After 4 straight BVAL titles, Heritage has never been more primed for its first NCS crown.
By MATT SMITH | Contributor
Seven North Coast Section volleyball seasons have come, and seven have gone, and in that time, the East Bay Athletic League has had a stranglehold in the Division I playoffs.
Since 2006, an EBAL team has won the title in every single year, and once again, the two top-seeded teams are from that league as San Ramon Valley and Monte Vista are No. 1 and No. 2, respectively.
However, there is a team that is capable of breaking up this era of EBAL dominance, and that team hails from Heritage High in Brentwood.
And you don’t have to tell the Patriots that they have a chance at winning the first championship in school history. They already know they are serious contenders.
“This team has a lot to offer and has yet to show it’s potential,” Heritage coach Janet Hannigan said. “We have one of the best setters in the North Coast Section. In addition to that we have dynamic hitters, a solid libero and wonderful team chemistry. All 13 players understand their roles and the value that they bring to the team.”
The setter that Hannigan is referring to is prolific junior Heather Reed, who entered the playoffs with 909 assists, and could very well be the best setter in the East Bay.
Throw in three hitters with more than 200 kills each, Colleen Hannigan, Teja Hanna and Brileigh Boyce and Heritage is more than capable of playing with the best in Div. I.
“We have to stay focused and play our game,” Hannigan said. “We can not think about certain schools and their past successes, because we all have different teams this season. We need to play on a different level, which we have not tapped into yet. It is an exciting time. We need to focus on each match as it comes, playing with calm confidence.”
What may be the most incredible part of Heritage establishing itself as a new power in the volleyball community, is how young the program is. The school has only been in existence since 2005, the team has just four Div. I playoff appearances and only five total playoff wins.
“It is amazing, almost indescribable, to see how far this program has come,” Hannigan said. “We have worked hard to build skills, develop a positive culture and teach life lessons. It is an honor to be a part of Heritage volleyball and a blessing to have worked with some amazing young women who have shaped and molded the tradition and culture of this program.”
The program has achieved a status that is exactly that — a program. It is something that students, faculty and graduates are genuinely excited about and that could continue for quite a while. The Patriots have now won four straight Bay Valley Athletic League titles, doing so this year by going undefeated in league play for the first time in school history.
“Girls volleyball is looked at with excitement and respect on campus,” Hannigan said. “The players that come out have character, dedication, passion and for some reason are willing to buy into my style of coaching. A lot of credit goes to my coaching staff and the support of the athletic director, parents and volleyball alumni.”
The Patriots have also never ventured further than the NCS semifinals, doing so in 2011 when, as a No. 6 seed, they upset third-seeded California-San Ramon. Once in the semifinals, they were stymied in by San Ramon Valley.
“We have played tough in the past but have felt each time we have more to give, more to prove,” Hannigan said. “I would like Heritage volleyball to represent well for our school and for the entire BVAL.”
The Patriots earned the No. 3 seed this postseason, the highest a team from the BVAL has earned since Deer Valley was the top seed in 2008. They may have had an argument for a higher seed, but they are happy with where they are seeded.
“I feel like we are seeded appropriately,” Hannigan said. “It’s exciting to see that the NCS seeding committee recognized the effort we have made all season. I hope that we perform at the right level and the right time and reach our goals for the first time in school history.”
Heritage lost only to one East Bay team, and that team happened to be Campolindo, the defending DIII State runners-up. That loss came in three sets at the Deer Valley Tournament. In fact, Heritage was up a set, and led 24-20 in the second, but couldn’t put it away, and wound up falling in a close third set.
This is the same Campolindo team that beat top-seeded San Ramon Valley in three straight sets in a non-league match this year.
The Pats only other loss to a team from the North Coast Section is Branson of the Marin County Athletic League. Branson has won four straight DV State titles, and easily topped Campolindo in a tournament match earlier this season.
And for these reasons, this year’s team has a real chance to reach the NCS finals.
“It would be a major accomplishment,” Hannigan said. “We set going undefeated and making it to the finals, even winning it, as a goal this season. I know that all teams and players work hard, but at Heritage, we not only have worked hard on the court, but being in the BVAL we have had to work hard for credibility. Now the time is here for us to make a stand in the NCS finals. “
SportStars Magazine: High School Sports Articles Online SportStars is your go-to source for the very best high school sports articles in California. Player and team profiles, game coverage, health and fitness tips and the largest Camps, Clinics & Combine resource for athletes. We're the story behind the stats.