“It’s going to be an interesting year,” Elliott said.
As one of two returners, junior Cuadra Nina’s experience is going to be heavily utilized. The middle blocker will also be handed the assignment of playing the back row occasionally. Sophomore setter Perla Cordova is Sparks’ only other returner. She will give her first go at setting. Nina and Cordova were both honorable mention selections is 2012.
Maricar Diaz is the lone senior on the roster.
Last season, Sparks sneaked into the playoffs as the sixth seed before losing to Truckee in the first round. With a reconfigured nine-team league and only the top four teams making to the postseason, combined with the inexperience, a return trip to the playoffs is no short order.
“Playoffs this year is going to be hard for us,” Elliott said.
With so many new faces on the court this year, Elliott said her main task has been trying to get the group’s raw talent to mesh.
“I’m trying to teach them to be court smart,” Elliott said. “We’re known not to be very tall players. We’re known for our defensive skills.”
As the most seasoned returner, it is no surprise Nina has emerged as the team’s leader and has already been selected the team captain.
“She already shows leadership on the court and steps up. She’s playing all the way around so right there, that’s a leader,” Elliott said.
Despite the team’s youth and inexperience, Elliott still has high expectations for several of her newcomers, particularly her libero Louwaine Trinidad.
“She’s already showing leadership on the court, she’s diving all over the place to get balls up,” Elliott said.
The Railroaders coach also specifically mentioned sophomore outside hitter Marissa Coleman. Elliott said she believes Coleman will “probably” become one of the team’s captains once the 2013 season has run its course.
“I kind of look to her for a lot of things on the court … She talks really good, has really strong hits and is very teachable,” Elliott said.
What her team lacks in experience, Elliott hopes it will make up for with passing, serving and grit.
“Passing and serving would be our biggest thing. We’re always scrappy. We always have heart.”
Sparks’ offseason workouts and training were limited because of work being done to the SHS gym over the summer, forcing players to The Marina to get work in. Throw in the recent 'smoke-alypse' which forced the team to share the gym with the outdoor sports, and the volleyball team has had a rough go getting into its own gym.
Left out of the Reed and Spanish Springs rivalry, Elliott said Fernley is likely the closest thing to a rival for her team but couldn’t think of an exact reason.
“I don’t know why. It’s just something we have always had with them. They’re a great school and they’re going to be one of the top teams this year, so it’s going to be a tough one.”
Elliott, a Wells native, wouldn’t call Elko and Spring Creek a rival but said she enjoys playing in front of her family and that she has cousins on both teams.
“We love beating them.”
Elliott was not shy saying the season is going to be unique for her 2013 group. The uniqueness is scheduled to start Wednesday, playing host to Wooster.