When head coach Geraldine Poon and assistant coach Kris Thomas got involved with Mission High School’s volleyball program two years ago, their goal was to significantly improve the team’s attitude on the court and in the classroom. They did.
The young women on the team made such strides on and off the court, in fact, that Thomas got in touch with the Guardian to ask if we could show them some love. We would love to!
“Over the years our student athletes have really put in tons of effort and it really does show,” Thomas told the Guardian in an email. This year has been the strongest start of a season in the history of Mission High School’s volleyball program with a 5-1 record.
When Poon and Thomas came aboard as the team's coaches, they started teaching skills that had nothing to do with volleyball. The two thought that for this team, communication skills were more important. The 12 girls on the roster learned how to offer constructive criticism, how to identify a problem and fix it, how to be supportive of their teammates, and how to play with composure and poise. Their new set of skills improved their playing and their schoolwork.
Most of Mission High School’s student body is made up of students who know or are learning English as a second language and live in underprivileged neighborhoods such as Bayview, Hunters Point, Fillmore, and the Tenderloin. The school is not known for high levels of academic achievement, but the volleyball team has improved its GPA from 3.06 in 2008 to 3.65 in 2010. Many of the girls received straight A's.
On the court, the girls have shown a great amount of improvement as well. Middle blocker junior Leonida Radford has been dominating at the net in kills and blocks, totaling 27 kills for the season.
Thomas offered specific commendations for many of the young women. He expects co-captain and outside hitter sophomore Katie Regalia to continue to post big numbers for the team in kills, digs and aces. She totals 137 service aces and 62 assists for the season. “She is by far the biggest asset to the team,” Thomas wrote. “[Her] undying effort and sheer selflessness …She is the glue that holds the team together.”
Sisters seniors Tianna, middle blocker and Nailafou Mitchell, outside hitter have significantly improved their grades and have both boasted a formidable offense when attacking. “They both had a rocky start to the season, but have both made major adjustments and are also huge assets to the team,” Thomas wrote.
Coaches also commended junior captain and setter Michelle Li for the way she rallies and holds her teammates responsible.
Despite its success, the team still has to deal with challenges they have no control over: it's had to wear the same uniforms for three years and there is no funding to purchase new ones. “Some of the uniforms have holes in the sleeves and are worn and discolored,” Thomas wrote. But that doesn't discourage the girls when playing volleyball powerhouse high schools like Washington, Lowell, or Lincoln.
There is still a month of games left on their schedule, but next Tuesday is the team’s last home game. “We have full confidence in making playoffs this year,” Thomas wrote. “In fact, I think it would be quite a disappointment if we don’t. A championship would be the proverbial icing on the cake.”