The Live Oak volleyball team has been practicing for about the last month and a half, with their first game still a week away. Practicing in the hot summer weather in the gym with no airconditioning for up to four hours a day, and conditioning more than they have before, nobody can say this team isn't committed to success.

The Live Oak volleyball team has been practicing for about the last month and a half, with their first game still a week away. Practicing in the hot summer weather in the gym with no airconditioning for up to four hours a day, and conditioning more than they have before, nobody can say this team isn't committed to success.


"They absolutely are," coach Karen Peters said. "They've been asked to do a lot, and they have shown up to do that. I'm real impressed that there are this many girls still standing. They played all summer. They've been asked to dedicate a lot of time to the program and they have stepped up and shown that they're willing to do that."


Peters said the commitment level she's seen is something more common at the club level than at high school. She took over coaching duties from Vern Bridges, who was hired earlier in the summer but won't be coaching the team. Live Oak Principal Mat Gulbrandsen said he can't comment on personnel matters.


Peters was coaching the junior varsity team up until this week (she'll now do both), and had scrimmaged against the varsity a couple times during the summer.


"They're a much stronger team now than they were, I think they've grown a lot," she said. "I see a lot of potential."


Even the team's confidence has gotten stronger. They've come together really well as a group, she said. They're interactive, talking on the court, and are very team oriented.


The Lions lost key seniors Stephanie Owen, Brittany Michaels, Whitney Benzel and Nai Saefong, but returning are Addie Vasquez, Brenda Robles,  Gabby Melchor, Teresa Montes, Judy Saefong, Lee Thao and Nora Chavez. Moving up from the J.V. team are Jessica Mejia, Stephanie Taylor, Heather Scarberry, Ashley Howell, Sandra Alcantar. Celeste Bernal and Lilly Fermin are also new to the team. Their season starts on Tuesday, September 2, at 5:30 p.m. at Biggs High School.


Taking over the varsity on short notice has made it difficult for Peters to say who will play where and what the team's strengths and weaknesses are. It's going to be a quick learning session before their first game.


"We're going to do a lot over the next week to learn everything," she said. "It's going to be a lot of assessing skills, and figuring out the positions, and figuring out what our strengths are and what our weaknesses are. I've asked all the girls to write me a summary of what they think the strengths and weaknesses are so I can get their perspective of it."


Peters has been a varsity head coach at Princeton and East Nicolaus high schools, only stopping because she had a young child. She also handled both varsity and junior varsity duties at Princeton.


UCLA student Rachel Downs has been working with varsity since they began practicing in July, and will help Peters with the transition. Downs played four years of volleyball at Yuba City High School and four years of club volleyball. She also plays intramural volleyball at UCLA.


Downs said they've been working on fundamentals all summer, especially passing. She agreed with Peters that the team has gotten much better over the summer.


"Natural athletic ability is there for a lot of them, so they just have to learn the skills of volleyball before they can cooperate as a team," she said. "They've put their heart and soul into it and a lot of these girls are really, really focused. So there's a lot of potential there."


Nobody is way ahead or way behind anybody else in terms of skill, so Downs said how hard each girl works will likely determine how much they play this year.


But all of the girls on the 2008 team are high energy and excited to be there, Downs said. They're still learning, but they've shown they have the desire to succeed.