Sharks girls volleyball battling injury and sickness in addition to opponents

The Malibu High Sharks girls volleyball team has been bitten by an injury and sick bug so far this season. 

Sharks coach Derek Saenz had to put players from Malibu’s junior varsity team on the varsity team in order to have enough players to take the floor in a tournament in Venice last weekend. 

“Five out of our nine players were sick,” he said. 

Malibu was still able to grab a win in the tournament on Sept. 9, though. The team beat Le Lycee 2-0 before falling to Palisades in the next contest, 2-0. Palisades went on to win the two-day event. 

Instead of focusing on winning, Saenz said, Malibu keyed in on just having fun during the event. 

“We were just happy to play,” he said. “We had some good things happen on the court. It didn’t equate to many wins but I think it settled a lot of the nerves for the kids that were there.” 

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Malibu has won four of its 15 matches this season. Its campaign began on Aug. 13 with a 3-0 loss to Mayfair in a tournament. On the same day, the Sharks beat South El Monte 3-2. The squad suffered a string of losses before beating Carpinteria 3-2 on Aug. 30. Their next win was on Sept. 8, a victory over Hueneme. Then came the tournament in Venice.

Malibu played at Channel Islands on Tuesday and at Fillmore on Thursday. The Sharks host Carpinteria on Sept. 22 and play at Nordhoff on Sept. 29.

The team also played a contest against a Sharks girls volleyball alumni team a week ahead of this season’s start. 

The members of the team include outside hitter and captain Lucia Granados, middle blocker Bebe Bushnell, and middle blocker and right-side hitter Charli Lewis, who are all seniors. Juniors Kate Mulder, a setter, and Coco Lupo, an opposite and middle blocker, are also on the roster with sophomores Catherine McDonough, a middle blocker; Mia Thomas, an outside hitter; Avery Greco, an opposite and defensive specialist; and libero and setter Jasmine Bellamy. 

Malibu played one match without Mulder earlier this season, and another girl injured her knee during a match. Then, multiple players took ill. 

Granados said the Sharks’ is composed of athletes, so when one girl is absent from competition, another can take her place.

“It was challenging at first, but we are quickly learning to adapt to the changing circumstances,” she said. 

Saenz said Malibu has only played one game with their full roster.

“We have good athletes, we have the size,” he said. “We just haven’t played a lot of volleyball together.” 

Malibu’s five-set win over Carpinteria was their best victory of the season, said Saenz. 

“We won the last set 16-14,” he said. “We didn’t fold under pressure. That was big for us.”

Granados said she and her teammates — many first-year varsity players — rebounded in the match after losing the first two sets. 

“We were the underdogs,” she said. “A team with few returning varsity players in a gym roaring with Carpinteria fans, and that definitely got to us at the beginning. We were timid and anxiety-ridden until we realized that we had what it took to beat them. There was a burst of confidence throughout the rest of the match.” 

Saenz said if the squad is healthy, its goal is to be champions of the Citrus Coast League, which also includes Nordhoff, Carpinteria, Fillmore, Santa Paula, Channel Islands, and Hueneme. 

“The goal is to win league, make playoffs, and have as strong as a run possible,” he said. 

Granados said throughout her time on the team, their goal has always been to snag a league title. She said winning the Citrus Coast League is feasible this year. 

“We have a group of passionate players who work hard at every chance they get,” she said. “We are hungry for more and expect great things for the rest of the season.” 

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