Summit Charter in playoff hunt
The philosophy of the Bears of Summit Charter Collegiate Academy is simple: focus on one play at a time, whether it be in practice or a game.
It's a familiar philosophy in sports but when it comes to the Bears' young volleyball program, it's one that's easy to follow and has led to one of the best seasons in school history.
“We never talked about let's win league or any of that,” SCCA head coach Job Lara said. “We just talked about, let's get better every play in practice. That's what we work on, one play at a time. It's been real simple for us and for a young team, that's the best we can do. Let's just worry about this play.”
And Summit did just that in a 3-0 sweep of Laton in Wednesday's East Sierra League game at home.
They saw some pressure in the first set but carried themselves well to hold off and win 25-14. In the second, they had an eight-point lead at one point then came away with the 25-16 win.
But in the third they were challenged and gave up four straight points to fall behind 11-7. The Bears (4-2 ESL) rallied though, cutting the Mustangs lead to 15-13 before scoring the next five points for an 18-15 lead. From there it was all Summit and they closed the set out with a 25-20 win.
Genesis Torres and Emily Efseaff led the team with seven kills while setter Maryn Cramer finished with 18 assists and two kills. Viktorria Monjaras had 14 digs and three assists. Thalia Vasquez tallied nine aces and nine digs while Ayanna Monjaras also had nine aces.
Both Vasquez and Ayanna Monjaras had stretches of service that accumulated five or more points in a row.
“I think we were pretty consistent all the way through,” Lara said. “Our defense really keeps us in the game. That's our bread and butter, which really sets off our offense. So I liked our consistency tonight. I liked that we served tough, we were more aggressive on the serve, which is something we've been working on. And so it showed tonight.”
On the team's top players, Lara noted, “Thalia Vasquez, has really anchored the wing position along with Viktorria. And Ayanna, have been our defenders big time. Really been aggressive, getting better everyday covering a lot of ground.”
The Bears are made up of mostly underclassmen with just two seniors. Both seniors, Efseaff and Stephanie Uribe have played with Lara since he started three years ago.
“They were here when we were on the short end of it, when we established the culture,” Lara said. The culture is what Lara says holds the team together.
“It's not rules, it's the culture of hard work, competitive excellence and having a perfect response to whatever happens on the court,” he explained.
Along with the culture is a community that has blossomed as it's grown together, leading to what Lara calls a “fabulous” season.
“The season has been fabulous,” Lara said. “Going from eight players two years ago to now 30, and we're actually being able to sweep some teams instead of just one win here, one win there. That's been great. The biggest thing is just the community. They're really a strong volleyball family. They get along really well, really well. I think that's been one of our strength is we work hard together.”
At his sides this season, Lara has also had junior varsity coach Emily Baeza, freshman coach Brandi Rico and varsity assistant coach Chan Jones. This is the first season where there's been a freshman and junior varsity team as well.
“It's really been the coaches that have stepped in — former players of mine — and the players themselves making it fun for other kids to come out,” Lara said. “It (also) helps to win.”
The only goal Summit made this season was to be the best version of themselves by Oct. 19 when they travel to Fresno for the ESL championship tournament.
It's not something they've focused on but success from now until then could earn the program their first trip to the Central Section Division V playoffs.
“We have a chance,” Lara said. “If we continue to compete every play, we have a chance.”