As much as Mountain Ridge High School’s new girls volleyball coach talks about team chemistry you’d think there’d be beakers and bunson burners on the court with the players.
“He also drills into us the importance of team chemistry and playing as one team, everyday,” said senior Sarah Parsons. “He wants to us to be together on and off the court, playing as one unit, and always communicating.”
That sense of team unity has led the Mountain Lions to a 5-1 start in coach Keith Perrin’s debut season, with their lone non-tournament loss coming against No. 4-ranked Desert Mountain. A 3-2 defeat that saw Mountain Ridge take a 2-1 lead before the Wolves pulled out the final two games.
But despite the loss, Perrin said this team is so tight no matter how behind they are in a game he said he feels the girls will find ways to right the ship and compete, and that’s due to the great chemistry on the team.
“This is one of the better teams I’ve had as far as chemistry goes in my 23 years of coaching,” Perrin said. “They are experienced with each other so they know how to handle the ups and downs as a team during the season and there is no worry they will fall apart.”
For seven girls, Perrin is their third coach in less than two seasons and Parsons said there is already a big difference over last year.
“It’s been amazing (working with Perrin),” Parsons said. “It’s a huge difference this year from last year. He knows the game, he’s played the game and he teaches the game better than most coaches I’ve had.”
Perrin replaced John Devenney, who stepped in for Amy Boniface midway through last season. Devenney left the program after last year to focus on his family after the birth of his first child.
Mountain Ridge found itself a seasoned volleyball player and coach. Perrin played at Walla Walla University in Washington, worked with the Association of Volleyball Professionals for 15 years and has coached high school for 17 years.
The new Mountain Lion coach has put his hand print on the program quickly, too. He’s not afraid to try different combinations on the court to switch things up because that versatility in the team is something they’ve worked on in practice from Day One.
“The main thing we’ve worked on is trying to get the right girls in the right spot,” Perrin said. “We’ve switched some things up and have some girls who were middle blockers now playing on the outside and outside hitters working in the middle. That kind of flexibility in the lineup helps in experience, so if the situation comes up the girls can deal with any position on the court.”
Parsons said she likes that aspect of the new system.
“We practice a lot on defense and we always work as a team whether you’re a starter or a reserve,” said the Mountain Ridge outside hitter. “Everyone works at every position until everything runs perfectly.”
There was plenty that ran well Tuesday as the Mountain Lions held off a late charge from No. 5 ranked Boulder Creek to win 3-2 (25-11, 25-17, 19-25, 23-25, 15-13).
The Mountain Lions were on the verge of sweeping the Jaguars before dropping two straight. Boulder Creek found its rhythm through tips off the right side and kills down the middle.
A 9-2 run to open Game 5 gave Mountain Ridge and early buffer, but it nearly squandered the opportunity away as the Jaguars tied the game at 12. They followed with a service ace from libero Hayley Owen to take the lead. Taylor Jones found open court in the corner to gain a sideout for the Mountain Lions to tie the game at 13 and followed with a tip to reclaim the lead. Parsons finished off the match on the next rally, tipping a set from her sister Rachel Parsons that Owen was unable to handle.
The win, while not pretty, proved something to Mountain Ridge’s coach and his players.
“To come back like we did (Tuesday) shows how far we’ve come as a team,” Sarah Parsons said. “It shows the character of this team and proves we won’t back down when things are tough.”