Toni Garcia has never had a problem expressing how she feels.
So when the Atwater volleyball team struggled at the Central California Classic tournament over the weekend, they were in for a long week of practice.
“We don’t even want to talk about that tournament,” Garcia said. “It wasn’t the same team I’ve seen every day in practice.”
That team showed up on Wednesday night as Atwater crushed Merced 25-8, 25-18, 25-19 in the Central California Conference opener for both teams at Merced High.
“You could see the intensity in the first game,” said Garcia, whose team improved to 3-0 overall. “That’s the team I’ve seen every day in practice.
“They communicated with each other. They were all out on defense. They played within our system. It was exciting to see.”
Atwater steamrolled Merced (2-3 overall) from the start.
Garcia’s girls jumped out to an 11-0 lead in the first game.
Nikki Schiber recorded two of her three aces during the run. Nicole Heller chipped in with two blocks and two of her match-high 11 kills.
Merced didn’t even have a chance to catch its breath.
The defending CCC champs never let up.
“We pretty much came here and did what we wanted to do,” Heller said. “Being the defending CCC champs is a big honor. This is a whole new team, but we’ve shown potential. I think we can live up to that honor. I think we have a chance to be a contender."
It’s hard to argue.
Merced made the match a little more competitive in the final two games, but never seriously pushed Atwater.
It was a frustrating night for Merced, which compounded a nightmare week for coach Brooke Wilson, who saw her arm swell up and turn purple after getting bit by a spider on Tuesday.
“We were timid,” Wilson said. “I don’t know if we were nervous, but we seemed to play like we were panicking the entire match.
“It’s frustrating because we were playing so well as a team. We were communicating, we were clicking on offense. None of that was here tonight.”
Kuuipolani Braceros was one of the few bright spots for Merced, finishing with seven kills. Kieli Rivera added 15 digs.
25-8, 25-18, 25-19
ATWATER -- Nicole Heller 11; Brigette Berlier 8; Blocks: Heller 16; Assists: Nikki Schiber 40; Digs: Gio Treyes 9; Aces: Schiber 3, Mari Valdez 2.
MERCED -- Kuuipolani Braceros 7; Blocks: Samara Reed 1; Assists: Summer Sanchez 13; Digs: Kieli Rivera 15; Aces: Rivera 1.
Records: Atwater 1-0 CCC, 3-0 overall; Merced 0-1 CCC; 2-3.JV -- Merced won 2-0.
Freshmen -- Merced won 2-1.