Story and photos by Greg Mitchell FLEACT, Yokosuka, Public Affairs
Nile C. Kinnick Lady Red Devils volleyball head coach Anthony SanNicolas appears to not have lost his competitive spirit during recent practice sessions held in the school gym. Barking out signals and directing players into proper positioning, SanNicolas is gearing up for another run towards what he hopes to be a Far East volleyball championship.
Last season, the Lady Red Devils powered to a 20-5 season, picking up the Kanto Plain Championship but falling one game short to rival American School in Japan (ASIJ) for the Far East Division I Girls Championship held in Guam last November.
“Our strength is that we have a good core of seniors returning who understand the system already,” said SanNicolas. “Our weakness that we are constantly working on is improving our back row defense and of course improving our overall consistency in every aspect of the game.”
Gone are the five senior players Kelly Osterbrink, Courtney Bacon, Maria Montepio, Megan Stith and Kaile Johnson, each of which provided leadership. SanNicolas says this years’ seniors, seven in all, are more than capable of stepping up to lead and contribute to the team.
Two of those seniors stepping up are team captain Audri Salter and former Zama American standout Katrina Reid.
“I think for this season we need to build good communication with each other and to develop good chemistry,” said Salter. “We have to have the dedication to come to practice every day, go for every freeball and overpass as if it is the last set of a championship game.”
SanNicolas had more to add.
“From a strategic standpoint, I’d like us to be more defensively sound,” said SanNicolas. “We have girls who can perform on the offensive side; now I just need them to have this “never-say-die” attitude.
“From a mental standpoint,” SanNicolas said. “Preparation will be key to success. I stress to them as much possible to think about what they want to do and then apply it. Of course getting them to feel what they are doing wrong would be a great thing to encompass so that now they are being self-taught.”
SanNicolas also added a lot of that preparation wouldn’t be possible without the support of the student’s parents.
“We had such great turnouts for our games last year,” said SanNicolas. “The parents of these girls have been extremely supportive. For our junior varsity team, we have almost all new participants; incoming freshmen or newly PCS’d in. With them comes a horde of new support. It is a really good feeling the parents want to be a part of this. I am really grateful for that.”
SanNicolas feels the league is well-balanced talent-wise, but stated that one school consistently seems to field formidable teams every year.
“No disrespect to Seisen International or Christian Academy in Japan (CAJ), two of our toughest opponents, but ASIJ is probably still the team to beat this season and we will be chasing after them,” said SanNicolas.
“Hopefully, if we win the championship this season, it will be them chasing after us.”
Nile C. Kinnick opens the 2014 regular season on the road in mini tournament play against Zama American and Yokota high school at Zama base, Sept. 13.