Prep volleyball: Meet GALA, the team that engineered its own net

It’s more of an invention than a volleyball net. A do-it-yourself engineering project. It relies on a delicate pulley system with ropes dangling all the way to the court, carabiners bought from late-night Lowe’s runs, and pure, unadulterated vibrations.

The Girls’ Academic Leadership Academy (GALA) volleyball team trains in a tiny gym a winding walkway from the main campus, where the trash in one corner is swept into a dusty heap. Her coach, Katie Clark, is a 25-year-old science teacher on her first job out of college. The course is made slippery by sandbags that players stack on the underside of the poles to hold the net, leading to Clark once slipping on a banana peel like a cartoon character while running with the team lines.

Oh, and GALA won the City Section Division IV title last year in the program’s inaugural season.

“We’re still a second-year program with low funding, a weird network, and everyone’s just like, ‘Have fun,'” said junior India Clark.

GALA, a 6th to 12th grade school with 760 students, laid the foundation stone in 2016. Katie Clark said she was interested in running a volleyball program after her freshman year of teaching and it took off last season after humble beginnings during COVID.

On their first day of training at the gym, they discovered what India Clark called a “strange web” in a storage closet. After realizing that it collapsed every time a ball touched it, her coach set to work with another instructor developing this pulley system – ropes that passed through holes in the net’s poles and attached to the walls with carabiners were attached. As the net dips, players pull on the loose end of the rope to pull it back up.

“We’re science teachers,” Katie Clark said. “That’s physics.”

The teams at the top of the City Section are slowly realizing that GALA has some talent. India Clark was last year’s Division IV Player of the Year, while another five players made up the Division IV All-City Team.

“If they have a little extra time, watch out for GALA,” San Pedro coach Sean Zuvich said.

Nobody expects much from them, India Clark said, and the team welcomes it. They bet coach Clark that if they won a game against King/Drew last year, she’d have to Irish dance for them. They did. She did an apprenticeship.

Earlier this year, they beat last year’s City Division I and II champions at Sylmar and Eagle Rock, respectively. If they keep winning, they may feel they are gaining enough donor interest for an actual, non-technical project network.

“We’re going to get through this together,” junior Jasmine Hailey said. “We’ll get a net.”

Until then, plug in what you’ve got and let the good times roll.


Southern section

Rk. School (WL): comment

1. Mira Costa (10-2): Setter Charlie Fuerbringer and outside hitter Drew Wright form an unstoppable double strike.

2. Sierra Canyon (13-1): Senior Pittsburgh signing Olivia Babcock is poised to tear up the Mission League.

3. Redondo Union (9-4): Defeated Mater Dei in four sets on Tuesday.

4. Marymount (4-1): Were rolling again until Mira Costa dismantled them in three sets.

5. Mater Dei (3-2): Tough start but back on track against Huntington Beach.

6. Huntington Beach (7-1): Young squads could rise to the top of this list — or crash like their Mater Dei match.

7. Lakewood (5-3): Can’t count but doesn’t face the overall competitive level of the top six.

8. Palos Verdes (8-2): Strong performance at the season-opening tournament in Hawaii.

9. Harvard-Westlake (15-5): Beaten by weaker competition but swept by others on the list.

10. Vista Murrieta (0-1): BYU conscript Claire Little tries to make the leap from good to great.

City section

Rk. School (WL)

1. Taft (13-2)

2. Venice (11-3)

3rd Hill of Granada (5-4)

4. Stockades (7-4)

5. El Camino Real (6-5) Prep volleyball: Meet GALA, the team that engineered its own net

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