Cougars focus on rebound

After winning 21 matches last season, Coronado’s boys volleyball team had every reason to celebrate.

But the Cougars didn’t celebrate after their final game in May. Instead, they spent the offseason contemplating a season-ending loss.

Indeed, a 21-25, 25-16, 25-19, 27-25, 16-14 loss to Centennial in the state tournament semifinals has been the focus of attention for Coronado coach Brock Mitchell and his players for the 10 months. If anything good came out of that setback for the Cougars, it’s that they are hungrier than ever.

The 2009 season begins today, and Mitchell’s team appears destined to get another chance at a state title. With 10 returning players on his roster, the coach thinks his squad might get an opportunity to redeem itself.

 “The guys on this team have got two to three years of varsity experience together,” said Mitchell, whose team dropped its first and last matches last year to finish 21-2. “We lost a lot of senior leadership, but experience is a lot. If we don’t get back to that position again, I would consider the season a failure.”

Mitchell said he has had time to analyze what went wrong in last season’s state tournament.

“When it got to the point where the score was 14-14 in the fifth game (in the loss to Centennial), any one ball could have won us that match,” he said. “But we had 57 total errors. Our top players had poor games, and they remember what it was like to be counted on all season long only to struggle at the biggest moment.”

Several seniors took the loss hard, but Mitchell’s returners are using it as fuel for a successful season.

Coronado seniors Eric Boman and Chris Austin are among the top players in town. Boman, a 6-foot-3-inch outside hitter, and Austin, a 6-3 right-side specialist, have vowed to learn from their mistakes.

“I think we came into (the semifinals) a little overconfident, and we underrated Centennial,” Austin said. “We’re going to focus this season on being confident but not overconfident.”

He added that the pain of last year’s disappointing end will serve as motivation this season.

Mitchell said his leaders have assured him they are ready to compete for another championship.

“Chris has told me multiple times, 'Coach, I won’t let this team fail,’ ” said Mitchell, who expects Southern Nevada’s balance of power to remain relatively unchanged this season. “That’s the kind of attitude we need.”

The coach hopes his players will deliver, as he will be leaving Coronado after the season to take a job as a volunteer assistant coach at Weber State.

Austin said he plans to send Mitchell out of town with a state title.

“We want to walk off the court being 1-0 after every game,” he said. “If the season ends on a win, that means we’ve won the championship.”