With two former All-Napa County Player of the Year honorees coaching them, Pacific Union College’s volleyball and men’s soccer programs will try to bounce back from their 2010 struggles this fall.
Meanwhile, longtime Angwin resident Philip Toohey takes over the cross country program.
Volleyball coach Brittany Brown, a 2005 Pacific Union College Prep graduate, backed up her 2005-06 All-County POY honors by helping Azusa Pacific University reach the NAIA national tournament twice as an outside hitter/libero and break the school record for single-season digs.
The Pioneers (0-2) were swept in two home matches on Aug. 25 to start the season, including one against an Oregon Tech squad that had upset four-time defending NAIA champion and No. 1-ranked Fresno Pacific five days before.
They finished 2-11 overall last year, beating Mills College of Oakland for both victories.
“While we returned most of our key players, we do have five freshmen this year. For being such a young team, I think we are doing really well, but I know we have our work cut out for us,” said Brown, who is assisted by 2009 PUC Prep grad Alisa Jacobo. “With more options offensively and returning our strongest defensive players, it will be exciting to see the girls really compete this year in league. This preseason, the girls have been working hard and getting stronger every day.”
Casey Miller, a 6-foot senior outside hitter-middle blocker, is “not only mature as a player but you always know what you are going to get with her,” Brown said. “She is a rock and consistent in her all around play.”
Brita Widmer, a 5-11 junior outside hitter-middle blocker and 2009 PUC Prep graduate, is “an experienced returning middle with a strong offensive attack and sets up a solid block for us in the middle,” Brown said.
Calai Brown, a 5-8 junior middle hitter who transferred this year from Bethany University, “is bringing a wealth of knowledge and maturity on and off the court. Calai is also a huge addition to our offense taking pressure of Casey and providing a much needed alternate attack,” said Coach Brown.
Jenna Glantz, a 6-foot freshman outside hitter and 2011 PUC Prep product, is “a strong all-around player, and is coming into her freshman year with a big responsibility as our other starting outside. Jenna is a quick learner and has exceptional athleticism and will also be a huge addition to our offense and serve-receive pattern,” Coach Brown said.
Melissa Yong, a 5-2 senior libero, returns as the Pioneers’ defensive leader and most consistent serve-receive passer. “Melissa keeps our girls in system and allows us to engage our middles,” Coach Brown said.
Rounding out the 10-player team are 5-8 junior right-side hitter/middle blocker Lauren Woolley and four freshmen — 5-4 setter-defensive specialist and 2011 PUC Prep grad Micaela Ballew, 5-7 middle hitter and Napa native Victoria Shavlik, 5-3 setter/right-side hitter Jackie Davis, and 5-5 right-side hitter/defensive specialist Kimberly Laboca.
Pacific Union heads to Southern California to play five schools in three days next week — California Institute of Technology in Pasadena on Tuesday, West Coast Baptist, La Sierra and Walla Walla at the La Sierra Tournament in Riverside on Wednesday, and Hope International in Fullerton on Thursday.
“As we head down to Los Angeles for five matches against strong teams, I am really looking forward to seeing their hard work pay off,” Coach Brown said.
Bertin Loyola, a 2003 Vintage High graduate who was the 2003-04 All-County POY, went on to play four collegiate seasons at UC Davis before graduating in 2008. Over the last eight years, the Angwin native has coached the UC Davis men’s soccer club, the Vacaville Christian High girls soccer team and with the North Bay Elite Futbol Club in Fairfield, which he continues to do.
The Pioneers don’t open their season for another two weeks, with non-conference matches against Brethren Christian at La Sierra University in Redlands on Sept. 16, and at La Sierra on Sept. 18. They will then host Cal State Maritime of Vallejo — which last year’s squad defeated, 2-0, for its only win en route to a 1-10-2 record — in their California Pacific Conference opener on Sept. 23.
The Pioneers didn’t start their tryouts until Tuesday, and Loyola expects to finalize his roster by Sept. 12.
“I’m expecting to have about 30 players coming out for the team, and I will only be selecting a total of 22 players,” he said. “Considering the team only won one game all season last year, it will be a rebuilding year, but I still expect to compete with the rest of the teams in the league.”
Toohey was still putting his men’s and women’s teams together last week.
The Pioneers open their season Sept. 30 with their Pacific Union College Invitational in Angwin.
“It looks to be an exciting year,” said Toohey, a first-time coach but an avid runner and outdoorsman who has hiked up Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa and in Nepal. “We are a young team and are just beginning to make a name for ourselves. Some of my athletes compete in triathlons and a few train for marathons. I am proud of their potential and proud to be chosen as coach.”