The sounds of volleyballs being whacked over and against the net by energetic student athletes dominated the scene in the Coast Union gym on Friday afternoon, Aug. 18. It was just past 4 p.m. and long-time coach Pam Kenyon was engaged in hands-on mentoring to players learning the proper form and function of a setter.
Due to the “very technical skill” required of setters — and in the absence of last year’s senior setters Gigi Stoothoff and Ahtziri Mora, who graduated — Kenyon is grooming Haley Zinn and Ailyn Casas for that role.
The coach compares the proficiency and leadership level needed for a setter to the skills required by a football quarterback. The other pivotal ability required even before fine-tuning the setter position is quality passing, because “if we can’t get the ball to the setter, then all bets are off,” Kenyon explained.
In a Saturday morning phone interview, the coach was asked which fundamentals are most vital to emphasize — in addition to passing and setting. Of course, it depends on the team, as new seasons bring fresh circumstances for Kenyon.
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“Each year, there’s something new and fun to get across when it comes to the different dynamics of the individuals.”
My math was challenged when I mentioned to Kenyon that she was launching her 26th year of coaching volleyball at Coast Union.
“I think it’s 27 years,” she quickly replied. “I think I started in 1990.”
The coach has earned enormous respect in the community, not just for her longevity, but for her record of achievement in crafting successful teams even when she was not blessed with outstanding talent.
Over the past six years, Kenyon’s teams are 84-38 overall and 36-6 in Coast Valley League play — and have won the CVL each of those years. “The joy of a new group is to see how they handle things and what is going to be the dynamics of that group,” Kenyon explained.
“Some years we’ve played some really tough competition (in preseason) and have taken some whoppers — and it has helped us prepare for postseason and get us in a good space. But sometimes you play that tough competition in the early season and the girls get in a head space that is not beneficial … in the very beginning.”
The joy of a new group is to see how they handle things and what is going to be the dynamics of that group.
Pam Kenyon, Coast Union volleyball coach
But this year, Kenyon has “a really good, competitive group. No matter what happens, we could have some really, really tough competition (in preseason) and they will rise to the occasion and use it to our benefit.”
Asked to offer a forecast of her team’s overall potential, the coach said the team “will do a great job. I anticipate doing well in league. We have a very competitive preseason schedule, and the majority of players are in their second year of playing at the varsity level and that will really be to our benefit.”
Kenyon has only one senior (Kiana Valenzuela, in her first year playing varsity) but is pleased to have four experienced juniors on the team this year.
“All four of the juniors are needed to step up and play big,” she said. Those four — Zinn, Casas, Gaby Cisneros and Karis Lawson – will also benefit from the experience of former Coast standout, Sophie Flemion, who is serving as an assistant.
The first preseason home game for the Lady Broncos is at 6 p.m. on Aug. 29 against Nipomo. Coast Valley League play begins Sept. 21 at home against Shandon.
2017 home matches
Aug. 29 — Nipomo, 6 p.m.
Aug. 31 — Templeton, 6 p.m.
Sept. 5 — Morro Bay, 6 p.m.
Sept. 12 — Dunn School, 5 p.m.
Sept. 16 — Lompoc, Reedley (tournament), TBA
Sept. 21 — Shandon, 5 p.m.
Sept. 26 — Maricopa, 5 p.m.
Oct. 3 — Coastal Christian, 5 p.m.
Oct. 17 — Cuyama Valley, 5 p.m.
Oct. 24 — Valley Christian Academy, 5 p.m.