Canyons runs away with Pierce Kickoff crown

College of the Canyons is 4-0 to start the 2017 women's volleyball season.
College of the Canyons is 4-0 to start the 2017 women's volleyball season.

Two years ago, College of the Canyons had a magical season in which it finished a school-best ever third place while hosting the 2015 CCCAA State Women's Volleyball Championships. Long-time assistant coach Clay Timmons took over as interim head coach last year and now the Cougars may be primed again to make a serious run in the race for the 2017 state title.

Canyons opened the season with four victories to win the Third Pierce Kickoff Classic tournament on Aug. 25-26. COC swept Golden West, Pasadena City, and host Pierce and won the first two sets against fellow Western State Conference East foe Bakersfield before finally losing its first set. The Cougars then went extra points to finish off a difficult Renegades squad in completing the tourney championship run, 25-18, 25-19, 17-25, 28-26.

"We are extremely happy and impressed with our team's level of consistent competitiveness," Timmons said. "One word that stuck with us throughout the weekend was resiliency.  We were out to a great start from a serving and passing standpoint, something we knew we were capable of but had yet to really test outside of our own practices.

"From our first match against Golden West, I spoke to them about being resilient when things seemed to not go our way for a couple points here and there.  That ability to be resilient and poised was tested throughout the weekend, no more so than when Bakersfield came back and beat us in the third game.  I'm proud of the whole squad, but an extra nod goes to our freshmen who rose to the occasion and played big their first official college matches against some very strong teams!"

Returning All-WSC First Team OH Emily Burns led COC by collecting 58 kills, 15 blocks and serving 11 aces in the four wins. In the title match, she slammed 17 kills with 10 digs and five blocks. In the tournament, Burns hit .363 while the team attacked at an impressive .310 percentage.

Another key performer was freshman OH Caroline Page, who totaled 41 kills and 42 digs, and had her best match against Bakersfield with 15 kills. Letterman setter Rachel Perez averaged 10.15 assists and 2.8 digs while sophomore DS Deni Dawson tallied 50 digs (3.85 per set).

Bakersfield (3-1) also opened the tourney with three sweeps, defeating MiraCosta, Rio Hondo, and shocking Santa Barbara City, 25-18, 25-17, 25-18. Sophomore libero Haley Sanchez put on a defensive clinic with 73 digs in the four matches, including 21 v. Canyons. Second-year OH Alex Paris was solid with 42 kills (.343) and 36 digs while frosh setter Sarah Armendariz had an all-around effort on 73 assists, 36 kills, and 38 digs.

Pierce (3-1) overcame its semifinals loss to Canyons by rallying to defeat Santa Barbara for third place, 16-25, 25-15, 25-19, 25-17. The Brahmas hooked up with MiraCosta in what was the tourney's most exciting match, winning in five sets, 25-20, 30-28, 8-25, 23-25, 16-14. Sophomore OH Anika Lewis scored 22 kills out of the 50 she totaled in four matches. Frosh OH Haley Rousselle pounded 20 kills in the SBCC victory and finished with 39 kills, 27 digs and 12 aces in the tourney.

Santa Barbara (2-2) was paced by returning All-SoCal Region OH Carolyn Andrulis, who had 11 kills and 14 digs in the Pierce loss. She knocked down 15 kills in a 4-set victory over Pasadena and had 13 kills in another 4-set win over Golden West.

MiraCosta (2-2) rebounded from two losses (including the tough Pierce defeat in 5) to open the tourney by sweeping Pasadena and taking down Golden West in four sets on day 2. Spartans sophomore OH Violeti Faleumu had 4-match totals of 39 kills, 61 digs, and 10 aces to lead her squad.

[Release by Robert Lewis for the CCCWVCA]