The Shadow Hills High School volleyball team keeps a running tally of each and every accomplishment.
At the start of the season, the two-time defending De Anza League champs created a list of goals, talked about their play-making schemes and put together a call log to plan for practices, games, homework help and get-togethers.
They never need to call or text because this team is always together — on and off the court.
Melissa Walker’s team has lunch together daily, and after each home game, they make it a point to go out to a team dinner — whether it’s fast food drive-thru or pizza.
On Monday night, they compiled another check list, almost reached every one and are ready to turn the page after topping Rancho Mirage 25-11, 25-15, 25-11. It was off to taco night with a 10-1 record with one game to play in the regular season — Wednesday against Desert Hot Springs.
“We decided to make a list before our game because of our loss last Wednesday (to Big Bear, also 10-1),” said senior Evelyn Lopez, the journal holder. “It was a big wake-up call for us. We always say we’re gonna do things and we do some things, but other things we don’t get to. Coach Melissa thought it would be good if we wrote it all down.”
So the team compiled each idea, going around in a circle, jotting down one at a time.
They began with winning in three sets, staying positive, cheering for every point and never giving the Rattlers a lead. They added to play united, minimize serving errors and not letting any balls drop.
They checked off almost every item and are setting their sights — and making another list — for the Golden Eagles.
Against the newest team in the De Anza League, the Knights made it look easy. They showed experience and cohesiveness that the Rattlers couldn’t match.
After streaking to a 25-11 opering victory, the closest Rancho Mirage could come in Game 2 was one point, 10-9. Then it was Shay Mesa and Avi Ortiz on serve, Bethany Castillo (seven kills), Trinity Castenada in the middle, Karla Torres (six kills) and the all-around play of Lopez (19 assists) that shut the door.
Anissa Hernandez also chipped in with three aces.
“They went through a goal list because as of now our focus is every game, but yet going as far as we can in CIF,” said Walker. “We never thought about that. We’re using that Big Bear game as a positive. Everyone knows it hurts, but we’ve gotten over it. Every single set we made sure we were checking things off. We re-read them every set. That’s the way we’re gonna be successful. If we can see them, we can accomplish them.”
By Game 3, with Ortiz (three aces, 20 digs) on serve, the Knights surged thanks to a couple of tips in the middle from Castenada (seven kills) and three service aces made it 11-4 in a hurry.
Rancho Mirage coach Shane Hagar said it was all about experience despite another solid effort from his team of all-underclassmen.
“You can definitely see where their experience plays into their favor,” he said. “I’m so proud of the way my girls keep fighting. They’ve done a lot of great things, lost all but three matches by two or three points, and they know next year will be a whole different story.”
The Rattlers were led by JoMarie Villoria with six kills, Katie Nolan’s 12 digs, five blocks from Kylie Davenport and eight assists from Brooke Topliff.
At 4:30 p.m. Wednesday at Shadow Hills, the Knights go for a third straight De Anza title when they host Desert Hot Springs. Both Shadow Hills and Big Bear stand at 10-1, while the Golden Eagles are 7-4.
If the top teams tie in the final standings, a tiebreaker is sets won to determine the top seed for the CIF playoffs. Big Bear and Shadow Hills split, but the Knights hold the head-to-head advantage in sets, winning the first game 3-0, then dropping the second 3-2.
The last time Shadow Hills faced DHS, it went to five games with the Knights emerging in a 25-18, 25-20, 19-25, 23-25, 15-13 victory.