The article below originally appeared in the San Mateo Daily Journal and is being reprinted with permission.
College of San Mateo has never had a volleyball-basketball two-sport athlete before. That’s because CSM has never had a volleyball team before.
That distinction officially changes Wednesday as the new CSM women’s volleyball team opens its inaugural season with two games at Skyline College in the Fourth Annual Skyline Volleyball Classic. The Lady Bulldogs open against Cosumnes River College-Sacramento at 4:30 p.m., then take on Solano Community College-Fairfield at 6:30 p.m.
“I feel like the chemistry is better the last couple days because we’re all excited for the season,” CSM freshman Malia Kolomatangi said.
Kolomatangi is set to make a bit of CSM history as she becomes the school’s first volleyball-basketball two-sport athlete. A true freshman out of Terra Nova, she played both sports through high school. But this season has been noticeably different.
Kolomatangi’s current practice schedule has her in the gym for four hours of practice a day, first for volleyball from 12-2 p.m., then for basketball from 2-4 p.m. And on Tuesdays and Thursday, she’s on campus for 12 hours with her first class starting at 8 a.m. and her final class ending at 8 p.m.
“I’m exhausted by the end of the day,” Kolomatangi said.
The freshman seems to have plenty of energy for the volleyball court though, as she transitions to an outside hitter role after playing predominantly middle blocker through two varsity seasons at Terra Nova.
Kolomatangi is not to be confused with her older sister, Marina, who played basketball at CSM for the previous two seasons. Marina transferred to University of Maine at Fort Kent, an NAIA program where she is slated to play on scholarship this season.
Originally, the younger Kolomatangi wasn’t planning on following in her sister’s footsteps to play at CSM. Wanting to play both volleyball and basketball, she had intentions of playing at Skyline. Then in the spring, Marina — who was in the kinesiology class of new CSM volleyball head coach Katie Goldhahn — informed her sister of the upstart volleyball team set to launch in the fall.
When Kolomatangi arrived at CSM for summer workouts, she found she was one of the tallest players on roster at 5-7. That changed the first day of fall classes though when three walk-on players reported for practice for the first time. One of those walk-ons was 6-foot freshman Brittany Travis out of Rodriguez High School-Fairfield.
“I was like, ‘Thank the Lord,’” Kolomatangi said, “because we don’t have that much height on the team. … Now that she’s here, that’s helpful.”
With Travis putting CSM four deep at middle — freshmen Chureel Kanongataa and Salote Alipate round out the position — Kolomatangi will transition to the outside, where she will bring a more unconventional tool to the court — volume. And, with this, she stands to be a perfect fit for the rambunctious Bulldogs.
“I think we’re really loud,” Kolomatangi said. “And we’re pretty scrappy. Even though we have a couple big hitters we can keep rallies going.”
Goldhahn said she expects some growing pains, which stands to reason. In the program’s first season, CSM is composed of nearly all freshmen. Only setter Samantha Johnson — a transfer from Feather River College-Quincy — has community college experience as a transfer sophomore.
“I think we look pretty good skill wise,” Johnson said. “We’re all pretty good athletes. As a team we need to merge a little bit more but I think we’ll be a team to beat.”
Goldhahn has an impressive resume in creating and developing teams on the fly. A graduate of Stanford, she began coaching for the Palo Alto Elite volleyball club, where she worked for two years before returning to her hometown of Lodi. There she founded the Pacific Coast Volleyball Club along with Brad Freisen and Tiger Shelton.
Goldhahn has also served as a head coach at Modesto Christian High School and an assistant coach at San Jose State. This year marks her first post as a coach at the community college level.
“Coaching is always something that finds me,” Goldhahn said. “But it’s worked itself to be my fulltime job and I feel very lucky that I get to do something I love.”