|Spartans adjust to life without Howard|
|Written by Andy Drukarev - Special to the Town Crier|
|Wednesday, 19 September 2012|
New Mountain View High girls volleyball coach M. Anthony Chen had to overcome a major hurdle when he took over the program this season – the loss of Brittany Howard to graduation.
Howard wasn’t only the best player on last year’s team – she was among the best outside hitters in the country. PrepVolleyball.com ranked her the 12th-best senior in the nation. The four-year varsity starter is now on scholarship at Stanford University.
But Chen, who led the Mountain View boys’ squad to a 31-5 record last spring, hasn’t let Howard’s departure dampen his excitement about this year’s team. He isn’t one to dwell on the past.
“Coming in, my responsibility is to work with the talent that we do have and get them to the point that they can play consistent volleyball,” Chen said. “Every year is a little different with team dynamics, so you appreciate the past but always push forward. And I am very excited about the 2012 Spartans team.”
Chen’s optimism has been validated by the team’s solid start to the season.
Despite facing a challenging early-season schedule – highlighted by their participation in the rigorous Spikefest Tournament – the Spartans entered this week 6-4 and on a four-match winning streak.
“We have a good core of returning players, but we also have four sophomores and a freshman on the team,” Chen said. “So the expectation is to work to get a little bit better every day. If we do that in our effort and execution, we should be where we’d like to be at the end of the season.”
Senior captains Becky Slattery (middle blocker) and Hayley Sturgeon (opposite hitter), along with junior Megan Robinson (setter), are among the team’s notable returning players who have helped carry the team thus far.
Chen said Robinson “brings consistency to the offense,” Sturgeon “has been instrumental in gelling this new team together” and Slattery “leads by her example and passionate play on the court. “
In addition, the trio has played a key role in assisting in the development of the team’s younger players.
“They are the key in the learning curve of this team,” Chen said. “Already, I’ve seen tremendous effort made to bring along the younger players.”
Chen singled out sophomore Maegan Nevalsky and freshman Chanti Holroyd as underclassmen who have made an impact.
“Chanti Holroyd is one of the team’s most consistent passers and remains the most pleasant surprise and addition to the team this year,” he said.
Nevalsky is “an up-and-coming outside hitter who has been pretty consistent in her hitting and passing,” he added.
Mountain View was scheduled to open its Santa Clara Valley Athletic League De Anza Division slate Tuesday (after the Town Crier’s press deadline) against rival Los Altos, and Chen anticipated having all but one player available. He noted that senior defensive specialist Bailey Rogers has been bothered by a lower back injury, but she’s expected to return “within the next few weeks.”
The Spartans are set to host Monta Vista 5:30 p.m. Thursday in another league match.
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