By Dan Arritt     10/11/2016

Hannah Patrick and Louise Kooiman can finish each other’s sentences as well as they finish a good set.

The senior volleyball players at Rosary have become quite familiar with each other in their four years on varsity, certainly closer than they’ve become with the new head coach they’ve welcomed each season.

The pair would like nothing more than to end their run at Rosary by competing in the CIF-Southern Section playoffs, an experience that’s eluded them thus far in their high school careers.

“Four years of wanting it,” Patrick exclaimed after Rosary’s final nonleague match Sept. 20, a four-game victory against visiting Fullerton.

A change in the way teams are placed in playoff divisions this season has given the Royals a better chance at qualifying for the postseason. Rosary would compete in Division III this season after being labeled as a Division I team the last several years.

Mater Dei, Santa Margarita and JSerra would remain in Division I for the playoffs, and Orange Lutheran would land in Division II. If the Royals don’t finish in the league’s top three to earn an automatic qualifying berth, they would still have a chance at a wild-card spot, especially if they can win a match or two in league play.

That hasn’t happened in recent years, however.

Rosary hasn’t won a Trinity League match since 2012, the year before Patrick and Kooiman made varsity as wide-eyed freshmen.

“It will mean so much,” Kooiman said of a league win. “That’s really been our focus through preseason. We’re focusing on the team we’re playing, but we’re also focusing on how we can improve in order to make it to CIF.”

The challenges for Rosary have been more than most teams deal with, starting with the recurring coaching changes the last three years.

Filip Tomicic is the latest to take on that role and he brings a wealth of experience, having played for the Croatian national team before coming to the U.S. to play volleyball at Cal Baptist University in Riverside. He led the Lancers to the NAIA national championship in 2011, then played the following season at Cal State Northridge before finishing his playing career at Hope International in Fullerton.

This is Tomicic’s first head coaching stint at the high school level, having spent time as an age-group club coach and assistant at Mt. San Antonio College and Tustin High School.

Patrick and Kooiman said Tomacic brings the type of knowledge and experience that can make Rosary a playoff team.

“He brings a lot of good coaching technique and definitely the energy,” Kooiman said. “He makes practice fun, but they’re so intense. …He makes us want to win.”

The Royals showed their relentlessness during the nonleague portion of the schedule, posting a 6-4 record in best-of-three matches and winning all four that went five games.

They dropped the first game to Fullerton in the nonleague finale before storming back to win the next three. In the fourth game, they scored eight consecutive points to move to match point before finishing off the Indians.

Kooiman said it’s not a fluke that the Royals do better as the match wears on.

“We start to learn the team’s tendencies and we start to gel together,” she said. “With those tendencies, we’re able to adjust our defense and offense to work in our favor.”