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Cougars coach: 'We have to move on'
by Dan Eckles
Aug 28, 2013 | 1921 views | 0 0 comments | 19 19 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune photo by John Byrne - Spanish Springs volleyball coach Frank Sandomenico enters his sixth season at the helm of the Cougars' program after leading his SSHS spikers to a state title last fall.
Tribune photo by John Byrne - Spanish Springs volleyball coach Frank Sandomenico enters his sixth season at the helm of the Cougars' program after leading his SSHS spikers to a state title last fall.
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Tribune photo by John Byrne - SSHS libero Brandi Brucato is back for her senior season after earning all-league honors last fall. In the adjacent photo, Brucato was busy diving on the floor to get up a dig during the Cougar's workout Tuesday afternoon.
Tribune photo by John Byrne - SSHS libero Brandi Brucato is back for her senior season after earning all-league honors last fall. In the adjacent photo, Brucato was busy diving on the floor to get up a dig during the Cougar's workout Tuesday afternoon.
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Spanish Springs volleyball coach Frank Sandomenico and his Cougars got to experience a high that not many prep teams are fortunate enough to earn. They put together a fairy tale season in 2012 and captured the first volleyball state championship in school history.

Seven players return from that state championship team and four of those saw lots of court time. Sandomenico said it was a great experience and fun ride last fall, but he's also the first to admit it's time to focus on the future.

Spanish Springs begins a new fall campaign with a season-opening trek to the southern half of the state where it will play in the Las Vegas Invitational Friday and Saturday.

"We're definitely excited," said Sandomenico, who is entering his sixth season at the helm of the Cougars' program. "It's hard to move on for the girls that were a part of it last year, but they must adjust to new teammates. They can be happy that last year happened and at the same time, we have to move on. That's easier said than done. We have all got some great memories, but now we've got a new season we must take care of."

While the Cougars' coach wants to turn the page on last year, he admits winning a state championship brings plenty more benefits than just fun memories.

"Immediately, you look at the girls playing a lot for us this year, who were in large part just practice players last year, being around that level of play last year made them better," Sandomenico said. "We had girls, who didn't play a lot last year, who I feel will be ready to go now. That's the immediate impact of winning a state title, but in the long term, it puts volleyball here in a good light. It's a sport kids want to play and hopefully those kids try to keep the expectations high and follow through."

Sandomenico said his expectations, and those of his players, are high for this fall as well, despite the loss of five 2012 seniors, which included two-time North player of the year Lyndsey Anderson. The SSHS skipper said his team wants to win the High Desert League for a second straight season, adding that if the Cougars do that, a lot will take care of itself.

"Our expectations are the same as they've been going into the last three years," Sandomenico said. "We've gone into the season and our goal is to win our league. Last year, we had high expectations, but still the one goal we had as a team was to win the league. When you do that, you put yourself in a good spot. It makes your playoff road easier. We've got a tough league, but that's still our goal, to win it. That's what it starts with. If you set your goals higher or further along, that's not a good idea."

So is that goal of winning an HDL crown realistic?

"Absolutely," Sandomenico said. "We expect Reed to always be tough. McQueen should be a lot better this year. Reno lost a lot of height, but it's always competitive. It will always come down to those teams at the end, and with not lot of games separating us. It will probably be fairly close."

Spanish Springs returns middle blocker Gabby Szachara, libero Brandi Brucato and setter/outside hitter Hannah Meadows to handle leadership roles. Each member of that trio earned all-league honors last fall and is expected to have a strong season again.

Seniors Bayley Broadwater, Madison McCusker, Sadye Roulund and Tayler Lodge all return with varsity experience as well.

The SSHS spikers got some bad news last month when senior Myrissa Prince, a three-year varsity letter winner in volleyball, basketball and softball, suffered a torn ACL and was lost for the season.

"This was going to be her year," Sandomenico said of Prince. "She had played behind (all-league hitters) Melly Munley and Rachel Loadholt for three years, so this really was her year. She had looked great in the summer too. We feel bad for her, but yet from the team standpoint, no one is going to hold a pity party for us after winning a state championship."

In recent years, Spanish Springs had run a nontraditional offense, utilizing two setters to get the most production out of Anderson, who is now playing college volleyball at Nevada. Sandomenico said despite the graduation of Anderson, his team will likely run a similar set.

"We've really created our rotations based around the talent of our players, working on their strengths and hiding their weaknesses. We're running a modified 6-2 (offense). Our rotations are not traditional. The kids are in different spots but it's gone well and we think it puts our kids in the best spots to help us."

If there's an area of concern for Cougars coaches heading into the new season, it's defense and passing. Still, Sandomenico said those are two areas that improve with timing and rhythm, so he fully expects his players to improve in those areas as they get more court time in practice and in games.

"Just like last year at this time, we're not a great defensive team, but that takes lots of film work for the kids to buy into it and see what they're doing," Sandomenico said. "We just don't have a lot of film yet, but we expect that to become a strength. along those same lines is ball control in general. It's something you have to work on every day, but my expectation is those areas will get better over time. Some of those things take the course of a season."

In addition to the talented core of returning players, Ally Batastini, Kate Castro, M'Kinna Mullen, Sami Szachara, Alyx Penrod, Tori Chelini and Kelsie Merritt are the newcomers that comprise the rest of the SSHS roster.

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