Culver Volleyball Girls Want Another Championship
September 6, 2015
By Fred Altieri
Culver City High girls volleyball has won the Ocean League title the past two years. But they are not resting on their laurels as they prepare for the 2015 fall season.
Confident, eager and hungry, the Centaurs have their sights set on a CIF division championship.
Under the three-year guidance of head coach Joe Manzo, the team has improved its won-loss record each season while compiling an overall record of 68-28.
Equally impressive, they have won 21 of 24 league matches during the same period and went deep into the playoffs with semifinal and quarterfinal appearances.
This year's squad will feature six returning players joined by 10 new members, six coming from last year's JV team. Culver lost its two co-captains from last season due to graduation: Mina Grant and Taylor Selfridge. The new team co-captains: senior Adili Rikondja and junior Krista Hernandez are already leading the charge.
Rikondja plays opposite on the front line and Hernandez plays libero. Despite the height, position and experience differences between the two they are a formidable duo and more importantly on the same page as far as setting a vision for the team.
Adili opened: "We're really excited this year. We have great chemistry and overall have six returning players and 10 new players. But all of our players have played club and volleyball before, so that's really important."
Krista added: "We have a lot of talent this year and a lot of talent coming in. We've all played together before in club or middle school. We already had a close bond. This year we're getting closer and closer. We played three tournaments over the summer, all back to back. We were missing some starters but we did really well."
Adili: "We started practicing the first week of August. The week after that we started the tournaments. The first was really good, a Division I tournament. It was an invitational and that just shows in that Culver City was invited to that tournament."
Krista: "The first season game is September 10 away against St. Monica. On the 15th we have our first home game against Crossroads."
The Culver varsity roster with uniform numbers: seniors : Sylvia Lee - 6, Adili Rikondja - 9, Kaelyn Gsellman - 11, Lily Bautista - 19; juniors: Katrina McCoy - 13, Sarah Miller - 17, Krista Hernandez - 22, McKenna Stevens - 25; sophomores: Jessica Stewart - 1, Joanna Kim - 4, Hayden O'Brien - 7, Octavia Collins - 8, Ava Fairbanks - 10, Lena Johnson - 15; freshmen: Alyssa Hernandez - 2, Megan Shimoda - 5
Adili: "The preseason schedule sets us up for league play later on. We have more of a challenge in preseason. Our league rivals are Santa Monica and El Segundo. We have teams that are of that caliber and even better in our preseason. So that sets us up for league competition."
Both Krista and Adili laughed and replied in unison when asked about repeating the league title: "We want to get back-to-back-to-back."
Adili: "I don't want to say it's pressure but we definitely have to have that reputation. We've already built ourselves up into a good program. To get that extra championship will show that we can do it without our starters from the last two years. We want to continue on to be a great program. It doesn't matter who participates... but the program is here."
Krista: "It also gives us confidence going into this season. Having confidence will allow us to play so much better."
Rikondja and Hernandez spoke about each other's respective games and leadership roles.
Adili: "Krista has been playing volleyball way longer than me so I feel she's more of the one that can tell our teammates what spots to go to during the matches. She's also very good at keeping a certain flow and energy going throughout the whole team. She'll tell everyone to pick it up. I'm the same way but not in the volleyball perspective."
Krista: "Adili is more talkative. She keeps everyone awake and ready. I'm a libero so I have to make sure I get all the balls up and dive for everything. I have to be the most aggressive player because that's what the libero does. I usually pass the ball and just have to start the whole play."
Adili: I play opposite. Basically we have to block from the outside consistently because that's where the opposition hits the most balls. So I set up the wall and I hit by."
Krista: "Our goal in the preseason is to get better, to get a feel for one another so that everyone knows their jobs and the roles they have to play. There are 16 girls on the team this year."
Adili: "That's the most we've ever had and it makes it even more fun in practice. Coach is really pushing us. He's really on us about hustling and getting the ball together. But we do the chemistry. He does the technical stuff."
"Coach has definitely made us a lot better. In practice we do a lot of drills that college programs do. The practices are never boring. We always do different things."
Krista: "Keeping it in play is a big point for us. We work on our shots like tipping and where to place the ball. We can't be hitting at the other team's passes all the time. We need to move them. We have pretty good passing and defense."
Adili: "We work hard in each practice and have been getting better with each tournament. We expect to win another league championship and go on further. We just have to believe in ourselves and believe that we can do it. And I think we can. We're looking forward to a great season."
Krista: "Our ultimate goal is to win the CIF championship. We definitely have the potential to get there."
Adili: "As Mina (Grant – former teammate and captain) used to say..."
Krista finishes the sentence: "You got this." They both laugh.
Adili continues: "You guys got this. I love you all. And I support you in everything you do."
They both laugh again.
Krista: "It's going to be a good season."