Wednesday: Tam at Marin Catholic, Branson at Novato, San Marin at Redwood, Drake at Rafael. Games start between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. typically, after any freshman/JV games.
Bye: Terra Linda has a bye but is hosting Albany at 6:30 p.m.
Inside: Team-by-team preview capsules on C3.
Every fall, volleyball teams around the county return to the court looking a little different than they did the year before. Graduation hits some teams harder than others and this year, and that applies best to two-time MCAL champion Marin Catholic.
The Wildcats graduated three perennial all-league performers in Ry Goodwin, Bella Bergmark and time-league MCAL Player of the Year Riley Ramsey. Marin Catholic’s rise from very good MCAL team to dominant one really began when Ramsey and Goodwin arrived on campus.
While that era of Wildcat volleyball is coming to a close, the next one is already forming. This year’s team blends a core group of key players from last year — setter Leah Pease, libero Georgia Fusco and front-row players Kari Geissberger and Olivia Cooper — with a talented group of underclassmen who have already accomplished some big things at the club level.
“When we set our goals as coaches — especially when we have such a youthful team — it’s us trying to get better,” MC coach Jake Spain said. “We’re extremely lucky to have senior leaders in Georgia and Leah that have been in these big matches before and bring experience to a youthful team.”
With three of the top hitters in the county graduated, more than 850 kills from last year’s team are up for grabs this season. The main constant, offensively speaking, is Pease, who returns to run the varsity offense for the fourth year.
“Leah’s setting makes my job so much easier, like unimaginably easier, because even if its off, she always finds a way to get it in a window where I can hit and do my job,” Cooper said. “She’s a great setter. She’s really smart about where she places the ball.”
Pease and Geissberger — second on the team last year with 268 kills — have forged a chemistry having played alongside each other for the past two seasons but this season Geissberger is making the transition from middle blocker to outside hitter.
“Freshman year I was playing right side, sophomore year middle and now junior year I’m playing outside,” Geissberger said. “It’s a little different for me so I’m learning new things — new ways to hit, new ways to pass — and that’s my big role this year, playing all the way round, six rotations. I’ve never done that before, except one year in club last year.”
As a pin hitter, Geissberger will receive different types of sets at different heights than she did at middle and the angles available to her will obviously be different.
“On the pins, you’re getting more higher sets and in the middle you’re getting faster sets,” Geissberger said.
Geissberger, who stands 6-feet, 5-inches tall, was the team leader in hitting percentage (.490) last season and could be primed for a huge season with the additional sets going in her direction.
“The swings that (Geissberger) takes and the things she knows how to do out there is so crazy,” Pease said. “I’m really excited to get to set her and see her hammer those balls down.”
The other player expected to see a big uptick in her opportunities to hit is Cooper, a junior who missed a good chunk of her sophomore season after transferring to MC from Redwood.
“With the hitter depth that we had last year, Olivia didn’t really get to show her full set of skills and this year not only has she improved but now she gets to be a highlight of the team,” Spain said. “Right now, in her class, she’s one of the best middles in the country and she gets to have a lot more of the swings in our offense this year so I’m super excited for her.”
Cooper played middle blocker last season but shared the position with Geissberger.
“I think she’ll be one of our key players as well,” Fusco said of Cooper. “She’s been doing amazing. She can play anywhere she wants in the front row.”
Of course, for all of those offensive pyrotechnics to take place, the Wildcats will need Fusco to shine again defensively.
“Georgia is the most undervalued kid,” Spain said. “She’s committed to (Loyola Marymount University). She’s the best libero I’ve ever had at MC. It’s unbelievable but she’s kind of been overshadowed by some of the really strong hitters that we’ve had.”
With a restructured “core four” in place for this season, Marin Catholic figures to enter the season as the team to beat in both the MCAL and North Coast Section Division III.
“MC graduated a lot of talent in that senior class that they had but they are a dependable, perennial power in the MCAL,” San Marin coach Michael Mann said.