2011-08-25 / Sports

La Reina volleyball team embraces expectations

By Eliav Appelbaum

TRACKING THE BALL—La Reina senior Alexa Poulton gets low to dig a shot during practice. 
RICHARD GILLARD/Acorn Newspapers TRACKING THE BALL—La Reina senior Alexa Poulton gets low to dig a shot during practice. RICHARD GILLARD/Acorn Newspapers The Regents have a good thing going.

La Reina’s volleyball team has secured 17 league titles in 18 seasons, including a dominating run last fall. The girls are gearing up for another stellar season.

The volleyball powerhouse returns a potent lineup featuring one of the best outside hitters in California, if not the nation; middle blockers who tower above the opposition at 6-foot-5 and 6-foot- 3, respectively; and a veteran head coach who assembles the puzzle pieces to produce masterpieces year after year.

Yes, La Reina has all the ingredients for another special season.

“It’s a fresh start,” said Annalisa Chesser, a 6-foot-3 junior middle blocker.

“We try to do the best we can every year with what we have.”

The Regents are all about the team.

“The sum part is better than individual parts,” said head coach Don Hyatt, a member of the Ventura County Sports Hall of Fame.

Players became closer during a weeklong Hawaii trip earlier this month.

“Half the team is new players,” Chesser said. “It was a chance for all of us to get to know each other well.

“Everyone works well together. We communicate with each other. We’re really close and united.”

Chesser is a smart, tough blocker who plays up to her size, Hyatt said.

Although she’s strengthening her knee, Chesser should be ready to go for the season-opening San Luis Obispo Tournament Sept. 9 and 10.

La Reina can always count on Katherine Workman.

The senior outside hitter was named to the All-CIF secondteam last year, and she’s shared the Tri-Valley League’s MVP award the past two seasons.

She’s 32 kills away from breaking Jennifer Ryan’s school career record, according to Hyatt.

This summer, Workman won a gold medal at the USA Volleyball Girls’ Junior National Championships in Atlanta.

The superstar helped her Sports Shack club of Beverly Hills prevail in the 18 open division.

Workman said she likes how this team, which has worked out consistently the past four weeks, is coming together.

“Personality-wise, everyone gets along really well,” said Workman, who has verbally committed to Boston College.

“ We have a lot of good all-around athletes who can play multiple positions.”

Workman said she’s improved by spending the offseason playing against bigger and stronger athletes and learning how to dish kills against taller blockers.

She is a great player befitting a great program. She makes difficult plays look easy.

“Players like her don’t come around very often,” Hyatt said of Workman.

“To use a baseball analogy, she’s like a five-tool player.”

Jami Fido, a four-year varsity veteran, has recovered from a torn left ACL. She suffered the injury the day after La Reina’s season ended in the section quarterfinals.

“She’s really tough,” Hyatt said of Fido. “The kid’s focused and driven. She did everything to get ready for this season.”

Fido is eager to see how the Regents fare.

“I’m looking forward to coming together with the team,” she said, “and developing stronger friendships.”

Fido said she tries to set a positive example for the younger student-athletes.

A painter and drawer, Fido is considering playing volleyball at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco.

Laura Leap has made a giant leap—pun intended.

The 6-foot-5 sophomore middle blocker spent most of her time riding the bench last year.

Now she’s going to start and wreak havoc at the net.

Leap said her freshman campaign on varsity was important in her development.

“Practices were very beneficial,” she said. “I had to play up with the older girls.”

Leap is stronger and her lateral quickness has improved. She’s incorporated weight lifting into her training.

She’s ready for prime time.

“I want to help the team go get a CIF championship,” said Leap, an honors student.

“We want to try to make it as far as we can and do our best.”

La Reina won a section crown in 2000.

Senior setter Mary Clyne hopes to set the ball to her terrific front-row hitters.

“They make it easy for me to spread the offense,” Clyne said. “I have so many options to set.”

Clyne, a sprinter and high jumper for the track and field squad, enjoys the camaraderie the team’s developing.

“They’re all such great girls,” she said. “I just like adding what I can to the team.”

Of course, it helps having Hyatt steer the galleon.

“Mr. Hyatt is a very good coach,” Clyne said.

“He really knows the game. And he knows us and how to help us the best he can.”

Clyne is battling for the starting setter role with Mira Costa transfer Mary Anselmo.

Anselmo, a dynamic and talented sophomore, could shift over to libero.

Alexa Poulton will likely start at opposite, but the 5-foot-11 senior could easily patrol middle blocker as well.

Hyatt has also been favorably impressed with Ally Curry, a junior outside hitter/opposite.

Morgan Simcik, Tiara Cox, Dani Curry, Michelle Zins and Braylyn Blaise complete the varsity roster.

Emily Robbins, Kathy Blaise and Edgar Smith are coaches.

“It could be a pretty special year,” Hyatt said.

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