Wherever the Redmond High volleyball players roam — on and off the court — the sport is always on their minds. The Mustangs are passionate about the game and feel they’ve got what it takes to succeed this season, said junior outside hitter Omri Ganzarski.
“I think we all need to stay mentally tough, especially with practices every day. (It’s) a long season. (We’re) willing to put in all the work to get as far as we can go,” said the 5-foot-7 varsity returner. For her, the best part about playing for RHS is “just being on the court with your friends, playing good volleyball” in front of the fans cheering in the stands.
Volleyball doesn’t end for the Mustangs when the fall season finishes. Most girls play club ball and some of them play beach volleyball throughout the summer, along with attending camps and clinics. Ganzarski added that they try and stay in touch during the summer months and get to the gym once a week to keep their chemistry flowing.
New Mustang head coach Mariah Hale inherits a team that finished 10-13 overall last season and qualified for the playoffs. Hale feels she’s got a well-rounded team on her side and wants them to put forth maximum focus when the ball is put into play.
Along with Ganzarski, top Mustang returners are Mia Rice (senior setter/opposite who stands 5-8), Anna Smith (senior middle at 5-10) and Claire Vonderhaar (sophomore setter at 5-8).
After starring at outside hitter for the Mustangs the last two seasons, junior Piper Ferch will not return to the squad since she’s decided to focus on her beach volleyball career, according to Hale. The Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo beach commit was a 4A KingCo second-team all-leaguer last season and RHS’s most valuable player.
In her fourth year playing for the Mustangs, Rice said the 4A KingCo terrain can be difficult to manage at times, but the girls are having fun each day.
“I just want to push my teammates and push myself to (be) the best that we can be,” said Rice, who aims to help guide her team to districts and make a 4A KingCo all-league squad.
Smith lists hard work and passion as key elements of the Mustang squad last season and she’d like to see more of that this fall. She loves working with the girls and feels they’ve formed a solid bond.
This will be Vonderhaar’s first full season on varsity after moving up from junior varsity for the playoffs last year.
“I think we have a good shot at going far, just ‘cause we have a lot of girls who are really resilient and wanna push hard,” she said.
Hale, who honed her volleyball skills at Hockinson High in Washington and Ashland High in Oregon, is thrilled to take on her first head coaching job. Following her school volleyball experience, she stayed with the sport by giving private lessons and participating in evaluation training.
“I made varsity my freshman year. I just loved the sport, and with that comes passion, hustle, etcetera. That’s why I chose the girls that I did,” Hale noted about the Mustang varsity squad.
As a child growing up in Elkton, Oregon, Hale began playing volleyball with her mom’s community group, which featured a host of characters and resulted in a fun atmosphere.
“On all of the teams that I played on, there was a community feel. I love the support that I got and was able to give,” said Hale, adding that volleyball helped her find personal growth. “I want to help guide them (the Mustangs) and use volleyball to help advance them in life.”
• Redmond begins its season by hosting Holy Names Academy at 7 p.m. Sept. 10 and hosting West Seattle at 7 p.m. Sept. 12.