Photo By: Edmond kwong/Special to the Town Crier
Los Altos resident Casey Carroll, a junior, starts at outside hitter for Homestead High.
The defining match of Homestead High’s volleyball season may prove to be one the team lost. The visiting Mustangs took vaunted St. Francis to five games Sept. 27 in non-league play.
Outside hitter Casey Carroll, one of three Los Altos residents playing for Homestead, described the match as “the highlight of the season so far.” Nearly upsetting the reigning Central Coast Section Division II champs showed the Mustangs what they are capable of, according to the junior.
“We all contributed as a team – Sarah Edmonds with a block, Emily Reed with her normal killer swings and the bench was out-cheering the St. Francis crowd,” Carroll said. “The game really woke us up to the fact that we are a good team and how good we could really be if we worked hard and executed during the games.”
Since then, Homestead has won five out of six matches to begin its Santa Clara Valley Athletic League De Anza Division slate. Of those wins, coach Gary Carroll (Casey’s dad) said he is most proud of the four-game decision at Los Gatos Oct. 2. The Mustangs not only toppled a team that was undefeated in league and had lost just once all season, but they did so on a night on which it felt like “150 degrees in the gym,” according to the coach.
That victory, coupled with Thursday’s home sweep of Gunn, enabled Homestead to enter this week tied with Los Gatos for second place in the daunting De Anza Division. The Mustangs’ lone league loss occurred at first-place Palo Alto (6-0) in a Sept. 20 match that spanned four games.
“Our league is really tough, and there are a lot of good teams,” Casey said, “but I think the winner of league will come down to Palo Alto, Los Gatos and us.”
Homestead, sporting a 12-5 overall record, is slated for a rematch with Palo Alto 6:45 p.m. Thursday. But the Mustangs will again have to hit the road to face the defending league champs; a college fair is planned in the Homestead gym that evening.
Homestead scheduled a whopping 24 matches away from home this year – and not by accident.
“We know it is going to be a fight every night in our league, so we are preparing for this by playing only six games in our gym,” coach Carroll said. “We are learning to win whenever, wherever and (against) whomever we play.”
While a league title would be nice, the Mustangs seek an even bigger prize. When asked about his goals for the season, coach Carroll answered, “another CCS championship.” The Mustangs last won the Central Coast Section Division I title in 2008, when the coach’s older daughter, Tori Carroll, started at outside hitter.
Casey hopes it’s her turn now. The third-year starter is confident Homestead has what it takes to make a run at the coveted crown.
“This team has a chance to go as far as we want to,” she said. “As long as we keep working hard, we have a chance to go all the way.”
The 6-foot-1 Carroll is part of a trio of tremendous outside hitters – with 5-10 Reed (a senior) and 5-9 Morgan Robinson (junior) – capable of making more kills in an hour than a can of Raid.
“We have arguably the three best pin hitters in our league,” coach Carroll said. “The three keep other coaches busy trying to figure out how to stop them.”
He has nicknames for all three players: Reed is “ER” for her ability to crush the ball (“If you are not paying attention, you will get hurt.”); Casey is “The Surgeon” for her efficiency as a hitter and her smarts (“She has an IQ off the charts.”); and Robinson is “Flash” for having the quickest jump and arm swing (“She will beat the block by just being faster than you.”).
Edmonds often sets them up for points. The coach said the senior is “a very good libero who has embraced the setter role because we need her there – she is why we win.”
Several other girls are contributing to the cause as well, according to coach Carroll.
He called libero Allison Inanoria “a diamond in the rough” who “exemplifies what hard work can do.” The junior tops the team in serve-receive passing.
Senior defensive specialist Dee Okuno comes off the bench to provide “comfort and maturity to the girls on the court,” he said.
Senior reserve outside hitter Caitlyn Wong, a standout soccer player, “really makes us better at practice every day just by competing hard,” the coach said.
The team’s starting middle blockers – the 5-11 Katie Barker and 5-9 Connor Bunka – are sophomores “both playing out of position but selflessly make our team better (with their) blocking and serving,” coach Carroll said. Barker and Olivia Poulos, a backup setter/defensive specialist, both live in Los Altos.