San Jose Mercury News October 12, 2007 The Harker School - (Page 1) Sports OCTOBER 12, 2007 HARKER COACH SETS UP PLAYERS TO WIN HARD PRACTICES PAYING DIVIDENDS, RECORD SHOWS By Dennis Knight Mercury News With just eight healthy players on her volleyball team, Harker Coach Theresa Smith must be innovative during practice. Wednesday afternoon, Smith set up a four-on-four matchup and hammered spikes at random players, sometimes from 15 feet away. She kept the athletes on their toes, literally and mentally, as they hustled to dig balls all over the court. “Smitty keeps us aware and focused in practice — she is always going non-stop bombing them at us,” junior outside hitter Kristina Bither said. “That has us ready for anything when we have our matches.” The preparation is paying off for Harker, which at 23-3 is off to the best start in school history, including a 7-0 mark to lead the West Bay Athletic League. Smith was a standout player at St. Francis High, where she graduated in 1983. She went on to play at Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo. She has been coaching for 19 years, and started the program at Harker 10 years ago. Last year the Eagles advanced to the Central Coast Section Division IV semifinals and led Harbor two games to none before losing three in a row. “Not to make excuses, but last year we were young and made a lot of young mistakes,” said Tanya Schmidt, a 6-foot-3 middle blocker who has made an oral commitment to play at Santa Clara. “We have all our starters returning and have a lot of team chemistry. We all want another chance.” The Eagles, who are ranked seventh in the Mercury News Top 15, traveled to Hawaii in August and won the Maui Classic. They also had an impressive win against Presentation in last month’s St. Francis Invitational. Copyright 2007 Lipo Ching / San Jose Mercury News Tanya Schmidt rises to strike the ball during Harker’s match Thursday. Harker improved to 7-0 in West Bay league play. Schmidt, averaging 4.8 kills per game, has been a big reason for Harker’s stellar play. But she is getting plenty of help from a talented supporting cast. “Having Tanya is the ultimate equalizer when we play the top teams,” Smith said. “She has also helped raise the level of play of her teammates.” Junior setter Christy Emery is a tireless worker who was named to the all-tournament team in Hawaii. “Tanya gets all the press, but Christy does a great job getting her the ball,” Smith said. Bither, a junior, is a versatile outside hitter who provides another offensive threat with her hitting ability. “Kristina just keeps getting better and better,” Smith said. “She is versatile and plays excellent defense.” The Eagles have been cruising through league play without much of a challenge, but the players and Smith realize they will be judged by their playoff performance. “It was brutal the way we lost to Harbor in the playoffs,” Smith said. “We have a whole lot of respect for the way they came back and won. But that experience has helped us. You usually don’t get second chances, but we are looking forward to making up for what happened last year.” Copyright 2007 Lipo Ching / San Jose Mercury News Harker’s Christy Emery, left, and Gwynne Davis rise to block a shot during their match Thursday against Notre Dame-San Jose. The Eagles won the match 25-14, 25-12, 25-4. Posted with permission from San José Mercury News. A MediaNews Group Publication. Copyrighted © 2007. #1-22643027 Managed by The YGS Group, 717.399.1900. To request a quote online visit

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San Jose Mercury News October 12, 2007 The Harker School