Generally, when a team closes the regular season with 12-consecutive wins, it likely isn't going to adapt a back-to-the-drawing-board mentality heading into the playoffs.
But the case of the Bakersfield College volleyball team is a different one. After wrapping the regular season with a 3-1 win over Antelope Valley on Nov. 8, the Renegades began a break from game action that would last more than two weeks.
The sabbatical will finally come to a close Tuesday, when the seventh-seeded Renegades host 10th-seed Chaffey in the first round of the SoCal Regional Championships.
Naturally, players are itching to make a long-awaited return to live action.
“There’s that anxiousness of wanting to just go ahead and play," sophomore libero Jessica Merante said. "We’re all just super eager to play. Having this really long break is almost agonizing for us."
Unable to do anything about the long layoff, BC coach Carl Ferreira said he tried to insert a preseason mentality into practices.
Since the CCCAA didn't reveal its postseason bracket until last Thursday, Ferreira didn't even have an opponent to scout for much of the break, and decided to implement a fundamental-heavy practice not normally seen this late in the year.
"During the season you kind of get into this competition mode where you play and then you get the next scouting report, play, then the next scouting report, and you get in a little bit of a routine," he said. So what we did was, we went back and just kind of reviewed all our fundamental systems.
"And that’s kind of what we do in August. In August you don’t know the systems you’re going to playing. We went back, reviewed a lot of things and I thought it was really good.”
Since last Thursday, Ferreira has been preparing for a 21-3 Panther team with a dynamic weapon in 5-foot-8 outside hitter Kendall Mency.
Mency paced the offense for a Chaffey, which finished the regular season in a three-way tie atop the standings in the Inland Empire Athletic Conference. She led the league with 330 kills and .59 aces per set.
Due to the low RPI of the Western State South, where the Renegades dropped just two sets all year, BC's 20-2 record wasn't enough to guarantee more than one home game in the postseason.
Regardless of seeding, Ferreira is fully confident in his team's ability to contend for a state title, and is making sure to express that confidence to his players.
“I’m a big fan of saying ‘You don’t want the moment to be bigger than the image you can create in your mind,’" he said. "I think sometimes if we’re only playing for the first-round playoff game, you’re not prepared for the second. If you’re only prepared for the first two, you get to state and you’re not prepared for that.
"We work backwards. We create the image of what it’s like to win the state championship, then from there you go one match at a time.”
Admitting she and her teammates are bursting at the seams to return to the floor, Merante expects team energy will outweigh any potential rush in the regional opener.
"Having that anticipation is just building more of a fire for us," she said. "I think it’s going to be really awesome for us when we step on the court Tuesday.”