Rancho Mirage High School junior Katie Nolan made a distinct comparison following the one-year transition in her volleyball team.
“It’s like going from toddlers to teenagers,” she said of the vast improvement of her Rattlers’ squad after the school opened their doors for freshmen and sophomores in 2013.
A year later, the newest school in the De Anza League is moving to the varsity level, and Nolan says her team is ready to compete.
“It’s really that much of a difference,” said Nolan. “Some players couldn’t pass the ball and some were hitting it with their fist, now it’s almost effortless. We’re small and mighty, but we’re gonna be good passers because we’re low to the ground. We’ll keep the ball in play.
“We want to be more successful than last year, and that makes us want to do more.”
Sophomore Jomarie Viloria was one of those players who was just starting out, but she’s progressed into one of the more athletic on the team under veteran coach Shane Hagar.
“I could not hit the ball, and now I can smash it,” she said. “I wasn’t as athletic, but working with the coaches, I can really hit. So this really gets me pumped up because I’m such a competitive person. I can’t wait.”
The Rattlers are ready to embark with all fall sports starting with the first varsity football game Aug. 29. The rest of the sports kick off in mid-September. All will compete in the De Anza League with the exception of water polo, which will remain freelance as each school in the league does not offer water polo.
Golf coach David Curtis hopes for more players this year to build a program that will play its home matches at the Westin Mission Hills Gary Player or Pete Dye courses.
“It’s a great opportunity for them, especially in the second year, to have a varsity program,” Curtis said. “The skill level is proving that we can compete, and the kids are putting in the hard work to get there.”
Sophomore golfer Kylie Maxfield added that with no clear favorite in the league, the opportunity is there for the Rattlers.
“I’ve never heard of who the best team is all the time, so it would be amazing if we could go for a title in the first year,” she said.
Junior Rue Mann IV is excited to help lead the Rattlers’ football team in their first game against non-league opponent Coachella Valley.
“Stepping out there for the first time, there will be excitement,” he said. “I’m sure we’ll be nervous, but once the first hit happens, the butterflies will go away. We’re just all excited to be able to step up to the next level.”
Teammate Tyrell Robinson added that the Rattlers have a chance to prove themselves, but with small numbers (the school has just ninth, 10th and 11th graders), many of the players will play both ways.
“We have a chance to prove to a lot of people that we can win,” he said. “A lot of people think we won’t win, don’t expect us to do a lot, but we think we can.”
In tennis, sophomore Alondra Ponce is prepping to compete against the veterans of the league. She says she’s up for the challenge and expects a full squad, plus reserves, this year.
“I’m extremely excited to be able to play against upperclassmen,” she said. “Last year we had seven girls, but we’ll have more this year, and I think we’ll be right up there. That’s what I’m hoping.”