Albany High girls volleyball coach Roger Worsley makes no secret the goal for this year.
"Win NCS," the second-year coach said. "We return more than most of the teams that finished ahead of us. We should be in a position to contend for that NCS crown."
As a No. 4 seed in the North Coast Section Division III playoffs a year ago, the Cougars suffered a loss to No. 5 Analy in a five-game thriller in the quarterfinals.
Worsley and the Cougars have good reason for high expectations. They return five starters -- including the Bay Shore Athletic League MVP in Kyra Holt, a junior outside hitter who had 366 kills last year.
Another good reason is the beefed up schedule Albany is able to have thanks to some changes in the Bay Shore Athletic League.
In the past, with a 10-team league, there were 18 BSAL games. That left a limited number of chances to play nonleague matches.
This year, the league is broken up into two divisions with Albany, John Swett, St. Patrcik-St. Vincent, Salesian and Kennedy in the North and Piedmont, Encinal, St. Mary's, St. Joseph and Holy Names in the South.
Albany will play its North counterparts twice and the South teams once. That leaves five more matches Albany can schedule against tougher competition.
And Worsley wasted no time getting one of the toughest opponents on the schedule. On Sept. 12, the Cougars play at Campolindo, the Division III NCS and state champion.
"We get a little
Albany dominated league play last year with an 18-0 record. They were 27-6 overall -- the sixth straight year of 20 or more wins.
Worsley is the main reason for the split in the league.
"I recognized what we had and we weren't getting prepared so I lobbied the coaches," he said. "They said fine and I drafted the proposal. We're very fortunate the athletic directors were able to put that down for us."
The list of experienced players for the Cougars is long.
Albany returns four-year players in setter McKenzie Giblin and middle hitter Kari Castanon-Hill. Junior Marin Gibson makes her third stint as an outside hitter. Two-year varsity players are sophomore Amber Erahaon (middle hitter), sophomore Brooke Tannahill (libero), senior Maddy Dunn (right side) and junior Mia Jauregi (right side).
"The difference between last year and this year is we were younger," Worsley said. "As a younger group we gained that experience. And now we have a tape of what the NCS playing field is like. This year we bring that experience to the table."
It also helps that Worsley is no longer a first-year coach.
"They needed time to get used to my style," he said. "In the process we were winning, but it was more of a learning experience last year."
The deepest run Albany has had recently was in 2007 when it advanced to the semifinals as the No. 2 seed. But the Cougars suffered a four-game loss to No. 3 Analy. It capped a 34-5 season -- the second 30-plus win season in the past six years.
"We lose only one senior (starter)," Worsley said. "We return five of the six starters and as such, that is going to be a huge part of this year. They're going to provide us continuity for this year. We have high expectations on where we are and where we want to be at the end of the season."