The article below originally appeared in the San Mateo Daily Journal and is being reprinted with permission.
Despite there being a wealth of volleyball talent on the Peninsula, not much of it has trickled up in recent years to the schools in the San Mateo County Community College District: Cañada, San Mateo and Skyline colleges.
The lack of game-changing talent on the rosters of the local community colleges has made it difficult to make any headway in the standings. CSM and Cañada combined to go 6-16 in Coast Conference play in 2017 and 14-34 overall (both finished with overall records of 7-17 last season).
And Skyline, the most senior of programs among the three, did not even field a team in 2017.
To make things more difficult, while Skyline is trying to field its team, both the Bulldogs and Colts will be rebuilding in 2018. CSM has only four sophomores on a roster of 11, while Cañada returns only two players from last season.
Which makes the 3-1 start to the CSM season encouraging. The Bulldogs opened the season last week with a 3-2 win over De Anza, before sweeping Taft in three straight. They dropped their first match of the season, 3-1, to Santa Rosa, but bounced back with a 3-0 sweep of Alameda.
The Bulldogs’ quick start is due in large part to a pair of freshmen: Hannah Gamez (Moreau Catholic-Hayward) and arguably the biggest get of any of the local programs, Lille Tuivailala (Aragon). Tuivailala was a first-team All-Bay Division selection last season and one of the best athletes to come out of the Peninsula in the last year.
Gamez leads the Bulldogs in kills, averaging just over 10 a game. Tuivailala is second, with nine. Both average nearly three kills per set. As a team, the Bulldogs average 10.4 kills per game, an early-season improvement over last season’s 9.7 kills per set.
The improved offense can be attributed to a new setter in freshman Fallon Evans (Pittman-Turlock), who is averaging about 30 assists per match so far this season. Sophomore Honoria Aguilar (Independence-Bakersfield) and freshman Grace Willming (Pittman-Turlock) have turned up the defense, combining for 16 digs per match.
The Bulldogs will look to improve their record today when they host Los Medanos in a noon match.
Much like CSM, Cañada is looking to improve on a disappointing 2017 and, like the Bulldogs, the Colts will be breaking in a number of new players.
Cañada will lean heavily on a pair of sophomores for offense, Anmol Sharma (Carlmont) and Brooke Krieger (Half Moon Bay), neither of whom factored much in the Colts’ offense last year, combining for under three kills per set.
Middle blocker Danielle Barsi (Notre Dame-Belmont) had a total of 15 blocks last season.
It’s hard to know what kind of season the Colts are in for as they have played only one match, dropping a 19-25, 25-10, 25-7, 25-17 decision to Modesto in their season opener last week. They’ll host College of Sequoias at 2 p.m. Thursday at CSM as the gym at Cañada is being rebuilt.
At least the Bulldogs and Colts are a known quantity at this point, which can’t be said for Skyline. After going 4-21 in 2015 and 7-18 in 2016, the Trojans did not field a team in 2017.
This year, they’re hoping to take a step forward with the hiring of Nilo Mauricio as the team’s new head coach. They plucked Mauricio out of the high school ranks, where he turned Burlingame into a Central Coast Section power the last several years, culminating with a Peninsula Athletic League Bay Division championship last season and a spot in the CCS Open Division. In 2016, Mauricio led the Panthers to the CCS Division III title.
Skyline opens the 2018 campaign by hosting Contra Costa College at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.