Aptos Mariners head coach David Faz knew that replacing last year’s starting setter Shannon Cotton was not going to be an easy task, but he also knew of a young girl moving through the ranks of the Main Beach Volleyball Club would be in his program this season.
So far, the transition has been easier than expected thanks to the impressive freshman.
“It’s everything really,” said Faz. “She’s the person driving the bus. The offense flows through her.”
Setter Elise Coash has stepped into the vacancy and has made the Mariners comfortable, confident and down right deadly.
The Mariners sit at 8-0 in Santa Cruz Coastal Athletic League Play and have only lost two sets in during their unbeaten streak.
Some pointed to Aptos’ youth as their flaw this season, instead Faz has seen the advantage it’s given them.
Coash has played with her two middles Karsen Welle and Maddy Bol, among other teammates, at Main Beach, and that connection has helped the Mariners to the top spot in the league.
“They’re a lot more comfortable with Elise than they were with Shannon,” said Faz. “It’s because they’ve played with her before. She knows how to set our middles and our outsides.”
Coash was only able to play with her Aptos teammates because she moved up an age bracket twice. When she was 13 she played with 14-year-olds. Last season she played with the 15-year-olds, and was able help her team to the Junior Nationals.
“It’s been a little intimidating,” said Coash. “I’ve had to play against juniors and older girls every year, but it’s helped me.”
Coash, who recorded 41 assists against the St. Francis Central Coast Catholic Sharks on their three-set sweep Thursday, said that has been her biggest challenge this season.
She felt overwhelmed in the first week of play because of the responsibility thrown on her, but after a four-set win against the San Benito Haybaylers, in which she racked up 30 assists, things were back to normal.
“She had a few times early on the season when she showed her youth,” said Faz. “Not many though, maybe a handful.”
“I can’t believe she’s a freshman. Her maturity is amazing. Her athleticism for a freshman is amazing. She doesn’t look or play like a freshman. If you told me she was a senior I would believe you.”
Faz, who coached at Menlo College before taking the job as the Mariners coach, had some high praise for the youngster.
“She can play college volleyball right now,” said Faz. “Her command of the offense and the defense and her knowledge of the game is that high. Her upside is incredible.”
Coash has served up just less than 300 assists in the Mariners’ eight league contests, and is averaging 28.5 assists per match.
Her older sister Claire, a junior who is finally getting a chance to play on the same team as her sister, has also been impressed with her.
“She’s improved a lot in her consistency,” said Claire. “She just improves every day. She’s doing great.”
Still, for all the praise that Coash is getting she deflects it off by talking about her team’s goals, primarily to win league.
“We have a good shot a winning,” said Coash. “As long as we take care of our side of the net, and we continue to play consistent. We’re such a close team. We connect and we can tell each other anything.”
The Mariners have possibly their biggest challenge Tuesday when they face the 6-1 Soquel Knights, led by Sarah Savoca and their own setter Ali Walters.
Walters and Coash have one thing in common, they both started as freshman for their respective teams.
In her freshman season, Walters, now a junior, helped the Knights to a league title and a Central Coast Section Division IV championship.
The Mariners hope that Coash has the same effect Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at Soquel High School.
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