The Pasadena City College women's volleyball team flew right out of the starting gate for the 2019 season Tuesday by beating host San Diego Mesa in four sets, 25-22, 25-18, 14-25, 25-21.
It was the best of starts for the Lancers, who are directed by head coach Mike Terrill, as they downed last year's Pacific Coast Athletic Conference champions in the Olympians.
"I liked the team's confidence," he said. "We walked into Mesa's gym with a purpose and we were ready to compete. Our mentality was solid in the first set but we had to clean up our first and second contacts on defense. Luckily we we quickly did and then ramped up our serving pressure in the second set. Credit Mesa who taught us an important lesson in the third set that in the CCCAA, if we take our foot off the gas, the opponents will pounce.
"It was a tight fourth set and we were able to finish the match on a strong serving and defensive run. I'm proud to see our team make the small adjustments needed to get it done. We have a long way from here, but it's a good first step."
Terrill, in his fourth season in charge of the Lancers, is carrying a 15-player roster featuring four sophomores, including All-SCC Second Team outside hitter Janell Currier, returning setter Nikki Hernandez, and a key libero from his 2017 Lancers in Grace Crawford. Defensive specialist Emily Ahedo also is back for PCC.
Of the freshmen crop, some standouts include outside hitter Nalani Young, opposite Kaitlyn Karsten, and middle blockers Paulina Lopez and Jillian Goines. Young was an All-San Gabriel Valley Tribune First Team selection who helped Duarte High win the Montview League championship. Young showed her clutch ability by ripping 25 kills in a league-title clinching match. Karsten is a 6-foot rookie out of Crescenta Valley High, Lopez is the squad's tallest player at 6-1 (South Hills HS), and Goines is a 5-11 leaper from Diamond Ranch High. Another talent is libero and setter Saku Yoshioka, who comes to PCC from Glendale High.
Against SD Mesa, Currier led the way with 13 kills while Young scored 10 kills and made 12 digs. Karsten added seven kills and Lopez chipped in four kills and five blocks (two solos). Hernandez dished out 31 assists with 10 digs. Crawford topped the defense with 15 digs, followed by Yoshioka with 14 while adding a team-best four aces.
After winning two South Coast Conference titles in a row as the North Division champions, PCC now will be part of an 8-team, one conference in the SCC in 2019, meaning it will have to compete with the likes of recent South champions El Camino and Long Beach City to win a title for now on. Another change in conference play is an experimental first-time SCC Championship Tournament as the Lancers will play their first 14 SCC matches only to make up conference seeding. PCC will play up to three matches in the November tournament that will ultimately determine its final conference placing. Only the conference champion receives an automatic bid to the Southern California Regional Playoffs.
One more change this season is playoff seedings will be determined by a RPI system, much like in soccer and other sports. So all non-SoCal conference champions will have to be high in the win-loss ratio formula to gain a playoff seed. Last season despite winning the SCC North title, the Lancers received a low #16 seeding (out of 18 teams).
"I'm very excited about our team going into this season," Terrill said. "We're going to play the game as fast as we can offensively, and we have the capability to be a force at the net while having high IQ players in the backcourt. We've talked a lot about being learners in the gym, showing a willingness to adapt to the challenges we face. This summer our group have invested significant time and energy in each other as people. Our schedule will be very tough in the pre-conference and it doesn't get any easier in conference play. We're excited to battle anyone we face. I feel confident and have faith in this group who have the ablity to be great when we are committed to our systems. We also look forward to seeing all our supporters and fans at matches this year!"
Rounding out the newcomers for PCC are libero Mia Groves (Monrovia HS), outside hitter Erykah Wilson (Corona Centennial), setter Madison Blohm (Crescenta Valley), and a trio of 5-11 middle blockers in Leanet Fandino (St. Paul), Izabella Hernandez (Montebello), and Maggie Harris (Burbank Burroughs),
Terrill has a new assistant coaching staff in former Lancer player Hannah Clarke (2015-2016 PCC teams) and Michael Ledford.
PCC-HOSTED QUADS MOVING TO THE ROAD DUE TO FLOOR DELAY
The Lancers were to be seen for the first time at Hutto-Patterson Gymnasium and the school's new refurbished gym floor this Friday, Aug. 30, but a delays in finishing the project has forced the team to move their two PCC Quad tourneys on the road. This Friday, the Lancers will play the PCC Quad #1 at Santa Monica College with the matchups remaining the same. PCC plays Santa Monica at 3:30 p.m. and then Cypress at 6 p.m. MiraCosta is the fourth team involved in the quad as they play concurrent matches v. Cypress and then SMC.
On Sept. 13, PCC Quad #2 will be moved to Citrus College. PCC will face Citrus at 11 a.m. and Antelope Valley at 3 p.m. that day.
The first PCC home match is now set for Wednesday, Sept. 18 when the Lancers face Riverside City College at 5 p.m.
Pasadena next plays at Mt. San Jacinto College on Wednesday, Aug. 28 in a 5 p.m. first serve.