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Draper Journal

Juan Diego volleyball starts season with new coach

Aug 23, 2018 03:20PM ● By Jana Klopsch

Juan Diego senior captain will switch positions from defensive specialist to libero on the back row for the Soaring Eagle program this season. (Photo courtesy Lauren Fikar)

By Catherine Garrett | [email protected]

Late into the summer, the Juan Diego Catholic High School volleyball team was without a coach. With the addition of Sam Vaitai to head up the squad, there is new energy and excitement among the Soaring Eagle program. 

“Sam Vaitai brings a great deal of experience and confidence to Juan Diego’s volleyball program,” JDCHS Athletic Director Chris Long said. “He’s been a successful head coach at the club level as well as the high school level. We’re very excited to have Coach Vaitai at Juan Diego.” 

Senior outside hitter Cloe Bentz said, “Sam is an amazing coach and he knows a lot about the game. I have a lot of hope in Sam to fix the program and hopefully help us fulfill our dream and get a region or state banner in our gym.” 

Senior libero Lauren Fikar said, “Our new coach Sam is very knowledgeable. He knows the game very well and definitely likes to share his wisdom. He is a really sweet guy but is assertive at the right times. I think he will lead our team and our program to new successes.” 

Vaitai said he is “humbled and grateful” to be at Juan Diego and has spent the last few weeks determining the skill set on his team to create an offensive scheme based on those abilities. 

Vaitai brings over 30 years of coaching experience to Juan Diego — including high school stints at California’s Leuzinger High and Olympus High locally. After playing collegiately at BYU-Hawaii, Vaitai started a club in the USA Volleyball Club Association Adult League and coached girls club volleyball when he moved to Utah and had two daughters involved. His founding of Union Volleyball Club 17 years ago has only continued his drive to help young players. 

“These young ladies who played for us have used volleyball as a vessel to further their education in college,” Vaitai said. “Those were the reasons that got me into coaching volleyball but now I have a renewed passion for teaching and coaching these young people that someday they may achieve their goals and fulfill their dreams.” 

Vaitai and his coaching staff of Joe McGavin, Joy Lo and Mike Lo will bring a philosophy of hard work, unselfishness and smart play along with a winning attitude to the gym. 

Vaitai will look to captains Bentz and Fikar for their returning leadership for Juan Diego. Bentz had the highest hitting percentage last season while finishing second on the team in kills. “She’s also strong in the back row, finishing with the second highest passing percentage as well,” Vaitai said. 

Fikar will move positions on the back row from defensive specialist a year ago to the team’s libero this season. “Lauren’s a solid passer and holds one of the highest serving percentages on the team,” Vaitai said.

“These two seniors are great personalities on the court,” Vaitai said. “They are also great examples off the court with both being involved in student government, peer ministry and maintaining honor roll status.” 

Junior setter/right side hitter and junior middle blocker Laulea Tavake got significant varsity time last season filling in for injured players. “They are also expected to make a positive impact this season,” Vaitai said. 

Also playing on the 2018 Juan Diego varsity team hoping to make top three in the region this season are senior Katie Poulzen; juniors Ella Candage, Chloe Redican, Isabella Roberts, Sara Slick, Fabi Sosa, Sarah Spurgin; and sophomore Ciaran Carter. 

“We have been working hard in the weight room and in the gym,” Fikar said. “We have been focusing a lot on correcting our techniques and just meshing as a team.” 

Others on the JV, sophomore and freshman teams are Gracie Bathurts, Alexis Bean, Kyle Bench, Bella Bertagnoll, Sophie Bickmore, Beverly De Niz, Jill Dumont, Emilie Echart, Rai Edem, Yasmeen Hawatmen, Hayley Hickman, Lizzy Mataele, Graison Milton, Kimberly Moctezuma, Sydney Moore, Eliana Moreno, Abby Nelson, Kelsy Poulsen, Brisa Soriano, Rachel Strelow, Ahea Tavake, Audrey Tita-Munoz, Sally Trawick, Shedicc Trujillo, Rebekah Urarte, Isabella Vargas, Kiana Vanodewiele, Eva Venekelenburg, Emily Werner, Paige Williams, Carolina Zamodis and Sydney Zwedek. 

“I am so excited for this season,” Bentz said. “We have a young team coming up, but from what I’m seeing in practice I have a feeling we can win region.”

The Soaring Eagle are scheduled to play home and away region matches against Bonneville Ogden, Ben Lomond, Park City, Stansbury and Tooele. They will also play in tournaments at Wyoming Aug. 31–Sept. 1, Bingham Sept. 28–29 and Wasatch Oct. 12–13. The 4A state tournament is scheduled for Oct. 24–26 at Utah Valley University. 

“I am super excited for the upcoming season,” Fikar said. “We need to put in some more work, but we are capable of finishing strong in region and state. Overall, I’m looking forward to leading my team to victories on and off the court.” 

“We are very young and inexperienced, but I have liked what I have seen,” Vaitai said. “They work hard and we will improve as we go. This will be a very exciting team.”