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Brianna Karsseboom leads a talented Bishop O’Dowd roster aiming for new heights.   By MATT SMITH | Contributor   When the 2012 volleyball season...

Brianna Karsseboom leads a talented Bishop O’Dowd roster aiming for new heights.

  By MATT SMITH | Contributor

  When the 2012 volleyball season started in the East Bay, the Bishop O’Dowd High girls team was anticipated to be one of the top teams in the area.

  And with returning players such as Amoni Brown, Maya Williams, Nicole Danner and Sophia Mar it was easy to expect another great season from one of the most consistent teams in the North Coast Section.

  But one may not have expected such a great season out of a sophomore who was a relative unknown on the East Bay high school volleyball scene.

  Danner, who was expected to be the Dragons big hitter, suffered an injury before the season and someone was going to be called on to fill the void. That someone was Brianna Karsseboom.

  “After the injury, we needed someone to step up and Brianna did that,” Bishop O’Dowd coach Chad Salcido said. “She was getting the sets when the big points in the game were needed.”

  Karsseboom finished last season with 646 kills, and now everybody knows her name.

  “She got more comfortable, she got stronger,” Salcido said. “And the biggest thing for her was that she proved she could be an effective hitter from the front or back row, and that was a big difference.”

  As a freshman, Karsseboom got some playing time, but not enough to make the casual fan think she’d turn into one of the best hitters in the East Bay as a sophomore, and possibly the best returning player in 2013.

  “I got a lot of playing time and was given a lot of opportunities,” Karsseboom said. “I couldn’t have done it without the team and coach Salcido, but I worked very hard and improved very much.”

  Salcido has seen her work hard and improve. Not only improve as a hitter, but as an all-around player.

  “She’s worked on parts of her game that were really stressed by all of her coaches,” Salcido said. “She’s worked to improve her passing, being a good communicator and also her blocking.”

  The fact that her name ends with the word boom doesn’t seem like an accident, after you see her hit for the first time. She hits with a ferocity that you can pick up on by just hearing her hit.

  “There’s a different sound when the ball comes off her hand,” Salcido said. “She has what we volleyballers call a good whip, and the ball literally just jumps out of her hand.

  She also has the ability to adjust while in the air if she doesn’t get a perfect set. Most hitters need the set to be right on the money to put the ball down, but not Karsseboom.

  “With her athleticism, she’s able to rotate her body in the air,” Salcido said. “This is what makes volleyball so hard and she has pretty good control.”

  Karsseboom’s sudden rise has already led to numerous achievements, including an early Pac-12 scholarship offer from Colorado, but she remains focused and humble.

  “I’ve set very high goals for myself,” Karsseboom said. “I’ve had a lot of accomplishments and a lot of awards, but I am very fortunate for all that I have achieved.”

  And even though accolades and scholarships are finding their way to her, she plans to keep working hard and improving. She is also aware that volleyball is a team game that requires everyone working hard, but also enjoying themselves.

  “The goal is to make State and to spend the season working hard as a team to achieve that goal,” Karsseboom said. “But we want to make sure we have good chemistry and that we are having fun while we do it.”

  The Dragons will be a part of a what is always a very competitive Division III race in the North Coast Section. They and Campolindo have won seven of the last nine titles. In that stretch, O’Dowd won a Div. II title as well.

  Campolindo figures to be right in the mix again, returning several key players from a team that topped Bishop O’Dowd in the NCS final last year and nearly won the CIF State title.

  “Both teams are great and are full of competitors,” Karsseboom said. “But we’re gonna work hard to beat them this year.”

  All the Dragons can worry about right now is themselves, and what they have is a very talented team that is looking to get better and better by November.

  It will be a different looking Dragons team, one that will not have the overwhelming size of teams in the recent past. Instead, they will rely on making plays defensively after graduating most of their bigger players.

  “Our strength is going to be our ball control, but our weakness is lack of height,” Salcido said. “We’re going to have to play smart volleyball to compete with taller teams, but this is one of the smartest teams I’ve been around.”

  Both Salcido and Karsseboom acknowledge the lack of height, but also know they have the skill to overcome this deficit.

  “We lost a little height,” Karsseboom said. “But we have great defense and our two setters will help us out.”

  The defense she is referring to comes in the form of Kylie Carlson, Sheila Clapp and Mary Orbeta. All three are seniors, and all three are good enough to be an All-League libero. Each one is the top libero on their club team, but only one can win the position.

  Last year it was Carlson, but that could change this year. Either way, Salcido found a way to play them all last year and he’ll do it again this year. And the best part about having the three of them, other than the competition it breeds, is how much they are helping each other.

  “They love working together,” Salcido said. “They’re fighting for the same spot, but willing to work together.”

  The setters will be a pair of sophomores in Lizzy Counts and Katie Orbeta. Both of them are sophomores, looking to replace Sophia Mar, who had three great seasons running the Dragons offense.

  However, instead of naming a starting setter, Salcido is going to let the situation play out during the season and see which girl plays more consistently and which player the offense rallies behind.

  So the Dragons might not be the tallest team in the North Coast Section, but they are going to be deep. A deep team usually means a good team because players have to fight to get on the court.

  “We’ll have an incredible amount of depth,” Salcido said. “It will be hard to find playing time and they’re gonna have to compete every week.”Gol

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