CEDAR CITY – The Canyon View volleyball team heads into the 2014 season with mixed emotions.
On one hand, there is the team that finished the last three seasons without a win in Region 9 and enters this year as a genuine underdog against a field of competition that will be just as tough, if not tougher than 2013, which saw two teams from the region face off for the state title.
On the other hand, there are dedicated players who want to win and are out to shed the underdog image.
“I think we can be as competitive as we want to be,” said Canyon View senior Nicole Hopkins, who returns to the team with her twin sister, Ashley. “We push ourselves to the limit, and we know who our competition is, so we know what we need to work on.”
With final team rosters still not set, the Falcons have plenty to work on before the season starts on Aug. 28.
“We’re not the tallest team so we have to play smart and be scrappy,” Ashley said. “We know what we need to bring into the game.”
Head coach Tasi Malufau said he is doing his best to get things going in the right direction.
“I try to keep it easy and focus on fundamentals all the time,” he said. “They’re getting better and better every day.”
Malufau said he helps the girls keep a positive mindset with a coaching philosophy that focuses on getting them to enjoy the game.
“When I played, I had coaches who made it fun,” Malufau said. “That’s what I try to do. Kids are kids and they’re going to make mistakes; you just can’t dwell on it. I want them to learn and play.”
The girls focused on the team’s strong points as they described how ready they are to be better.
“We all work really hard and we bond well together,” Nicole said. “We all know that giving our best is really important to the team, as well as picking each other up and just being there for each other. Everyone has heart and we all know how to work together.”
The twins have the advantage not only of playing together, but add something to the game with the way they communicate on the court.
“Playing together is definitely a positive,” Nicole said, “especially in game situations. We know each others strengths and weaknesses, so we always push each other to be better every day.”
Having Malufau at the helm doesn’t hurt either.
He’s been coaching since 1982 and, along with his experience, he has a knack for keeping the girls motivated by keeping everyone involved.
“(Coach) definitely keeps it positive,” Nicole said. “He makes sure that everyone knows they have a part on the team.”
It’s going to take a lot of effort and teamwork to make a statement in Region 9, and the girls know exactly what they look for in a good teammate.
“We want people who aren’t afraid to get on the floor, people who know they have to give 110 percent all the time if they want to win,” Ashley said.
Canyon View starts the season with a pair of home game — the opener against Panguitch on Aug. 28, followed by a contest against Beaver on Sept. 2 — before starting region play at home against Snow Canyon on Sept. 4.
Of the remaining 12 games, the Falcons will see their home court five times, the last against Pine View on Oct. 21 before the season finale at Desert Hills on Oct. 23.
The girls said they know their season will be tough, but if nothing else, one thing will make it all worthwhile.
“If we can win a region game, this season will be a success,” Ashley said. “That’s our goal right now. We’re just going to play one game at a time.”