Last season the Fremont varsity volleyball squad finished with a league record of just 3-9. That squad was a young team relying on multiple freshmen to play key roles. Libero and defensive specialist Zoe Shie, middle blocker and opposite hitter Natalie Escalera and setter McKayla Hsu all return for their sophomore seasons.
Meanwhile, Fremont only “lost” three seniors to graduation last year in McKenna Johnson, Nicole Stepanenko and Rylie-Phillips Stock. Head Coach Annika Janson has nine total returners from last year’s varsity squad, including senior Avery Fanslow, who was already one of the team’s captains last year as a junior. With the additional experience and deep roster of returners, the group is confident it can significantly improve upon last year’s record.
“I’d say our goals are more specific than just winning league, it’s more about how we are going to win league,” chimed Fanslow. “Mostly we need to focus on communication and being quicker on our feet to the ball.”
“Her personality is contagious, she’s really positive and tries to do everything that is best for the team,” chimed coach Janson on Fanslow. “That was clear from when she first came to varsity as a sophomore. She’s just really happy and adds a lot to the team for sure.”
“A lot of them have improved a lot from the club season,” added Janson on how her team looks heading into the season. “They have matured as athletes, and we have a lot of good athletes on the team. We will see what happens, but for sure we are going to win more than three games. I don’t like losing.”
Whether or not the team can get on the winning side of things this year will likely depend on two key factors. Fanslow and fellow senior Hayley Johnson will have to lead the way offensively and the aforementioned group of sophomores will have to put their improvements on display from year one to year two.
“I think a lot of it is my confidence,” responded Shie on what part of her game has most improved going into year two on varsity. “As a freshman, you’re going up against a whole lot of upperclassmen and that can be really intimidating. But I think this season I’m a lot more comfortable with my teammates and I’ve grown in confidence.”
“I think last year the thing I was struggling the most with was passing,” acknowledged Escalera, who is one of the team’s two six-footers, along with Johnson. “But I’ve worked on it a lot, improving my technique and feeling more confident in passing. I think that’s going to help a lot.”
While Escalera looks to her passing for individual improvement, coach Janson notes the team as a whole needs to improve their hitting in order to be a stronger team in 2023.
“Last year the problem was a lot in our hitting, we had so many young hitters and unsure hitters,” remarked coach Janson. “I played the freshmen a lot last year, so improved chemistry and playing smarter this year will be expected.”
Fremont will first see if expectations might be met this year when the team opens the season against King’s Academy on Aug. 24.