The article below originally appeared in the San Mateo Daily Journal and is being reprinted with permission.
The College of San Mateo volleyball team’s run to a state title ended in the semifinals Saturday.
As head coach Katie Goldhahn continued to process the three-set sweep at the hands of eventual state champion Feather River, she also started looking at all the things the team accomplished on its way to the state final four.
“They’re historically good. We faced them twice this season and two of our three losses going into the state tournament were to Feather River,” Goldhahn said of a Feather River team that won the state title in 2019 as well.
The Bulldogs’ only other loss came to American River — which lost to Feather River in the state title match.
“If we’re going to have a couple of losses, they came to the best teams in the state,” Goldhahn said.
CSM (23-4), the No. 4 seed from the North, rallied to beat the South’s top-seeded Moorpark in five set in the first round Friday — 22-25, 26-24, 17-25, 25-19, 15-7.
But in the semifinals, the Bulldogs ran into a Feather River squad that ended the season on a 34-match winning streak, all in straight sets. The Golden Eagles beat CSM 25-20, 25-18, 25-18.
“Of course everyone was down and sad, but I was really applauding just their ability to say, ‘We got outplayed, but we still fought hard,’” Goldhahn said. “They were just proud of their season.”
The first state tournament appearance will definitely be one to savor for those players on the 2022 squad, considering all the hard work they put into the team in the offseason.
Setter Angelina Estrada, a sophomore from James Logan High School in Union City, and middle blocker Valerie Bruk, a sophomore from San Mateo, completely changed their games for the betterment of the team.
Estrada’s transformation was the most drastic. She went from being a defensive specialist — a libero — to the starting setter on a Coast Conference championship team.
“It’s going from the quarterback of the defense to quarterback of the offense,” Goldhahn said. “What we asked of her was a really big task.”
Estrada finished the season ranked fourth in the state with 10.2 assists per set.
Bruk was staying at the same position, middle blocker, but she just got a whole lot better there, Goldhahn said. Bruk ended Coast Conference North play ranked fourth in kills with 225 — teammate Naomie Cremoux, a sophomore from Los Altos, finished first in the conference and third in the state with 459 kills this season.
“Val Bruk, that girl didn’t have the best season last year. She was struggling for playing time,” Goldhahn said. “She made the decision that she was going to be a starting middle. She was in the gym working out every single day.”
It is that kind of dedication necessary to attain the goals the Bulldogs had set for themselves and Goldhahn appreciated the work. Middle blocker Grace Thayer, a sophomore out of Palo Alto, who is committed to Georgia State, still gave everything to the Bulldogs this season. Up and down the roster, the Bulldogs were committed to being the best they could.
“We can say that about each player on the team. We needed everybody firing on all cylinders,” Goldhahn said. “Everyone’s role was so vital in allowing us to get as far as we did.”
A representation of the impact of Title IX
The state tournament did not represent only a first for the CSM program, it also served as celebration of sorts of Title IX — the 1972 law that basically opened the door to female athletic participation in schools.
With CSM’s Goldhahn, Feather River’s Sarah Ritchie, American River’s Carson Lowden and San Joaquin Delta’s Molly Hummel all playing in the semifinals — it was the first time in California Community College Athletic Association history that all four semifinal volleyball teams were coached by women.
“That was discussed all tournament (long). Molly and I are best friends. Carson and Sarah are close friends,” Goldhahn said. “I never had a female coach (growing up). I think it’s so important that it’s been brought to light so much more.”