OAKLAND --- The Head-Royce girls volleyball team finds itself in an unusual situation this season -- looking toward a pair of outstanding sophomores for leadership on the floor.
The Jayhawks, who have won two straight Bay Counties League-East championships, have five underclassmen starting this season --- including sophomores Emma Scanlan and Natasha Skov.
If Head-Royce wants to win a third straight league title, and match the accomplishments of last season when it went 22-6 and reached the North Coast Section Division V semifinals, then the young Jayhawks will likely have play beyond their years.
Entering this week, Head-Royce had a 4-6 record and a 2-1 mark in the BCL-East, losing to College Prep in four sets on Sept. 17.
"It will be a very difficult task for us," Head-Royce coach Scott Tay said. "The only way we can do it is with the leadership of our sophomores. They play with so much heart and intensity and it fires everyone else up."
Head-Royce graduated standout libero Olivia Wilson and saw setter Mya So-Holloway, a sophomore this fall, transfer to Sacred Heart Cathedral-San Francisco.
Scanlon and Skov both play outside hitter and combine to lead the Jayhawks in most categories. Skov is the team's big hitter, while Scanlon leads in every other statistic other than assists.
The assists are, once again, being left to a freshman this season as Alison Almgren-Bell takes over for So-Holloway. Her twin sister, Jessica Almgren-Bell, is playing middle blocker this season.
With freshman Jordynn Hunkin playing opposite, Head-Royce has five underclassmen starting. The lone senior is Sarah Louie, who takes over for Wilson as the team's libero and captain.
"With a young team, you never know what you're going to get," Tay said. "But if we train them properly and they play within the system, they could develop quickly. That's what's exciting about having young players. They could blossom early or they could blossom late."
Reaching the NCS Division V finals and the Northern California playoffs may seem like a tough task, especially with Branson-Ross, St. Joseph Notre Dame and College Prep in the same classification. But if the young players come around sooner than expected, this Jayhawks squad could reach the NCS title game.
"We're just looking to build upon last year," Tay said. "We're aiming for a top-five seed in NCS. Last year we got the two seed, and we're trying to build off that and hope by the end of the years the young players have developed."