy beating Cerro Coso 25-21, 19-25, 25-22 and 25-17.
Sophomore libero Halle Neher, a Taft High product, paced the defense, which kept TC in position to score points. She finished with 27 defensive digs.
Skyler Taumua delivered 18 digs, Madeline Griffith 16, Virgie Salanoa-Sagapolu 15, Nalani Kekuawela 9, Kamalani Kahele and Janell Molina 5 each, Courtnie Perry and Skye Parker 3 apiece and Baillie Jensen 2.
Cougar setter Griffith tossed up 73 assists on the day.