When Maya Mellberg was a member of the Malibu High Sharks girls’ volleyball junior varsity team four years ago the squad went winless. The victories were scant the next year as well for Mellberg as a member of the junior varsity and varsity Sharks squads. Then, Mellberg and the rest of the girls’ volleyball team weren’t able to have a season in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Things were bit different this season.
Mellberg and her Sharks teammates closed the season with some notable wins and almost qualified for the CIF playoffs.
Mellberg, a 17-year-old senior, said Malibu’s 18-player roster was a strong group.
“We are really hoping we can get into the playoffs,” she before the end of the season last week. “We definitely have the potential to do that. We just have to put forth the effort.”
The Sharks had a 4-4 record in the Citrus League heading into the last week of the season. They lost to Carpinteria, 3-1, at home on Oct. 11, which was also senior night. The squad finished the season on Oct. 14 with a 3-1 victory at Santa Paula.
Malibu head coach Derek Saenz said if the Sharks won both contests they might have a made the playoffs. The top three teams in the Citrus Coast league standings—Nordhoff, Santa Paula and Carpinteria—made the playoffs. Malibu finished fourth in the league.
Malibu didn’t garner a victory this season in their non-Citrus League schedule, but defeated Fillmore, 3-1, in their second league competition. The Sharks downed Santa Paula, 3-1, next and then beat Hueneme, 3-0. Their fourth win was a 3-2 triumph over Fillmore.
Saenz said Malibu had energy especially at home contests.
“It’s entertaining,” he said. “The crowd gets into it. Everyone is happy.”
The successes Malibu had this season meant a lot to Mellberg, an outside hitter. Winning, Mellberg noted, is great.
“It is an upwards movement from where we started years ago,” she said. “I’m really proud of us.”
Mellberg said seeing various teammates register kills and blocks on the court gave her great memories, but the one recollection she will hold onto tight is the Sharks’ 25-22 set win against Nordhoff on Sept. 30. Nordhoff won the match, 3-1, but Malibu’s third set triumph was important, Mellberg said.
“Those girls used to be the scary ones,” she said of the Nordhoff Rangers, the Citrus League’s best team annually. “We were able to show the work we have put in. It was a really fun experience.”
Saenz said throughout Mellberg’s high school career she was a player that worked on her craft. When the pandemic canceled the team’s season last year, and the coach organized practices for the boys’ and girls’ volleyball teams at the beach and on Malibu’s campus. Mellberg was always there.
“A lot of times she practiced with the boys,” said Saenz of Mellberg. “She was at pretty much everything. She has done the most she could.”
Mellberg said those practices helped her get through the height of the coronavirus pandemic and increased her love of volleyball.
“It increased my appreciation for being with everyone on the court,” she said. “I realized how important teamwork is and relying on one another.”
The trainings also solidified her want to be a leader.
“Volleyball is something I care about, and I want to get all the girls on the team as enthusiastic as me,” Mellberg said. “I want to put effort in to make this a strong team. I want everyone to come together.”
Mellberg was a shy freshman player Saenz’s first year coaching at Malibu. He said it was good to watch her confidence grow.
“Maya developing leadership skills has been really good,” he said. “The kids that gravitate toward her work hard and have a good attitude. She has motivated the girls around her.”
High school volleyball meant a lot to her. She didn’t want the season to end.
“It’s been a big team experience for me and way for me to focus my energy outside of school,” she said. “I have become a lot more confident over the years in terms of being a leader and doing the best I can do. I’ve gained confidence in the work I put in and what I can do on the court.”