Rebuilding a program is never an easy task. One often hears of professional teams rebuilding through a draft or free agency or a college program through recruiting. It can be argued that it is much more difficult to rebuild a program at a public high school, where there is no draft or recruiting from which to pluck top-tier talent.
That's exactly the situation in which the Brookings-Harbor High School volleyball team finds themselves. Having won just one Far West League game in the past two seasons combined, and having lost eight seniors from last year's squad, the Lady Bruins are young and poised to move past previous setbacks.
"I think the problem with last season is that the team had become so accustomed to losing that it was hard to get out of that mentality," said BHHS head coach Samantha Greenlee. "They would have success but the minute it would get difficult after the success they kind of lost it. So we are really instilling in them that volleyball is a game of momentum and that no matter what happened on the last play, good or bad, you have to shake it off and move forward."
That is the focus of the Lady Bruins as they prepare for the 2014 season: communication and mental toughness are key.
"They have the skills and have the talent or else they wouldn't be at the varsity level. If you don't have the communication, none of those things matter because you can't effectively work on a volleyball court with six girls if nobody is talking to each other," said Greenlee.
"I really liked how coach was really disciplined about communication because my previous coaches didn't really establish that as a need," said sophomore setter Ashley Shew, a transfer student from Mission Viejo, California. "We work really hard on team unity here and ours is much stronger than teams I've played on in the past."
Shew, along with junior hitter Mishonne Marks, started practicing with the team this summer after moving to the area. Greenlee has been impressed with their play from the outset.
"They are fantastic additions. They are natural leaders and have a ton of volleyball experience on court," she said. "They are very level-headed and have a consistent level of play."
The Lady Bruins will draw on the experience of seniors Courtney Kay (a three-year varsity starter), Iva Hart and Alyssa Gallian to lead the young team throughout the season.
Greenlee believes that having a team where many of the players didn't suffer through the hardships of the previous two seasons provides a fresh outlook.
"It was a good group of girls last year but I think that mental wall that had been built up was tough to break. With them graduating and moving on we have a bit of a fresher start and have more of an open attitude because the younger players haven't been influenced by the losing," she said.
"We are all in this together and it doesn't matter if you are on or off that day, you are still going to work your hardest and push through it," said Marks, who transferred from the Baton Rouge, Louisiana area. "If everybody is talking and working their hardest it will turn a bad day into a good day. Everybody just comes in with a positive attitude."
That positive attitude is exemplified by their coach, who states, "The girls that we have, I know they can do it. It's just them believing in themselves enough to show it on the court."
The Lady Bruins open their season Aug. 29 at Hidden Valley High School with their first home game against Del Norte High School on Sept. 15.