LA volleyball Symon

Emma Symon, with her hands over the net, is the Eagles' leader in blocks this season.

We’ll never know just how good last year’s Los Altos High girls volleyball team would have been if the pandemic hadn’t derailed the season, but Eagles coach Peter Kim can’t dwell on that. He’s too busy trying to turn this season’s less-experienced squad into a contender.

“It’s more of a challenge this year,” he said. “If we had a (complete) season last year, I thought we’d be a very good team. We’ve lost some vital seniors who were on that team. This is a new year, so we’re trying to build and do as well as we can.”

So far, Los Altos is staying above water with an overall record of 11-9 and evened its SCVAL De Anza Division mark at 3-3 with back-to-back wins last week.

And according to Kim, the best is yet to come.

“I don’t think we’ve hit our stride by any means,” he said. “We’re getting better and better.”

The coach is confident that his squad – which includes seven returnees, but also three sophomores new to varsity and a trio of freshmen – is capable of contending in the dynamic De Anza Division and the Central Coast Section playoffs.

“Every year, our goals for the season are to try and compete for the league title and do well in CCS – either win it or qualify for NorCals,” Kim said. “We do have challenges, but I believe on any given night, anyone can beat anyone in our league.”

Playing top teams tough

While the fourth-place Eagles haven’t beaten the teams above them in the league standings – Los Gatos (6-0), Mountain View (5-1) and Palo Alto (4-2) – they did take the Wildcats and Vikings to five sets.

“We’ve had some close ones that could have gone either way,” Kim said. “We’re still searching for that really good win.”

Although Los Altos has been swept twice by rival Mountain View (the first time at the MVLA Tournament the schools co-host), the Spartans are bracing for a tougher match when the teams meet again Tuesday.

“We know that LAHS will be more focused than ever when we travel to their place in October for our second league match,” Mountain View coach Dave Winn said after his team’s Sept. 21 victory. “And of course, there’s the potential that we meet up again in the playoffs. We have such a great rivalry, and every match is intense.”

Intensity and focus are two areas in which Kim would like to see his Eagles improve. He noted that Los Altos had lapses in both last week when it outlasted Homestead and Monta Vista in five sets.

“We need to be more focused and bring energy consistently,” the coach said. “But it’s a long season, and there are going to be points when we’re a little flat. We’re trying to navigate that and get our second wind.”

Dormady’s dominance

Outside hitter Carolyn Dormady has been hitting the ball with the force of a whirlwind. The 6-foot senior has 228 kills – more than twice as many as any of her teammates. Dormady, who recently committed to play for New York University, also has 22 aces, 15 blocks and 132 digs.

“She’s our big hitter,” Kim said. “She enjoys being in that position, our No. 1 hitter, and she’s one of our captains. We definitely highly depend on her. It’s not always fair – we have to diversify our offense and we’re working on it – but without her, it’s harder. She makes the season easier.”

Fellow captain Emma Symon, a 6-foot-2 middle blocker, has played a prominent role as well, with Kim describing her as “our anchor.” The Dartmouth College-bound senior tops the team in blocks (29) and is second in kills (95).

“She’s super competitive,” the coach said. “She brings a huge presence in the front row; not many other middle blockers in the league can stop her when we’re in system and passing well.”

Those passes usually come from starting setters Megan Wong and Kaitlyn Cuppett. Wong, a junior, has a team-high 324 assists and senior Cuppett is second with 179.

“Megan is super consistent and is getting better every year,” Kim said. “Kaitlyn is normally an outside hitter; we worked with her in the summer on setting, and she’s done a great job doing this for the first time.”

Another new starter, right-side hitter Leigh Doyas, has also impressed the coach, who called the senior “a super-hard worker.”

Doyas ranks third on the team in kills (59), just ahead of junior outside hitter Kaitlyn Lee (53).

“We really depend on her to play all the way around,” Kim said of Lee, who has the second-most aces (26) and third-most digs (90) among the Eagles.

Libero Shannon McCabe, a junior, is the team leader in both aces (28) and digs (183).

Kim said the Eagles are also receiving contributions from their young players, such as sophomore middle blocker Clara Graef, a transfer student.

“She has good traits,” he said. “She’s raw, but I like what I’ve seen from her.”

Los Altos visits Gunn 6:45 p.m. Thursday. When the teams met last month, the Eagles eked out a five-set win. After competing in the Aragon Tournament Saturday, Los Altos hosts Mountain View 6:45 p.m. Tuesday.