Asked so many times this season if his team was playing as well as he expected, Garces volleyball co-head coach John Price would take a pause, think, and state that he always felt the Rams could get better.

Garces did just that.

A year removed from a 5-5 record in the Southwest Yosemite League and a Central Section Division II championship, Garces was moved to D-I and did not disappoint.

The Rams went 9-1 this season, advancing to the section D-I semifinals, losing in five sets to eventual champions Fresno-Central and won a match in the CIF Southern California D-I Regional playoffs.

“One of nice things about this team is against Central and against San Juan Hills is we played our best volleyball of the year,” Price said. “Playing your best volleyball at the end of the year is always the goal and it rarely happens. So, it’s nice to see us playing our best volleyball at the end.”

Price, along with co-head coach Kim Harper, are the 2017 BVarsity All-Area Volleyball Coaches of the Year.

Harper, a long time coach at Garces, soon realized the best thing for the program was for Price to take over in-game strategy and practices for the Rams. In turn, Harper took on the administrative side of coaching to make the partnership work when Price came on before the 2016 season.

“For John and I it was an easy collaboration because of the respect I have for him in terms of coaching,” Harper said. “It’s easy to hand off the responsibilities of practice planning and game management. I know the things John doesn’t like to do and that I am good at. We play off each other’s strengths and weaknesses.”

The Rams returned all but one starter from 2016. That bulk of experience coming back seemed like a recipe for success, but Price wasn’t ready to proclaim anything too soon.

“You hope for the best every year,” Price said. “Even this year we had everybody coming back, but we still had some big question marks and just because you’re returning doesn’t mean you are going to be better.”

To both coaches delight, the Rams did get better. Led by All-Area first team hitters Perri Starkey and Lailah Green, middle hitters like senior Emily Demos and junior Alyson Dees, setter Priscilla Miranda, and libero McKenzie Miller, the Rams split the season series with Liberty. They tied the Patriots for the SWYL crown and beat Orange Lutheran 3-2 on the road for the program’s first SoCal D-I regional playoff game.

“We had a really good year,” Price said.