There’s something special about being a fourth-year high school sports coach.
You’ve had time to develop your program and implement your schemes. Your players understand your leadership style and expectations. And the ones who started with you as freshmen are now seniors, ready to achieve more success than ever before.
That’s the potential in front of Aaron Wexler, who is in his fourth year at the helm of the Crossroads girls volleyball team. The challenge, of course, is getting the Roadrunners to where he thinks they can go.
On the heels of two dominant sweeps in their first three preseason matches, they will face Chatsworth-Sierra Canyon in their conference opener on the road Tuesday afternoon.
Crossroads has returned with plenty of talent from last year’s squad, which reached the CIF Southern Section Division 2A second round as part of a 15-15 campaign. It was marked improvement for a program that won just 10 games and missed the playoffs a year earlier.
What remains to be seen is how the Roadrunners will fare in the Gold Coast League a year after taking third place behind Calabasas-Viewpoint and Sierra Canyon.
Although Wexler’s team is without graduated seniors Chloe Brendlinger, Genevieve Worthe, Amanda Rosenberg, Jessica Friedman and Lauren Roper, it boasts a skilled group of players who gained ample experience on the court last year.
Co-captains Harper Graves, Olympia Nagel-Caland and Grace Rose highlight a senior class that also includes Kate Whitney-Schubb, Ivy Bragin, Tyler Fields, Arden Misraje and Isabelle Happillon. Rouding out the roster are juniors Madison Quan and Rosie Hudson and sophomores Shannon Munn, Lilet Brooks, Soah Franklin and Lena Tatum.
Crossroads began its 2016 campaign at home Aug. 31 with a 3-0 (25-18, 25-12, 25-19) win over Culver City. Rose’s precise sets paved the way for powerful hitting by Nagel-Caland on the right and Graves on the left, while Whitney-Schubb made several key defensive plays and Munn controlled the net from the middle.
“They played as a team and ignited the crowd with crisp offense and inspired defense,” Wexler said.
The Roadrunners fell short the next day against St. Monica Catholic in their first five-set match since back-to-back marathon meetings in last year’s playoffs, losing 3-2 (22-25, 25-23, 25-13, 12-25, 15-8) at home. After crushing the Mariners in the fourth set with the help of Bragin’s powerful serving, Crossroads had trouble in the abbreviated fifth set.
The loss spoiled outstanding efforts by Nagel-Caland (13 kills), Misraje (six kills and three blocks) and Tatum (23 digs).
The Roadrunners appear to have the makings of a postseason-bound squad, and they’ll be looking to last longer in the playoffs than they did last year. They edged Oxnard in five sets on the road in the first round before being knocked out in a 3-2 loss to Woodland Hills-Louisville two days later.
In Wexler’s first three years at the helm, his teams compiled a combined record of 38-32 and reached the playoffs twice. Crossroads won the Delphic League title in 2013, when it reached the Division 4A semifinals.
BY JEFFREY I. GOODMAN