Lady Trojans should again be one of top teams

By: Matt Long
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It’s unlikely that Oak Ridge High’s varsity girls’ volleyball team will duplicate last year’s 41-4 record, not because they’re not good enough, but just because it’s difficult for everything to go a team’s way two years in a row. The Lady Trojans have plenty of firepower returning from last year’s squad, including Sierra Valley Conference all-league outside hitters Kayla Berringer and Katie Vaughn and setter Brittney Larsen. Those three alone will cause opposing head coaches to lose some sleep a day before facing the Trojans. Berringer, a 6’2” senior, is headed to the University of North Carolina on a scholarship next fall, and should be, according to coach Becky Potter, one of the top seniors, if not the top senior, in the Sacramento area. “Kayla is definitely the one on our team to watch,” Potter said. “She is hitting the ball higher than anyone and is hitting over any block. She’s really stepped into a leadership role and is doing a great job in that area.” Vaughn, a junior, is an inch taller than Berringer and can swing with the best hitters in the area. “Katie just fires away,” Potter said. “She’s also improved her game in the backcourt and even though she’s long she can get to a lot of balls. She also gets along well with the four seniors and that just helps us even more.” By setting regularly to Berringer and Vaughn, Larsen, a senior, should put up some impressive statistics. Her job is to run the offense and control the match, much like she did last year. Larsen also has found great chemistry with 5’11” senior middle blocker Sara Horning, which will make the Trojan offense run even smoother. “Sara’s a tiny little thing for her position, but she packs a huge punch,” Potter said. The two new starters to the lineup include senior Lena Buckendorf and sophomore Alexa Becker. It’s an understatement to say they’ve got some big shoes to fill. Buckendorf replaces right side Kaleigh Durket, who was one of the top players in the Sacramento area last year and is on a volleyball scholarship to Colgate University. Perhaps most importantly, she was the team’s go-to player, a role that someone will have to step up and fill, Buckendorf or someone else, if the team hopes to come close to duplicating last year’s success. Becker, a libero, replaces Sammi Bentovoja, who on top of playing her position as well as anyone, filled a big leadership role on the team. Potter is confident in both girls’ ability to do their jobs. “Lena already has a huge swing that came from nowhere out of the club season and she’s been great,” Potter said. “Alexa is a natural libero and the transition from Sammi to her has been smooth.” Among the players not in the starting lineup, Potter feels 6’0” sophomore middle blocker Haley Simmons will have the biggest impact. While Simmons didn’t get a lot of playing time last season, she will get an opportunity this year. “She’s going to surprise some people, Potter said. Senior Kirsten Burkland (5’10”) and junior Hayley Padua-Dean (5’10”) provide depth on the right side, while freshman Mysha Davies (5’10”) is an outside hitter. Sophomore Nikki Haggard is a back-up to Larsen at setter, while freshman Maddie Chambliss plays behind Becker at libero. Two concerns Potter had coming into the season were who would take the leadership role and who would replace Durket as the team’s go-to player. Just three weeks into practice, Berringer and Larsen, among others, have put Potter to ease by providing strong team leadership. While she knows she got some top hitters in Berringer and Vaughn, she said it remains to be seen who will turn into the team’s go-to player in crunch time. “I’ve got a really calm feeling about this team, a neat vibe,” Potter said. “I think we can still win the league and the section. What’s nice this year is that we start off against tougher teams and I think that will help us. We play in the Archbishop Mitty Tournament Sept. 18-19 and even if we go 0-4, it’s going to help us.”