Malibu High Sharks girls volleyball players Lucia Granados and Maya Mellberg shot off toward the edge of the court to keep the ball in play at one point during their contest against a team from Chaminade High recently. One of the Sharks knocked the ball back to their teammates and, after a few more taps of the ball, Malibu scored a point. 

The Sharks tallied another point after that, but eventually lost the match, 25-15. However, before the matchup, Granados, a freshman middle blocker, hinted at her and Mellberg’s forthcoming play and Malibu’s on-court mindset. 

“Go for every single ball,” she said. “I think that mentality will really help us.” 

Granados and Mellberg teamed with Jade Nittolo, Vanessa Leinbach, Lyla Mankoff, Jamison Douglas and Sophia Banducci to form one of four Malibu squads composed of varsity, junior varsity, and frosh/soph team members that competed in the Malibu Volleyball Tournament on Sept. 7 in the high school’s two gyms. The Sharks teams spent the day facing off against junior varsity and frosh/soph squads from Brentwood, Chaminade, South Pasadena, Marymount and Lakewood.

A group of Malibu junior varsity players defeated Brentwood and South Pasadena in the event’s pool play. Marymount teams captured the tournament’s frosh/soph and junior varsity crowns. 

Mellberg, a varsity player, called Marymount and the other teams amazing competition that set an example for the Sharks on what it takes to be a good team.

“It gives us all this experience,” the sophomore outside said, “and we get to see what other teams work toward and how to get better.” 

Granados, also a member of Malibu’s varsity squad, noted that her shiver of Sharks played the tournament’s winners tough.

“We were neck and neck with them,” she said. “They had a seven-point lead. Some of us were really upset about that, so we all flipped a switch. We were playing with them. We made some mistakes but can learn from those.”

Derek Saenz, Malbu’s second-year head coach, liked that the Malibu teams played hard even when behind on the scoreboard. 

“Continuing to fight when you’re down is an important step in the process,” he said. “Even if you are one of the top teams, other teams will pressure you; other teams will come for you. It’s a good character trait to have.” 

Saenz said the purpose of the event was to help volleyball make more of an imprint on Malibu’s sport landscape and to give Sharks players who don’t get much playing time during the season a chance to get game experience outside of practice.

“This is a chance to develop some depth where everybody on every roster has experience on court,” he said. “So, if someone gets sick before a big match, we will be able to put someone else in.”

Setter Elyse Morales, a Sharks junior varsity player, said the tournament was a good place to allow all the girls to spend time on the court. 

“Some girls that don’t get to play in matches,” she said, “get better and more experience.” 

Saenz hopes his players, a majority of whom have only a couple of years’ volleyball experience, noticed the work ethic of the girls on the other teams, which are more established volleyball programs. 

“They are all working hard,” he said while watching a Malibu team play Chaminade. “The gym is super loud. You can’t fake enthusiasm. You have to be at your best if you want to play the best. I think that is one of the things we will take from this. How can we recreate this when we are training? Have this kind of atmosphere in our practices?”

The results of the tournament do not count toward any of the participants records. Malibu’s varsity squad had a 2-3 record heading into their game at St. Monica on Tuesday. The Sharks defeated Bernstein, 3-2, on Aug. 27 and downed Fairfax, 3-1, on Sept. 4. The group has lost to Chaminade, Beverly Hills and Agoura. 

Granados said the season is going well. 

“We are all working our hardest,” she said. “I think it’s really cool what we have done so far. It gives us a lot of confidence.” 

Saenz said the team has gotten a lot better since last season.

“We are moving in the right direction,” he said.

Malibu’s first Citrus Coast League contest is on Thursday at Santa Paula. The squad then hosts Carpinteria five days later. Their third league game is on Sept. 24 at Nordhoff. 

Malibu finished at the bottom of the Citrus Coast League in 2018. Mellberg, a member of last season’s squad, believes the Sharks can climb the standings this season. 

“I am really hoping to win league,” she said. “It’s a big push, but I think we can do it. We have a lot of experience and can do a lot. We have to put everything together.” 

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