The Serra High School boys’ volleyball team is facing a daunting task this spring.
Coming off a 6-6 record last year in the West Catholic Athletic League — one of the tougher leagues in the Central Coast Section — the Padres started this year with only one senior with starting experience after losing six of last year’s starters to graduation.
“I expected some bumps in the road this year,” Serra coach Eric Ballelos said.
Last year, the Padres advanced to the CCS quarterfinals before falling to Leland of San Jose in five games. Ballelos is confident his team will return to the section tournament in May.
“We’ll be turning the corner soon,” Ballelos said of his team, which sits 1-4 in the WCAL. “We’re in one of the toughest leagues in the section, maybe even the state. If we can do well in the league tournament, we can still get into the section tournament and go far.”
With Bellarmine, St. Francis, Sacred Heart Cathedral and St. Ignatius already ahead of Serra in the standings, winning the league may be beyond the Padres’ grasp at the midway point of the season.
“They all have really strong programs,” Ballelos said. “But by the end of the year, we should be able to play with them.”
Outside setter Michael Timko, the lone senior of the team’s five that came into the year with starting experience, and fellow seniors Tyler Woropay and Adam Lumpkins have been leading what is a deep team despite having lost so many starters from last season.
Sophomore libero Wyatt Richards has been the key newcomer for the Padres this year.
“He’s taking care of the position and is leading us with some scrappy defense,” Ballelos said. “His passing has been very good as well.”
One of the reasons for Ballelos’ optimism is from firsthand observation of his program and just how far it has come in a relatively short amount of time.
“A lot of these kids started volleyball very late, some after starting high school,” Ballelos said. “But they have all really come a very long way since we got them. They have worked very hard and really closed the gap between our program and Bellarmine, St. Francis and the other programs in the section.
“We just have to keep playing hard and hope we do well enough to get there again this year,” Ballelos said.