After missing all of the 2020 season, the Calaveras High School volleyball team didn’t show any signs of rust. Under first-year head coach Rebecca Conley, Calaveras posted an overall record of 20-12 and went 10-5 in the Mother Lode League.
The 2021 Calaveras squad finished the season with an impressive home win over Bret Harte and as the No. 6 seed in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV playoffs, beat No. 11 Hughson in the opening round. Calaveras’ season ended in a 3-1 loss on the road to No. 3 Ripon.
“I think the season was great,” Conley said. “I love the program, and I’m really happy to be back. It was really nice to get to know these girls, and we’ve got a really good group of girls who go to Calaveras. Just to see the progression from them from the very beginning was great to see every single game.”
As the season progressed, Conley changed the way she coached. After missing an entire year of volleyball, Conley wanted her players to essentially start from the beginning and grow from there. Later in the season, Conley was able to teach her team new techniques and strategies, which helped them down the stretch.
“At the beginning of the season, I was definitely focusing on the little technical things,” Conley said. “We were trying to play catch up because we didn’t have a season last year. Toward the end of the season, I was able to focus on more strategy and teach them crossing plays and more intricate things because we had the basics down.”
When Conley accepted the job over the summer, she didn’t know any of her players, nor did she know what their skills were. Now, after being around the program for a year, Conley feels that come 2022, they will be able to start faster as she already has an idea of what each player can do.
“It should be easier at the start of the season after we build our team,” Conley said. “We’ll know the strengths and what needs to be fixed, and we can tackle that right away. We’ll be more efficient in our preseason by getting those things done, rather than the honeymoon phase where we are getting to know each other.”
Calaveras finished the 2021 season in third place, only a half-game behind Bret Harte. Calaveras was rewarded with five players being named to the all-league team. The senior duo of Karah Auld and Sierra Lowry were placed on the first team.
“I definitely think the two players on the first team really deserved it,” Conley said. “Sierra and Karah worked so hard throughout the season and have become so much better. Every time they went in, they were always giving something to others who were on the court. They were building momentum, building energy and being positive out on the court. Not only were they earning points, but they were also helping others. It’s a big honor to have both of our middles be on the first team.”
Auld finished her senior season with 133 kills, 57 solo blocks, 90 total blocks and 38 aces. She had a season-high 13 kills in a 3-2 loss to Bret Harte and had 10 kills, also in a 3-2 loss to Sonora. Auld is strictly a volleyball player, and Conley feels that having a player like Auld whose only focus is volleyball helped the team out in a number of ways.
“It was nice having someone who was so focused on volleyball to help lead the team,” Conley said. “When we were talking about different crossing plays or techniques, she was already kind of there and we just needed to fine-tune it a little bit. That helped her succeed and get her to that higher level during her senior season.”
Lowry, Calaveras’ other first-team player, had 147 kills, 23 solo blocks, 40 total blocks and eight aces. She had 10 or more kills five times. Lowry was one of the many Calaveras seniors who never played varsity volleyball before, but her commitment to improve is what impressed her coach.
“She’s a really athletic kid, and she works really hard,” Conley said. “She made a lot of growth. She wanted to get better and was asking a lot of questions and was trying to work harder. That paid off for her, and it was great to see her get to the level she was at the end of the season.”
On the second team, Calaveras had the trio of Kyra Saiers, Madison Clark and Sydney Remus.
Saiers, the only Calaveras junior to make the all-league team, did a little bit of everything for the team. She finished the season with 421 assists (4.7 per set), had a team-high 77 aces, had 167 digs, 38 kills and 10 blocks. Saiers had 10 aces in a win over Summerville and 41 assists against Bret Harte.
“She not only was very consistent with her setting, she had a good volleyball IQ,” Conley said. “She’s another kid who is volleyball centered, and I think that helps. She has more of a handle on how to run different plays, and I think that helps her as a setter. She’s also killer with her aces. She had a ton of aces and was very consistent with her serving.”
Remus had a strong showing in her senior season. She finished with 148 kills, 10 blocks, 115 digs and 34 aces. But it was her positive attitude that proved to be one of her strongest attributes.
“She was a captain, so she was always that person who was leading by example,” Conley said. “She was the glue of the team, and I think she knew that and she stepped into that role right away, knowing that she had to be the positive one. That’s just kind of how she is as a person. She’s a great person and is positive all the time.”
As for Clark, the main thing she has going for her is her athletic ability. As a three-sport athlete, Clark can do whatever is asked of her and she proved that in her only year of varsity volleyball. She finished the season with 111 kills, eight blocks, 173 digs and 26 aces. Clark was also the recipient of the character award.
“She was such a fast learner and was very hungry to learn new things,” Conley said. “She’s definitely the hardest worker and would go 1,000%. I always joked that she needed a mouthpiece on defense because she was diving all over. As soon as I told her that our No. 1 thing on defense is see ball, go, she led by example that way. It was awesome that she’s not only really athletic, but she’s very smart and wanted to learn new things.”