The first foundation game of the season, the prelude to the much anticipated start of league play, is less than a month away for Delhi High.
Gone from the Southern Athletic League in 2014 is Turlock Christian High who all but dominated the SAL in recent years, leaving a window open for teams like Delhi who are looking at this season as the opportune time to turn their program around.
For the Hawks, their fresh start began months ago with the introduction of their new head coach Lauren Ruell. Ruell, who coached Livingston High for the past two years, took over a Delhi team who had won only three matches in the past two years.
Those days are long gone according to Ruell, however, as she’s spent the last three months reshaping her team into what she believes will be tough SAL competitors this year.
“I think we’re looking good. We’ve had a drastic improvement from just starting three months ago during summer. They’re super competitive in practice and I think that will transfer over into games,” Ruell said. “I completely broke them down. I went in explaining to them what I expected as a coach and as a program and they decided the very first day that they were going to buy in. They wanted to change the culture of volleyball; they wanted to have that change.”
What did Ruell expect from Delhi’s girls that wasn’t there before? Commitment and a never-quit attitude. In addition to sharpening her team’s on-court skills and basic fundamentals, the first year Hawks coach also had to take a chisel to her team’s mentality as expectations for the squad had been low for some time.
“They would make a mistake and completely shut down, so I kind of had to rebuild the way they took failure. I think they were used to losing; they were kind of expected to lose. So I had to change their mindset,” Ruell said. “I expect them to try their hardest every single practice, even when they’re not having a good day.”
The Hawks look to reap the fruits of their transformative labor by winning at least half of their games, but their true aim is to finish in the top three of league by season’s end.
The upperclassmen trio of Isabelle Barbosa, Veronica Garcia, and Alyssa Stockton will be instrumental in Delhi’s journey to reach its goals as they fill their respective roles of setter, libero, and outside hitter. Sophomores Amandeep Sindhu and Bianca Escondito have been moved up to lend a hand as well.
“I really have high expectations for this group,” Ruell said. “This is my third year as a varsity coach and this is the first team I’ve ever had that have been on the same page, have wanted the same things, and pushed each other.”
With TC out of the picture, Mariposa County and Ripon Christian High are expected to be the toughest league opponents this year.
Delhi’s first official competition will be on the road against Elliot Christian High on Sept. 9.