AVVC ready for new season with plethora of experienced coaches

This story appeared in the Antelope Valley Press on Monday, November 5, 2007.

Valley Press Sports Correspondent

When searching for the right Volleyball Club to play for, coaching as well as player talent are two major factors.

Antelope Valley Volleyball Club has both.

AVVC has an outstanding cast of coaches that have both played in college and found tremendous success as head coaches in the Valley.

"We have coaches from all of the top schools in the area," Cherland said. "We all have the same goal of developing the talent out here."

Started in 2000 by Todd Cherland and Allison Vocke, AVVC was a much needed relief to players who had to travel south to play club volleyball.

"It mainly started because there wasn't any volleyball happening in the Valley," Cherland said. "We wanted to give all the talented athletes in the Antelope Valley a place to play."

The coaching staff is made up of the best of the best from the Golden League teams. Larry Vocke has had tremendous success at Quartz Hill, and Dave Gutierrez, who had a great deal of success in the Santa Clarita Valley at Canyon High School and also won a GL championship in his first year as coach at Lancaster.

Rounding up the all-star staff is Mike Kelley. Kelley took his Paraclete boys team to the semifinals of the Southern Section playoffs last year

Rachel Behen, paired with Andrea Buckner, led the 15 one's team to the Gold Division last year, which is the first time a team from the Valley has competed in the top division, ever.

"We have had tremendous success and ended up being the highest ranked volleyball team to ever come from this Valley," Buckner said. "I spend my time and money going to camps and clinics so that I can bring all of that information back to the Valley, because some of the girls may not have the time or money to do so."

Arlene Stockhausen and Ariane Labrzycki are two up-and-coming players in the Valley at their respective schools, and know just how much playing for Behen and Buckner have helped them.

"I made varsity as a freshman at Paraclete and the high performance team for the USA team this season," Stockhausen said. "I think that they show a lot of care for their players, and not only with your personal development but helping expose you to college coaches."

Sophomore Labrzycki is having a very successful year in her first season on varsity at Lancaster.

"I chose AVVC because the Revolution practices were too far," Labrzycki said. "I like it because the coaches are dedicated to coaching. They take their time with you, they work with you, and they do their best to make you a better player."

Behen played college volleyball at the University of Wyoming, and consistently built solid teams during her reign as the varsity coach at Littlerock. Bucker found her own success as the varsity coach for Highland, and also coached at Whittier College, and started Nai'a Volleyball club in 2001.

AVVC combined with Nai'a in 2005 to keep from spreading the Valley's talent to thin.

"We thought we could produce stronger teams by keeping the playing talent in one club," Bucker said.

With Behen and Buckner molding the younger players, it makes the job that much easier for the coaches of the older teams.

Gutierrez is heading the 18's one team this upcoming season, which is his first-year coaching an 18's team for a club.

He definitely has the experience to do so.

Gutierrez held the coaching position for seven years at Canyon High School in the very competitive Foothill League, earning one FL championship to go along his GL championship with Lancaster in 2006.

"I needed a club job and I knew that they were an established club and would run things efficiently," Gutierrez said. "I think it is a great club and really well run. I think it's going to be exciting to coach the 18's this year, and it's something I'm looking forward to."

AVVC players have also benefitted from the club, and moved on to play at the college level.

Mojave graduates Shakora and Shanora Smith earned scholarships to play at Alabama A&M.

Randy Cooper was recruited by Midwestern University in Texas, Tara Henn played for Pierce College and is now at CSU Northridge and Cora Peeler went to Behen's Alma Mater, Wyoming.

Last year's Golden League MVP and major contributor to Lancaster's first GL title, Roxy Neely, is now enjoying her time on the team at CSU East Bay which is one of the top Division III schools in the country.

Neely played for all three of the Valley's club teams.

She started out with Buckner and Nai'a, moved to Revolution for their first year, and ended her club days at AVVC last season.

"When I played for Revolution I couldn't make their practices because they weren't as close as AVVC was," Neely said. "I knew Andrea (Buckner) from Nai'a and Gutierrez was going to be there as well. I knew a lot of the coaches and they made me feel a lot more comfortable.

"The girls were also very competitive which made it fun for me," Neely continued. "If you know your team wants to win as much as you do it makes it a lot of fun."

With the end of the girls season near, club tryouts are looming in the next couple of weeks.

As the girls make their decisions for who to play for, the strong coaching staff as well as the quality volleyball players that AVVC has produced in recent years will be hard to ignore.