With an all new starting lineup for the Lucerne Valley High School girls volleyball team, 2018 is a going to be a quintessential rebuilding year for the Mustangs.
“The entire varsity graduated,” said first-year head coach Kelli Papiernik. “There are no seniors on the team.”
But, judging from the players’ spirited play, the young Mustang team should be in good shape as the season progresses — and beyond.
“I see their potential,” Papiernik said. “They’re ‘getting it’ as a group.”
Joining Papiernik is Hannah Loucks, a new Lucerne Valley art teacher who is serving as assistant coach handling the junior varsity development. Between the varsity, JV and middle school teams, there are around 40 players, which indicates a depth that could fuel years of development, growth and competitiveness. Both Papiernik and Loucks played competitive volleyball in high school and college, experience that helps them to coach the Lucerne Valley girls.
“Ms. Loucks is building up the JV players to become future varsity players,” Papiernik said.
During practice, Papiernik and Loucks are putting the players through their paces to learn and improve on basic skills — setting, hitting, blocking, digging and serving. Although the varsity squad lost to Big Bear during its first game, a non-conference match at home on Aug. 14, the coach was very impressed with what she saw from her players.
“The varsity did amazing on serving. I was very, very pleased.”
Yahira Muniz was named Lucerne Valley’s player of the match. Esmeralda Alcazar also is a standout, Papiernik said.
Papiernik came to Lucerne Valley Middle High School four years ago, first teaching just two classes and serving as the yearbook advisor. Today, she is one class shy of full time but is increasingly busy. Besides taking over the head volleyball coaching duties from popular FFA advisor Troy Van Bavel, she teaches graphic design/yearbook, 3D modeling, auto CAD/drafting, and she serves as part of the AVID advisory team.
“I’m just loving all of these kids,” she said.
The Mustangs are a short team — no player approaches 6-feet tall — but the lack of size equates into a spirited group that knows it must move quickly. Papiernik is optimistic that their enthusiasm and willingness to learn equates into more wins as the season progresses.
“I think they can go far in the Agape League.”
Additional photos from a recent volleyball workout can be viewed on the Lucerne Valley USD Facebook page by clicking HERE.
The 2018 Mustang Volleyball schedule be viewed HERE.