The Tigers were executing a tip drill during practice, which puts more emphasis on touch than power.
Opponents will not get the same mercy in the coming months.
Volleyballs are flying around the gyms at high schools all around the area, as preseason practice sessions are under way.
Experience is going to be a key factor for this year’s Patterson High volleyball team. The Tigers return several players who will lead the program into battle. With that experience comes attitude and a strong work ethic.
"We've been training and conditioning and trying to get ourselves physically and mentally ready for the start of the season," said Patterson coach Tarah High. "If these matches go five games, that can be exhausting. It's about working to refine the little skills, too."
The Tigers finished last year at 3-9 in Western Athletic Conference play but were more competitive than their record indicates.
This season, High hopes that the team can get off to a fast start.
She added that the commitment from the players is there, and with the help of an injury-free preseason, team devotion and continued hard work at practice, the season is chock full of potential.
"Our expectation is that if you're here to play varsity than you need to be prepared," High said. "We're going to see a core of eight or nine girls on the court consistently."
High has the benefit of a handful of familiar faces to complement her team’s assortment of underclassmen as it enters the 2013 season.
Leading the Tigers is senior Mele Tupouata (middle blocker), an All-WAC first team selection a season ago, along with returnees Bailey Boschi (junior, setter), Samantha Camacho (senior, opposite hitter), Maria Cortez (junior, outside hitter), Dayna Hansen (senior, middle blocker), Kiara Job (senior, middle blocker) and Mariele Schut (senior, outside hitter).
Last season, Tupouata, Hansen and Job proved an aggressive trio, serving as blockers and utilizing good, solid swings.
"We're definitely going to be a lot more aggressive on offense," High said. "We have a lot more height than we've had in the past. The structure and foundation that we have with the girls who know what varsity is like is going to benefit us."
Other players have also made strides from a year ago, according to High. Camacho, Cortez and Schut are swinging nicely, while sophomore newcomers Julia Sill (setter) and Esther Ekwueme (middle hitter), as well as, senior Riquel Benitez (setter), have so far been pleasant surprises.
The exuberance of youth combined with the experience of veterans will hopefully serve the girls well as they seek a spot at the upper tier of the WAC after a disappointing finish last year.
"It would be nice for us to be in the top three teams in the league," High said. "Other schools in the league have lost some key players to graduation, but we haven't lost much from last year. We have the potential to reach playoffs."
She added that the team is stronger and more conditioned than at this time last year.
"This team is self-motivated and can get it going on their own," High said. "They have that competitiveness as well. They want to win, and have that drive."
The players will need some time to familiarize themselves with one another and with their positions, but the early returns indicate this could be a promising season for the Tigers.
"We wanted to gather the talent we need to be competitive this year, but we also added players who have the potential to help us be successful in the future as well," High said.
The Tigers open the season Saturday, Aug. 31, at the Orestimba High Tournament in Newman.
Contact Marc Aceves at 892-6187, ext. 28, or firstname.lastname@example.org.