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New coach, new look for Arabs

August 22, 2001|By ERIC GALVAN, Sports Writer

IMPERIAL — Coming off an injury-plagued one-win season, the Imperial Valley College volleyball team will look to turn the page on a forgettable 2000 season.

The Arabs head into the 2001 season with significant changes the most notable being a change in the head coach.

Gone is Jill Lerno, who coached IVC volleyball for five seasons, and in is Jill Tucker, an assistant to Lerno the past few seasons.

Tucker inherits a team that returns two players from a year ago, Jello Moore and Tiffany Drury, and will basically start anew with seven first-year collegiate players.

While the majority of the team is new to college volleyball, what will work in its favor is the players will play their natural positions.

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"That was one of the things that really affected us last year. We had girls playing positions they hadn't played before," said Tucker. "But now, with the players we have, they can play the positions they were taught through high school. And that really does make a big difference."

One of the key positions that affected IVC last year during its one-win season was the lack of a natural setter. The Arabs will look to freshman Yvette Rodriguez to run the show.

While Rodriguez — a freshman from Imperial — has no collegiate experience, she was a strong player on the high school level and Tucker thinks she will be an asset to the team.

"Even though she's young, she still has a good high school background. She's very smart on the court and also very coachable," said Tucker. "She has a lot of experience and knows how to run a team."

Along with Rodriguez, Tucker pointed to Drury and Marquita Travis, from Brawley, as keys to the Arab squad.

Another player Tucker singled out is 21-year-old Beni Garcia, who returns to the IVC volleyball program after a year off. During her freshman campaign, the 1998 Central Union High graduate was one of the top players on IVC's team.

Garcia returns as a veteran leader with collegiate experience.

"I look at it like I've been around the volleyball block, so I'm hoping I can help some of these younger players," said Garcia, who has been an assistant coach at Calexico and Central high schools. "The last year I've been coaching, so now that I'm out here, I kind of want to help coach some of these girls too."

Also on the team will be freshmen Melissa Williams from Calexico, Dora Nava-Esparza of Southwest High in El Centro and Reyna Flores and Charray Rabb of Imperial. Rounding out the squad is sophomore LaToya Jackson from Miami.

While the team is young and hopes are high, expectations are realistic.

Said Rodriguez: "You always want to say that you have high hopes and you want to do really well, but for us, we're just going to take it one game at a time."

Added Garcia: "Over the past few years it seems like the players (for IVC) have declined instead of gotten better. But I think under Jill (Tucker) all that will change. Yeah, we could say that we want to win the state championship, but that's not being realistic. I think we all know what we're capable of doing. What's important is that we all get together and that we all grow together. And we'll be successful if we do."

The Arabs kick off their season at 7 p.m. Aug. 31 as they host College of the Desert.

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