Comparable to a pinch hitter or pinch runner in softball or a 3-point specialist in basketball, Genea Garza and Jaylynn Razo serve – literally – a precise role for the Sterling volleyball team.
Both seniors are defensive specialists, but only if opposing teams can handle and return their float serves.
“They’re able to hit any spot on the court, and we work with both of them on serving short or long based on what kind of team we’re playing,” Sterling coach Dale Dykeman said. “They can hit with velocity and movement, and have really helped us stabilize our system in a lot of matches.”
Garza has racked up 41 digs and 22 aces for the Warriors this season, and has always utilized a float serve in her volleyball career. Razo, on the other hand, has not always floated the ball over the net.
“When you go to different club teams, they each expect something different,” Razo said. “I worked on my float the past 2 years, but before that I was solely top-spin.”
Garza saw time last year in a similar role for Sterling, but Razo has chipped in 26 digs and 14 aces due to increased time on the court.
The two spend most of their time perfecting their craft together, with a shared focus on keeping opponents out of system offensively.
“We do the same stuff in practice,” Garza said. “Sometimes, we’ll only work on our serves. It’s more condensed that way in drills.”
Some players opt to use top-spin serves, which can be easier for a defensive specialist to pass if they are in good position and have a solid base. Dealing with the knuckling action of Garza and Razo’s serves is a completely different challenge.
“Once you have an idea of where the ball’s going, its flight path can deviate an inch or two to the right or left, and that leads to the ball not going to the target,” Dykeman said. “Then it can eliminate one pin, so you know where the hit is going to come from.”
“I think it’s harder to pass,” Garza added. “There are also what Dykeman calls ‘driving floats,’ where the ball goes right at someone and they aren’t sure what to do.”
Still, both seniors spend the majority of a match on the bench. One of the many reasons Sterling is two wins away from a 3A state championship, however, can be attibuted to the mental toughness of both Garza and Razo.
“I try to stay focused by being energetic on the bench,” Razo said. “That way, I’m mentally prepared when I go in.”