Facing a disappointing 2-10 record, the Lancers ladies volleyball team is looking to turn their season around.

Brazilian-born Lahiz Longobardi and first time competitive volleyball player Chy’annea Hodges lead the team on this road to redemption.

“We’re going to play against teams that we’ve already played, we can play better than we did before,” said Longobardi.

“If we just keep on staying hungry and positive, I’m sure we have a chance,” added Hodges.

The Lancer ladies started off their season a little rocky. As for any group of players, it takes some adjustment to harmonize and build cohesion. After some changes to players’ positions and some off-court team bonding, the ladies are now feeling connected and are confident that they can come back stronger than ever.

“I think we had a tough beginning because we are a new team, we don’t have experience playing together,” said Longobardi.

“We were struggling with communication a lot,” added Hodges.

Communication is vital for the six players on the 30-by-30-foot court, who’s goal is to work together to get the ball down on the opposing team’s side in three touches or less. While the speed of the game is quick, players have to continuously talk to each other to prevent confusion within positions. The Lancers ladies volleyball team is finally building that trust.

“We’re finally conquering things, we trust each other in the court,” said Longobardi. “And I think the time we spend outside the court is definitely real important for us.”

The team spent a lot of time hanging out between classes and after practice to improve their relationship that will show during game time. Head Coach Bill Sanchez also held a barbeque at his home for the girls to relax and reboot for the second half of season.

“Now in practice, coach will tell us that we just have to want it more than they want it,” said Hodges. “Ever since then, we try to talk more and if we don’t, we runnin’ so I guess that motivated us too.”

Hodges, who primarily trained in the setter position, is now the middle blocker. The team also adapted to losing some players who were not able to play due to grades. Despite these mid-season changes, Sanchez said he is proud of his ladies for being open to the adjustments and is confident that these strategies will improve their winning marks.

“We’ve overcome some challenges,” said Sanchez. “We’re going to keep doing what we’re doing. We’ll surprise some people.”

Off the court, Longobardi, nicknamed “Rio” by her teammates, also had to adapt to some major changes. The outside hitter moved from Brazil four months ago all by herself to pursue her education. She knew no one when she got here and had no intentions of playing volleyball.

“I came here just to study,” said Longobardi. “But then I got into volleyball, it was like a plus.”

Longobardi had played volleyball in Brazil since she was 10 years old. Before making the Lancers team, Hodges, however, was primarily a basketball player who only played volleyball only a couple years in high school. But regardless of the years of expertise or the limited experience, the two ladies have excelled. Longobardi has recorded 129 kills (3.1 per set) and Hodges leads the team in blocks with 15. Their physical skills are bonus contributions to the team. Defense specialist, Demy Moore, said it’s their positive attitude that she looks up to them for.

“She (Longobardi) has so much heart for the game,” said Moore. “Even when she’s going through something and can’t shake it off, she never stops encouraging us.”

During game intermissions, Moore said that Hodges gives her motivational pep talks.

“She’s one of those girls that if she’s not around, you’re kind of quiet and then when you have her, she’s pumping you up, you get pumped up too,” said Moore.

At this midpoint in the season, the ladies still have a fighting chance of making playoffs. Coach Sanchez noticed the positive impact made on his team and couldn’t ask for more.

“I think it’s been a blessing that we get our attitude, its upbeat all the time,” said Sanchez.
Longobardi and Hodges have no doubt that the team is capable of this comeback.

“I really believe in our team,” Longobardi said. “We definitely have a chance.”

“We are more of one as oppose to being individuals,” added Hodges. “Now we come with a force, we’re taking off.”

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