Silverado boys eye run at state title

A run to the 2011 Class 4A state semifinals is no cause for shame.

And while Silverado’s boys volleyball team celebrated its first state tournament appearance since 2007, the Skyhawks couldn’t help but feel like they wasted an opportunity.

“Last year, we were a bit disappointed that we didn’t get it,” said middle blocker Ruben Jackson, whose team fell to eventual champion Bonanza. “We were so close, especially considering we had beaten each of the other three teams (earlier).

“But we weren’t able to win the state championship.”

Silverado, which finished 18-4 overall and 13-1 in the Southeast League, gets a shot at redemption when the 2012 season opens today. The Skyhawks will host Palo Verde at 5 p.m.

The returning players believe Silverado, which last won a league and region title in 2007, has the means to improve on last year’s finish.

“We have a lot of returning talent,” senior outside hitter Kyle Divicino said. “Everyone on the team this year was playing on the team last year. We’ve got a good squad that has been playing together for a long time. There are a lot of team vibes going on. And everybody’s good friends outside of the court, so that helps.”

Divicino, Jackson and senior Indigo Varela pace a team less in transition than its three returning starters immediately reflect.

The same is true of the coaching staff. First-year coach Kevin Schwallie takes over for 11-year coach Eric Drum, although Schwallie spent three years as an assistant coach.

“Being around the program for four years now, I give all the credit to Eric and what he’s done with this program,” Schwallie said. “It’s all thanks to him. But I just had to change my dynamic and what I’m doing out here. And I had to earn (the players’) respect, too. They knew Coach Schwallie was here now … and I think I’ve kept it pretty much the same, and earned their respect in that regard.

“But it definitely helps having so many players back.”

Divicino, an offensive standout a year ago with 341 kills, said the new coaching staff placed an increased focus on conditioning.

“I think it’s going to pay off. I felt like we got a little tired as sets dragged on,” Divicino said. “We’re definitely training like we were going into football or basketball.”

Silverado is ready for a chance at a state title, and even more so for Jackson, a 6-foot guard on the Skyhawks’ basketball team that earned a four-way tie for the Southeast League title.

The senior middle blocker is ready to meet high expectations.

“We’re expected to do more than we did in basketball season,” said Jackson, who totaled 119 kills and 60 blocks as a junior. “But we want it just as bad as the basketball team. Hopefully I can get my revenge from basketball season.”

With a crop of nine seniors, the Skyhawks hope to add to 2011’s memories.

“What we did last year was awesome, but we felt like we were a couple of points from getting into the final,” Schwallie said. “They saw how close we were, and saw we were two matches from winning it all. Now, they realize it’s possible; we can be good enough to compete with the big boys. I think they’re ready.”