‘They love each other like sisters’: ERHS varsity girls volleyball team has strong bond, stronger season

The Eagle Rock High School varsity girls volleyball team huddles up after a point against Franklin High School at Eagle Rock High School in Los Angeles. Oct. 3, 2019. Jasmine Mack/The Occidental

Over the last 10 years, the girls’ varsity volleyball team at Eagle Rock High School (ERHS) has maintained a 91game win streak in the Los Angeles Northern Volleyball League. The team is currently ranked second in the Los Angeles City Section Division I Volleyball Standings with a season record of 26–5.

According to Dave Abbott, editor of Northeast Los Angeles (NELA) Sports One and writer for the Boulevard Sentinel, the team is strong offensively and defensively and has a way of wearing down their opponents.

The team’s coach, Tim Bergeron, said ERHS volleyball players stand apart from others because of their unique passion, natural motivation and willingness to put in the time.

“I can easily say that every year, we put in more practice hours and preparation than [other teams] did,” Bergeron said.

Michelle Hancock is the mother of Jacob Hancock (senior), outside hitter on the boys varsity team. She said the girls — who are mostly seniors — have continued to develop in skill.

“A lot of times when you get towards your senior year, most of your skill development has already happened,” Hancock said. “But these girls have continued to develop as the season has progressed, which is, I think, what we’re seeing in their success.”

However, ERHS volleyball players credit their success more to their sister-like bond. Defensive specialist Angelique Calma (senior) said the team’s friendship is strong on and off the court.

“It’s not a tense dynamic,” Calma said. “It’s more like a smooth, comfortable, relaxed [one].”

Team captain and outside hitter Jade Fuentes (senior) said the trust within the team is one of the reasons they play so well.

“We’re all friends,” Fuentes said. “There’s no bad vibes between anyone — or drama. And we all just work really well together.”

Julie Wilkins, Fuentes’ mother, said the girls have known each other for a long time, which has helped them build a strong bond.

“They love each other like sisters,” Wilkins said. “They can fart in front of each other.”

Charlotte Dillon (senior) leaps to block a tip during a game against Franklin High School at Eagle Rock High School in Los Angeles. Oct. 3, 2019. Jasmine Mack/The Occidental

Players and parents alike point to “Coach Tim” as the driving force behind the team. Fuentes said Bergeron is always there for them.

“We have a really good coach who genuinely cares about us and always makes sure that we’re healthy and that we’re doing what needs to be done,” Fuentes said.

Bergeron is an ERHS alumnus and has run all six teams in the ERHS volleyball program for 12 years — without an assistant coach — and parents notice how hard he works. Hancock, who has been a volleyball mom in the ERHS program for seven years, said that Bergeron consistently produces fantastic teams.

“This is his passion,” Hancock said. “You see that in his commitment to the teams that he coaches and his interactions with the kids.”

Wilkins said Bergeron gives his life to the volleyball program.

“If [a player] says, ‘I need help on hitting,’ he’ll come [to school] at 6 a.m. — he will give his time,” Wilkins said.

Bergeron is also characterized as a compassionate coach by his players. Defensive specialist and serving specialist Trista Limbo (junior) said he is very caring.

“He cares for each teammate, he loves talking to us,” Limbo said. “If we have a problem, he’ll ask us about it — he’s always there for us.”

Parents are also fond of Bergeron’s rational approach to coaching.

“One thing I really appreciate about him is that on game days, he’s not a yeller. We’ll go to tournament sometimes, and I see these coaches on the sidelines screaming at their teams,” Hancock said. “In a lot of cases, it really shuts the kids down. They get stressed.”

Danna Dorris, mother of opposite hitter Anniston Smith (senior) likes that Bergeron is calm as a coach.

“He’s real mellow. He doesn’t get too upset — about anything,” Dorris said. “He’s a good coach.”

Anniston Smith (senior) leaps for a hit during a game against Franklin at Eagle Rock High School in Los Angeles, CA. Oct. 3, 2019. Jasmine Mack/The Occidental

Despite not being one to yell, Bergeron is not afraid to push his players. Bergeron said one of his goals as a coach is to help players overcome the limits they think they could never overcome. He recognizes that those limits are surpassable if they keep putting work in.

“I call it the ‘Flappy Bird Effect,’” Bergeron said. “Most people think that they can only get 15 on Flappy Bird, but then when they see that someone got 100, they’re willing to put that extra time in.”

With only one team currently ranked above ERHS girls varsity — Taft High School — Abbott predicts the girls will go far in the playoffs and have a strong chance of making it to the championship game. The varsity team’s last match before playoffs will be a home game Oct. 21 against Taft, Eagle Rock’s rival and — according to Abbott — their fiercest competition.