Sports

Lady Raiders retooled, refocused and ready for season

By Erik Markus
La Habra Journal

The Lady Raiders Volleyball team took steps towards establishing themselves as a threat in Freeway League last season.
Sonora’s finished with  a 6-4 league record, and now look to build on their success.
The Lady Raiders welcome back  two of last season’s stars, Nicole Fraga and Allie Beattie.
This year the hope is  that the duo will be joined by a more balanced and deep supporting cast.
“We have a lot of girls with three, four years varsity experience, highlighted with Nicole Fraga and Allie Beattie,” said Andrew Johnson, Raiders head coach.
Last year Beattie was forced to sit out the first month of the season, due to CIF eligibility rules after transferring from Troy High School.
However it did not take Beattie long to establish herself as one of  the top outside hitters in the league.  Despite only playing 22 sets for the Raiders, her 128 kills was second on the team (Fraga was first). She lead the team averaging nearly 6 kills per set. With her senior season ahead, she is poised to be an impact player for the Raiders.
“It takes a lot of pressure off the girls, with those two girls, there’s a lot that we rely on them, and they have the strong shoulders to carry the load,” Johnson said.
With Beattie sidelined in the first part of last season, Nicole Fraga took on the role of star and leader, guiding her team through the preseason and their first league game.
Incoming senior Fraga lead the Lady Raiders with 291 kills last season and  also established herself as a top outside hitter and versatile player for the Raiders.
The Raiders intend to take their next step with a focus on defense and ball control.
The team has  made defensive technique a point of emphasis in practice, because Johnson believes offense can come easy.
“Defense comes down to effort and wanting to keep that ball alive,” Johnson said.
The Raiders’ improved ball control he expects should speed up their offense so they can move from defense to offense quickly. He has decided to hold off on implementing offensive plays until they get into the season.
The Raiders beat Sunny Hills, Fullerton, and Buena Park, but were unable to get past La Habra and Troy last season. This year Johnson said he expects that to change and the Raiders as a viable threat for a league title.
However, with that as a goal, Johnson continues to keep the players focused on one match at a time.
Johnson has the Lady Raiders focused on bringing a top-notch effort and work ethic, rather than looking over their shoulders at Troy and La Habra.
“As soon as you start looking on the other side of the net and taking away what you need to do, all of a sudden we’re playing catch up,” Johnson said.  “It’s up to them. We want to set the standard by just a good work ethic and making sure we do the things that we do well, and whatever weaknesses we have we cover that in practice.”
Johnson said that the Raiders focus on hard work ethic will help to create  balance. Rather than relying too heavily on Fraga and Beattie, they  intend to find success in their depth.
“Injuries happen and you have to be able to adjust,” Johnson added. “What’s nice is having depth, having girls that can come in off the bench with experience and get the job done.”
An improvement from last year will be by the Raiders’ middle and right hitters, along with an improvement in back row passing.
“We have the ability to be a nice well-rounded team,” Johnson said.
With strong leaders, a large number of returning players and a commitment to continued improvement, Johnson is optimistic for the Lady Raiders’ success this season.
“We’re going to have a really good product to show, out there.”

Started in 1995, the La Habra Journal is an independent community news source serving the cities of La Habra and La Habra Heights.