SportStars Magazine

Horse Power: Monte Vista-Danville Volleyball Rolling Early

Monte Vista Continues East Bay Dominance In Fast Start To 2017 •

When Sara Dukes Johnson left her assistant job at Stanford University to take over the program at Monte Vista High prior to last season, the former Cardinal player and Carondelet-Concord grad probably had a good idea of just how good a situation she was inheriting in Danville.

However, at this point, it may be exceeding expectations.

In her first year at the helm, the Mustangs went 26-7, won a third consecutive North Coast Section Division I title, and reached the CIF Northern Regional Div. I semifinals. Now in Year 2, with several experienced seniors leading the way, Monte Vista has raced out to a 10-0 start with six East Bay Athletic League victories and a tournament title already under its belt.

“I think the biggest key has been enabling our older players to raise the level of play at practice,” Johnson said. “We want to be playing at a high intensity level in practice, so it’s not a shock when we reach that intensity level in a game.”

The Mustangs, which opened their season slightly under the radar, vaulted into the SportStars NorCal Top 20 rankings at No. 9 after an impressive 4-0 run at the Presentation Tournament on Sept. 15-16. Monte Vista’s tournament title included beating No. 14 St. Francis-Mountain View in pool play and taking down then-No. 17 Oak Ridge-El Dorado Hills in the final. That 2-0 sweep of Oak Ridge carried some extra sweetness after it was the Trojans who defeated the Mustangs 3-1 in last year’s CIF regional semis.

“It was really our first test,” Johnson said. “I think what I liked the most was that the girls were starting to develop a rhythm. Players were starting to trust each other. ”

That confidence showed in a 3-0 win over California-San Ramon on Sept. 19. The Grizzlies entered the match 12-1 overall and were also unbeaten through five EBAL matches.

Monte Vista’s strength is undoubtedly its experience, thanks to a core quartet of seniors who are at least in their third year of varsity. Right side opposite hitter Jordan Polo is actually in her fourth year after being brought up during her freshman season. Outside hitters Nikki Cavote and Amanda Thornton are in their third year, as is middle blocker Maddie Dailey. Polo will play for the beach program at Cal, and Cavote is committed to play indoor for Cal Poly.

“They are definitely leaders and contributing in different ways,” Johnson said. “Some are more vocal and some are more lead-by-example. It’s a good mix of personalities of people to lead the team and demand things of it in different ways.”

The Mustangs look to continue their hot start with an extremely busy end to September. They will close out their first round of EBAL play with three straight games from Sept. 26-28 before heading to Oak Ridge’s tournament on Sept. 30.

NO. 1 VS. NO. 2: When Archbishop Mitty-San Jose and St. Ignatius-S.F. clash in West Catholic Athletic League play on Sept. 26, it will undoubtedly be viewed as a meeting between NorCal’s top two teams. Who is No. 1 or 2 is debatable. Both teams have spent time in the top spot of SportStars’ NorCal Top 20 this season, with Mitty (13-4 through Sept. 19) recently switching places with the Wildcats (21-3). For St. Ignatius to reclaim the top spot, it will have to do something it hasn’t done since 2011 — beat the Monarchs. Last season, in four separate meetings with the Monarchs, the Wildcats failed to take a single set. St. Ignatius will travel to Mitty on Oct. 21.  

— Chace Bryson

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