Tricia Plummer, Granite Bay High School's new varsity volleyball coach, spent three seasons coaching the freshman and junior varsity teams, so she knows her players - and the lofty expectations for the team.
Last season under Jamie Ingram, now coaching at William Jessup, the Grizzlies went undefeated in the Sierra Foothill League behind the play of then-juniors Taylor Nelson, Maddy Deters and Nicolette Pinkney, and they advanced to the CIF Northern California Division I championship before losing to longtime power St. Francis in four games.
Nelson, Deters and Pinkney are three of the main reasons Granite Bay is No. 1 in The Bee's first volleyball rankings this season - and expectations are high again.
"They know and we don't have to remind them," Plummer said. "We've told them that every team wants to be the team to beat Granite Bay. I think we've been hyped a lot and they are excited about that. But they know they have to work hard to ensure they keep it up."
Deters and Taylor are four-year varsity starters, and Pinkney has been on varsity since her sophomore season. All three also play for the Northern California Volleyball Club, helping them to develop invaluable chemistry.
"They all have a lot of leadership built through not only high school but on their club teams as well," Plummer said. "It's been cool to stand back and let them lead their team and they are excited about it and they have a lot to share."
Said Deters: "We all have a really good connection. We've known each other for years and years, so it really shows on the court."
It's been just four years since Plummer, 26, played her final season at William Jessup in nearby Rocklin, and her youthful spirit allows her to blend in with her players. In fact, she says, she sometimes is confused as a player.
"Most people think I am a player. That's why I wear the polo," Plummer said. "Most people think I am in high school."
Plummer's close friendship with Ingram has helped smooth the transition for the first-time varsity coach, who recently earned a history degree from Sacramento State and hopes to have her teaching credential within the next year.
"She is such a good coach," said Pinkney, who played for Plummer as a freshman. "I totally enjoy playing for her. I learned so much my freshman year from her and it's so awesome to be able to play for her again."
Plummer can relate to her players because it wasn't long ago she played for Del Oro, one of Granite Bay's rivals.
Plummer said she is looking forward to coaching against her former coach and mentor, Stuart Kageta, in two SFL matches this fall.
"This is an awesome opportunity to play against him," Plummer said. "I really respect him as a coach, and it's fun because he has taught me so much."
Kageta also looks forward to it but jokes that it's a love-hate relationship.
"I think it's great to see a former athlete coaching," Kageta said. "I think Tricia will do a great job at Granite Bay. The only thing that bothers me is that we will be the underdog to her team this year."
Despite going 41-7 (10-0 in the SFL) last season, the Grizzlies figure they have some unfinished business. Three losses were to St. Francis, the last two in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I finals and the NorCal finals.
And Granite Bay hadn't beaten St. Francis in the three years Nelson and Deters have been on the varsity roster - until Tuesday.
The Grizzlies set what they hope will be the tone for their season, winning the final three games Tuesday to beat visiting St. Francis 3-1 (18-25, 25-16, 29-27, 25-16) in a season-opening foundation match, an exhibition aimed at raising funds for the program.
Though the win doesn't officially count, it certainly means something to the Grizzlies.
"It feels good to know that all of our hard work has paid off because we've lost to them every year since I've been here," Nelson said. "It feels good to finally win."
Said Plummer of her team: "They are incredibly motivated. I think that is a goal they have had (to beat St. Francis.)"
Taylor, who has committed to attend Cal Poly on scholarship, has another goal for her senior season - win a state title.
"It's our last year," Taylor said, "so we want to go out the best we can."
TEN OTHER PLAYERS TO WATCH
NASTASSJA BOWMAN, Christian Brothers, setter, junior: She did it all for the Falcons as a setter and at the net en route to their Sac-Joaquin Section Division III semifinal berth last season.
MADDIE GRAHAM, Placer, middle blocker, senior: She led the Lady Hillmen with 215 kills last year; Placer will go as she goes.
ALI KOUMELIS, St. Francis, setter, senior: A four-year varsity standout, she led the Troubadours with 847 assists en route to their section and NorCal Division I titles.
LEA FELTON, St. Francis, middle blocker, senior: Quiet and reserved off the court, she's a fierce competitor and respected player on it.
MIKAELA NOCETTI, El Camino, outside hitter, junior: She has been slowed early after having her wisdom teeth removed, but she again will be a driving force for the defending section Division II champs.
DEVIN HERENDA, El Camino, setter, junior: As part of the tandem with Nocetti, she led the Eagles with 863 assists.
KYRA ROGERS, Oakmont, middle blocker, junior: She led the Vikings to the section Division III title in 2012; she might hit the books harder than she hits a volleyball.
ABBY JENSEN, Roseville, middle blocker, junior: At 5-foot-11, she's not the tallest middle blocker, but she helped the Tigers upset St. Francis on Saturday in the High Sierra Invitational and was named to the all-tournament team.
HANNAH CHRISTIANSON, Bear River, libero, senior: The newcomer - her family moved to Placer County from Florida in December to raise bees - may be the best libero in the area.
MADDIE MERLINO, Rio Americano, setter, junior: She led the section in assists (1,277) in 2012.
- Trevor Horn
Follow Trevor Horn on Twitter @trevhorn.