Sobrato girls volleyball on the upswing

Hailey Jones is excellence personified on and off the court. On the court, she has helped direct the Sobrato High girls volleyball team to another strong season, as the Bulldogs entered the week at 16-10 overall and 8-5 in the Blossom Valley League’s Santa Teresa Division. Off the court, Jones is ranked sixth in the class of 2019 for valedictorian. 

A senior setter, Jones possesses strong leadership skills, something that Bulldogs co-coach Shannon Oberg appreciates. 

“Hailey has been the unifying factor between defense and offense on this young team,” said Oberg, who teams with Kayla Guardino as the Sobrato coaches. “Half of our team is underclassmen, and we needed an incredible leader, which Hailey has been.”

Jones is a multi-faceted threat, able to score points on the front row with her ability to attack. 

“This year I’ve been able to hit and swing from the front row, which has been a big factor,” Jones said. “I’ve also been able to contribute with my serving and setting, which has been essential to our success.”

Despite hearing whispers that she would be taking over a team in transition, Oberg credited the players for raising their games and playing for each other as key to the season. In addition to Jones, Jessica Byrum, Annette Angeles, Saskia Vaillancourt, Natalia Medina, Lizzie Santos, and Dina Mercier have been impact players. Angeles, Jones and Vaillancourt are the three players on the team who play in all six rotations. Angeles, a dynamic sophomore libero, has been downright solid defensively. 

“She’s in the top two in the entire league in digs, and is just a beast in the back row,” Oberg said. “Sobrato is lucky to have her. She’s got really quick reflexes, is athletic and is an incredible attacker from the back row, which we’ve been utilizing. She also has a killer and accurate jump serve, which has been a weapon for the team.”

Speaking of potent serves, Vaillancourt, a sophomore outside hitter, has baffled the opposition with her float serve, which has led to 50-plus service aces. 

“Sometimes her serve is unstoppable, and that has been a huge asset for us,” Oberg said. “She has a consistent swing and has strong velocity as a hitter and also has a standing float serve that is very effective and powerful.”

With two sophomores in the starting lineup, it’s no wonder Oberg feels the Bulldogs will be a contender to win league championships for at least the next couple of years. The Bulldogs have plenty of firepower, with middle blocker Byrum developing into an absolute force. A co-captain along with Jones, the 6-foot-1 Byrum has incredible velocity on her attacks, which has led to her hitting at a high level. 

The team’s other middle, Medina, is a 6-footer and in the top three in league in kills. The junior didn’t get to play on the team last year after injuries prevented her from competing in tryouts. Medina leads the team in kills and has come on strong this season. 

“She’s been a huge asset, which was a bit unexpected,” Oberg said. “She’s been great for us.”

With Sobrato running a 6-2 offense this season, Santos has been a key factor. The junior setter has been consistent and provided strong leadership on the court. Mercier, a sophomore, plays utility and has the highest hitting percentage on the team, at around 50 percent. 

“Which is incredible,” Oberg said. “She’ll be a player to watch in the next couple of years.”

When Oberg took the job, she heard the doubters right away. That is part of the reason why the team came up with the motto, no doubts, providing the theme for the season. 

“The motto no doubts has served a great meaning to the team, pushing us to strive and believe we can overcome any challenge thrown our way,” Jones said. 

“I remember taking the job and hearing people casting doubts on what this team could do,” Oberg said. “That they wouldn’t be able to do much, so we started the year with the hash tag no doubts. As of right now, we have a better record than at this same point from last year.”

Sobrato communicates well on the court, and the players gather for activities off the court, strengthening their bond. 

“Our ability to be cohesive is probably the most prominent factor for us having the success we’re having,” Jones said. “Our team loves the game, and we have a passion and drive to compete. We’ve been able to use our height and hitting to our advantage, and our new libero has stepped up and filled that position, which we really needed.”

In a four-game loss to Leland Monday, the team broke the all-time school record for aces in a season, with Angeles and Vaillancourt both setting individual records for most aces and digs in a season. Angeles is ranked No. 2 in digs in the CCS, while Vaillancourt is ranked No. 9 in the section in aces. 

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