What happens when 14 girls show cohesion, confidence, a strong work ethic and enthusiasm to learn, grow and excel?
They set up a standout season and advance to the CIF playoffs.
That is the story of Patriot varsity volleyball team this year. "They really played as a team, constantly having each other's back," said Ms. Natalia Gonzalez, Patriot High's volleyball coach. "It's a good bond between the girls. They played as one unit."
That unit (21-8) will square off at home against Jurupa Hills of Fontana (9-14) in Round 1 of the postseason at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 1.
Patriot this year finished 8-2 in league and took second place in the River Valley League. One highlight: The squad defeated La Sierra, handing the Eagles their only league loss and snapping the team's 39-league-game winning streak.
To succeed in the playoffs, Ms. Gonzalez said, the Warriors "just need to keep doing what they have been doing: play together and not as six separate people on the court. And just stay confident under pressure."
She said the players have learned the latter over the course of the season. Some of the squad's losses came in tight games. Thanks to hard work, mutual respect and strong communication, the girls have learned to better withstand high-pressure scenarios and worry only about what they can control, Ms. Gonzalez added.
Indeed, the Patriot team has thrived all around, the coach said: not just on the court, but also in their approach to the craft.
"From Day One, they've had a great work ethic," she said. "They're very good students of the game. They are really open to information and feedback, and eager and responsive to learn whatever the coaches want them to do."
On the court, Ms. Gonzalez said the squad specializes in setting, hitting and defense. For example, "The setter is very smart about picking and mixing up her options, utilizing the right hitters at the right time."
The coach also credited her colleagues, Thea Williams, varsity assistant coach; Stephanie Frasier, junior varsity coach; and Brigitte Heverly, freshman coach, as integral to the program's success.
The net result: The girls' improvement over the course of the season has been phenomenal, Ms. Gonzalez said. "At this point if they make a mistake, they no longer turn to the coaches to see what went wrong. They problem-solve among themselves and make self-corrections."
Such skills will help these 14 girls serve a lot of aces – not just on the court, but also in life.