The 2018 season was one to forget for the Sobrato High boys volleyball team. The Bulldogs didn’t win a single match and finished 0-12 in the Blossom Valley League’s Mount Hamilton Division. It was an even tougher year for Jared Raab, who couldn’t play any sports for 1 ½ years after he suffered a broken back in September 2017. A senior setter, Raab symbolizes Sobrato High’s goal of turning things around.
“I like this year’s team a lot better than last year’s,” said Raub, who attended some of Sobrato’s matches last season. “This year we have people who actually care. Last year I was really worried because we only had one player who was on a club team and practiced out of season. Now we have three or four other kids playing club, and I feel like they’ll put in more effort, and with that effort we’ll be able to win a game or a couple of games at least.”
Despite finishing in last place in the BVAL’s A division in 2018, the Bulldogs didn’t get moved down to the Santa Teresa, the league’s B division. That means they’ll be facing the toughest competition and will be hard-pressed for wins. However, Sobrato has reason for optimism as it returns some talented players, including sophomore middle Seth Iven. Bulldogs coach Daniel Clifton raved about Iven’s physical attributes.
“I’ve played volleyball for 16 years, and this guy can jump higher than I can, and he is a littler shorter than I am at 5-10, 5-11,” Clifton said. “Seth plays all around, passes well and his work ethic is fantastic. His entire game mode and on-court personality is perfect. He’s there to pick the guys up, stay engaged and not let anyone get down on themselves.”
Junior outside hitter Dylan Tran played setter last year but has adjusted to his new position on the team nicely. Athletic and a quick learner, Tran will be one of the team’s top kill leaders throughout the season along with Iven.
“Dylan goes out there and gets it done,” Clifton said. “You only have to explain something to him once and he goes out and executes it.”
Sophomore opposite Ryan Rogers has made tremendous strides since last season. the rest of the roster includes Jason Gallegos, Jonathen He, Justin Hoang, Derek Tran, Jett Asuncion, Gabriel Lopez, Sam Van Rhijn, and Gunnar Vereyken. A potent hitter, Rogers has improved in virtually every facet of the game.
“Last year he was all over the place, so it’s pretty awesome to see how far he’s come,” Clifton said. “The kid has gone from 0 to 100 (mph) just like that. He’s able to hit everything inside the 10-foot line and can really get up and crush the ball now. His passing and general attitude in the game has improved as well. Last year when he made a mistake, you could really see it on his face. Now he knows what he did wrong and moves on to the next play and is able to perform at a high level, which is pretty awesome.”
That’s one way to describe Raab’s return from a broken back, which could have been minimized had he scheduled a doctor’s visit immediately after he injured his back while playing for his club team in September 2017.
“I have a high pain tolerance so I kept on playing on it, which made it a lot worse,” Raab said. “I sat out a week (initially) because I thought it was a bruise, and I kept on playing on it for a month. The pain never went away so I went in and found out the bad news. It basically doubled the amount of time I was out of volleyball. That’s why playing this year is that much more special.”
Raab had to wear a bulky back brace for approximately 18 months before he was able to start slowly on physical therapy. A month or two later, Raab started going to the gym to strength-train before putting himself into open gym volleyball sessions.
“It was some really easy volleyball,” he said. “I just tried to work my way up from there. The open gyms was fun, but a little scary because I still had a lot of muscle problems with my back and was still pretty sore in the same spot of the injury, and it kind of freaked me out again. ”
Raab is far from 100 percent healed; however, he’s simply happy to be on the court and is confident in due time the skills and motor coordination he had before the injury will return. That’s why instead of playing his normal outside hitter position, Raab is the team’s setter.
“I’m still working through some muscle problems, but I’m at the later end points of physical therapy,” he said. “Once that’s done, I’ll probably be able to open up a little more to hitting.”
Clifton is happy to have Raab back on the court, noting the senior’s enthusiasm for the game and positive attitude.
“It’s awesome to see him play again and see what he’s capable of doing at setter,” Clifton said. “He always has a great attitude and is encouraging other players.”
Two years ago, Raab got to play with his older brother, Payton, who was the setter on the team that finished 9-3 in the Mount Hamilton Division. Payton was someone who Jared could look up to and emulate.
“My brother was someone I could look up to and model myself after in terms of trying to get better,” he said.