The Cate girls volleyball team isn’t loaded with club players. Most of the girls on the roster play other sports once the season is over. Coaches Greg Novak and K.C. Collins molded this collection of athletes into a championship team this fall.
The Rams completed a dream season, going 24-2, taking the Frontier League title in their first season in the league, capturing the CIF-Southern Section Division 4A title and winning their first state tournament match in program history.
“Going into the season, we knew because integral senior starters had graduated it could potentially set us back,” said Novak, the fifth-year head coach. “But we also knew that the returning squad had a desire to go further than the year before. The new players added to the team were ready to step up and do what it took to rise to the occasion.”
As a boarding school, Cate student-athletes come from all over the world. There are seasons when Novak doesn’t know what the skill level will be until the first day of practice. He knew this year’s group could play. “We are fortunate to have two day students that are still able to play club,” he said. “They are all good athletes and they know how to pass, set and hit the ball, so it’s the details we work on the most. Because our practices are a bit short, we don’t spend time conditioning, instead we spend time understanding concepts and perfecting their skills.”
It helped having several experienced players on the roster. Seven players returned from the squad that suffered a five-set loss in last year’s CIF semifinals. That heart-breaking defeat served as a motivator all season. “I think they didn’t want to have that feeling again,” Novak said. “Especially when I look back at our semifinal home match this year, it was the best match and performance all season.”
Novak said serving was where the team made the most improvement. “This year, our serving contributed to a lot of points, not necessarily off aces but by getting our opponents out of system,” he explained. “We also minimized the amount of serving errors.”
Coach Collins has played a key role in Cate’s success. “She has helped raise the bar on player expectations,” Novak said. “At practice, K.C. can step in and fire up the team with her knowledge and attention to detail and coaching style. During matches you can really see the results of her coaching by the way the team performs.”
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