Thursday’s final score reads 3-0, (25-22, 25-11, 26-24), but that doesn’t begin to tell the story of the Santa Clara High School girls volleyball team. The 2016 Bruins lost their season finale to the Fremont Firebirds, but with head coach Megan Morse-Quevedo and star sophomore Fiona Paul, the program is in good hands.
Despite being the youngest player on the squad, Paul led the Bruins in both digs and kills this season, showing a versatility to play all over the court. The 15-year-old was the only player on the varsity squad listed at three separate positions- libero, outside hitter, and defensive specialist.
“She’s one of my best passers,” praised Morse-Quevedo after the match. “But she’s also one of my strongest outside hitters. The [other] liberos aren’t used to the libero position, but she is, so I wanted to switch her to that [for the last set]. She’s a smart player.”
Both coach and player were eager to shout-out to graduating seniors Alexie Sass, Katie Bonvicino, Ellie Mujushi, Anjelina Manuel, Alex Tellez, Angelica Leuluaiand Lauri Mendoza.
With seven seniors to choose from, Paul was incredibly appreciative that her coach decided she should be the team representative for a post-match interview with the Weekly.
“It’s awesome, it definitely feels good,” said Paul. “I love volleyball and I love my team, especially high school volleyball, it’s super fun. I’m super happy I got Megan as a coach this year. I’m honored to be able to speak for my team.”
Both Morse-Quevedo and Paul noted how the team improved from the start of the year to the end of the season. It was a difficult season overall with just 3-18 record, but the Bruins probably should have won both the first and third sets in the finale against Fremont.
“This match was great. They have improved so much from day one;” responded the head coach. “They were applying everything that they’ve learned throughout the season in this game. They were all working really, really hard, going after every thing, nothing was really hitting the floor. I thought they did really, really well.”
“Fremont was our first game at the beginning of the season and I definitely think from the first game until now it was a huge difference” added Paul. “It was unbelievable to play that game and see how our team meshed together as well as we did.”
In the first set, Santa Clara held two separate four-point leads, 8-4 and 16-12, before eventually dropping the set 25-22. The Bruins also held a big lead for the majority of the third set. At one point they were leading by as many as nine points (21-12), before the Firebirds stormed back at the very end. The only set where Santa Clara was clearly overmatched was the second frame. The Bruins went down 16-6 in the second with Paultaking a rest to let her teammates get some action. Needless to say, Morse-Quevedo is excited to have two more years out of her rising star.
“I’m very excited to have her,” said Morse-Quevedo. “The fact that she plays so well at such a young age, you don’t see that in a lot of girls. Her drive for volleyball, I see a lot of me in her. I had the same drive as she does. She wants to go after that ball, she wants to help her teammates, I’m very excited to have her for the next two years.”
With the season concluded, the obvious question for the sophomore was “what’s next?” in terms of preparing for next season.
“I’ve been playing club volleyball, but I don’t think I’m going to play this year because I just need a year off,” commented Paul, [before steering somewhat in the other direction, perhaps more in line with that drive her coach had mentioned]. “I do play beach volleyball also, I’m pretty much always playing volleyball, there isn’t really an offseason.”
Morse-Quevedo, who played volleyball for Santa Clara herself, and graduated in 2012, gave all her players, particularly her seniors, playing time in the finale. Not only does the coach have a great young star to build around, but the team game certainly isn’t overshadowed by Paul‘s presence. With the two of them leading by example, this team certainly has a bright future.