Girls varsity volleyball face a second chance at playoff action

Alan Ruiz

The Birmingham Charter High School girls varsity volleyball team will face off against Exeter Union High School today, Nov. 9, for their first match in the California Interscholastic Federation’s State Regional Playoffs.  

“We just need to play our best,” Coach LeAnne Bennett-Riley said in an email. “We have worked all season on the skills necessary to be successful. It’s what got us where we are today.”

The Patriots were eliminated from the City Section Championships after a 3-0 loss to the Taft High School Toreadors on Nov. 2. They still get to play in the state regional playoffs against California teams, most of which they did not meet in this year’s regular season. As these playoffs are about to commence, it is time to reflect on the regular season and preview what is to come.  

“I feel like when we play against other teams that are not usually in our division, we play a lot better,” opposite hitter Cheyanne Losino said. “The fact that we don’t know them helps a lot. And I think that we’ll be really aggressive and I think we’ll probably do pretty well.”

Although they did not win any of their matches in the regular season, the Patriots often pushed the matches to a tie-breaking fifth set. Relying on each other to keep the matches alive has united the team, a quality that Bennett-Riley has noticed in her Patriots. 

“The team has been the closest of any teams I’ve coached as the head coach here at Birmingham,” Bennett-Riley said. “They have come together as teammates on and off the court.”

The Patriot’s ability to compete with the top teams landed them the 8th and final spot in Open Division.  Despite the commendable achievement, Bennett-Riley hopes that her team continues working hard to improve.

“What is important is that we improve as a team and show up on a daily basis ready to compete,” Bennett-Riley said.  

This year has brought more relaxed COVID-19 safety regulations in comparison to the 2020 season, allowing athletes to play indoor matches. Team captain and starting middle blocker Naamah Silcott, who has played volleyball for seven years, feels that they are more comfortable playing in the gym.  

“That was a fun challenge during the (2020) season and it kind of worked in our advantage for our team since we did end up winning championships,” Silcott said.  “But playing inside is just something I’ve been used to.”

Bennett-Riley feels confident that her team possesses the ability to perform well in today’s head-to-head matchup against Exeter Union High School near Fresno.

“I am excited for the team to continue to grow and show everyone what they are capable of on the court and why they are a top team in the city section,” Bennett-Riley said.