SIERRA VOLLEYBALL

Seniors Tionna Moss, left, and Gya’ni Sami hope to lead the Sierra girls’ volleyball team to its first playoff appearance in 15 years.

The Sierra volleyball team is in the midst of a 15-year playoff drought — but second-year coach Steve Lacy hopes to end the unlucky streak in 2018 thanks to two “under-the-radar” hitters.

Seniors Tionna Moss and Gya’ni Sami, who measure at 5-10 and 5-8, respectively, may lack size at the net, but make up for it in ferocity, according to Lacy.

“Last year, no knock to them whatsoever, but our seniors wanted to have their senior year, and I think they had never been told they were winners, but these girls this year really are,” Lacy said.

After losing nine seniors to graduation and slumping interest in the summer team, Lacy had an uphill battle to not only fill rosters for varsity, JV and C-Squad, but to find the right commitment and mindset for 2018.

“Halfway through summer league we had to cancel it because we didn’t have enough girls showing up,” Lacy said. “It’s hard coming in your first year of coaching and then losing nine seniors like that. Trying to rebuild a program you scramble and try to figure things out but we are going to have a good set of leadership this year.”

“Coach Lacy brought a different vibe to us this year and he wants us to be better, and that makes us want to be better,” Moss said. “We always go hard in practice because we know if we go hard in practice we are going to go hard in games and I think that mentality is going to get us to the playoffs.”

Last year Moss, one of the clear leaders on the court this year, competed in her first club season, improving her hitting and confidence on the court before returning to Sierra, where she will take on a new role with Sami as setters.

“Tionna really came along playing club,” Lacy said. “When she had the chance to shine and show who she was in club she really started to elevate her game … Vertical wise, athleticism wise, if she were 6-foot, she would have DI schools drooling over her in my opinion. She is definitely a hidden gem.”

“Gya’ni doesn’t look that tall, but when you look at her across the net she’s all business. Volleyball just runs through her veins,” Lacy said.

Sami comes from a volleyball family, and learned to hit with confidence from her dad, Taleo, who passed away a year ago.

“My dad was a volleyball coach and volleyball player as well and he taught me everything I know. He gave me my first volleyball when I was younger,” Sami said. “I always complained to my dad, saying ‘Dad, why am I so short?’ My whole family is taller than me, so what happened to me? And he would always say, ‘Don’t complain about your height, girls would love to be your height.’ Over time I grew to overcome it and realize if I’m jumping like I’m 6-foot-1, then I am 6-foot-1 — even though I’m really 5-8.”

The Sierra volleyball program has been on a slight incline the last two seasons, posting a 9-14 record — the program’s best since 2007. But Lacy expects more from the Stallions this season.

“Getting back to just regional playoffs would be a tremendous win for us but out sight is getting to state,” Lacy said. “The attitude about that overall goal is 100 percent there.”

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