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Underclassmen learn volleyball ropes

By: Cecil Conley, Sports Editor
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No duty with Rocklin High School’s girls volleyball team is as bad as being responsible for the volleyballs. There are 19, and nine travel with coach Dave Muscarella’s squad wherever it goes. Last Friday’s trip to San Luis Obispo for a two-day tournament left freshman Alyssa White with a packing predicament. She had to bring her uniform, clothes, homework and the nine balls. Muscarella set aside two hours after the Thunder’s matches Saturday for a study session. He told the girls to bring the assignments they missed when they were allowed to skip school Friday. All that did was give White a few more items to pack, as if transporting the balls was not enough. “They call me ball girl,” White joked. Rocklin won its first eight games in the tournament before losing in the final, leaving the Thunder with a 19-1 record. Muscarella did not promote White and fellow freshman Megan Richwine to the varsity to have four extra hands to carry gear. Richwine is one of four girls responsible for assembling the net. Richwine was lucky enough to dodge the ball duty. The net stays home when the Thunder travels. “I didn’t want the balls,” she said. “I’ve had to help (White). It’s not fun. If a ball’s missing, you run.” Duties were doled out by Muscarella to teach the girls responsibility. The only advantage for the juniors and seniors was picking duties before sophomore Sara Sheehy and the two freshmen. Muscarella’s ulterior motive was to remind the upperclassmen that they are no different – or better. “I don’t believe in the whole hierarchy thing. I don’t want it,” he said. “They have to help each other.” The juniors and seniors need to step forward, Muscarella said, and set an example for the youngsters. “Our team is real welcoming,” Sheehy said. “We’re like a family. A team doesn’t mean just six players.” This is the second time in Muscarella’s 12 seasons that he has promoted two freshmen to the varsity. He did so this season after the first few practices because his team needed a spark. The addition of the freshmen raised the stakes, Muscarella said, in the competition for playing time. “We were flat. The girls were pretty complacent,” he said. “I think some of the girls were thinking that they’d already earned their spots. As soon as I brought them up, it raised the intensity.” White and Richwine have not played much thus far, but they would rather pay their dues with the varsity team than start for the junior varsity. They have accepted their roles – and their duties. “It’s cool to watch (from the bench) because even that makes us better. We want to get better,” said White, who has played with Richwine on club teams. “We’re there supporting the team.” Richwine wanted an opportunity to compete with “the best of the best” by joining the varsity team. “I want to fight for playing time,” she said. “I want to push myself.” In her spare time, Richwine can always lend White a hand retrieving the volleyballs.