Calistoga volleyball banner

The 2018 North Coast Section Div. 6 champion Calistoga volleyball team pose with their commemorative banner at a school rally last week. The section title was the first for any girls sports in school history. 

All the classrooms were empty around midday on Friday afternoon at Calistoga Junior/Senior High, as the student body was packed into the gymnasium to celebrate the accomplishments of the school year.

From seventh graders to seniors, the Wildcats student body was in full force. Each student group was arranged by class from youngest on the right, to seniors closest to the gym entrance. The event featured intense musical chairs, life size human foosball gladiatorial combat, faculty human tunnels for the seniors and even time to enshrine the first ever girls North Coast Section title in school history.

“This is huge for them,” Calistoga assistant coach Bud Pochini said. “I think they can have a sense of accomplishment and feel good about doing something that no one else has done in the 103-year history of Calistoga high school. It’s amazing.”

In early November the Wildcats defeated Jewish Community-San Francisco 25-22, 18-25, 25-18, 25-9 to claim the NCS Div. 6 title. The Wildcats were the No. 8 seed in the playoffs and upset Fremont Christian and St. Bernard’s-Eureka on route to the championship.

Calistoga finished the season with a record of 13-9 and ended 9-3 in the North Central League III standings. Besides being the first girls section title in any sport for the Wildcats, it was also the first time any girls athletics at Calistoga high school had even made it to the championship round. The last time either gender won a championship in the green and white was twenty years ago in 1999.

“It is very exciting, being that this is our first girls team to win a section title,” Calistoga co-Athletic Director Louise Owens said. “They have kinda been in the shadows of the boys programs in the past. This group of ladies set the stages for those to follow. It is special and we wanted to commemorate and memorialize them.”

Halfway through the rally the girls were called one by one out of the stands to be recognized for their accomplishes. Unveiled at the event was a giant green banner with all the players and coaches names on it. The banner will be hung in the Calistoga gym for future generations to see.

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Making up the historic team were Jasmin Lopez, Vanesa Quiepo, Katie Saunders, Hayseel Barrera, Litzy Infante, Angeli Aquino, Laila Elkeshen, Jimena Guerrero and Andrea Villasenor. Not in attendance on Friday was head coach T’Anne Butcher.

There will be six banners eventually up on the west side of the gym, as each of the six section champions in school history will be honored over the coming year. One is expected to happen during the fall football season and one at the Gene Duffy Holiday Classic tournament.

“It feels really good that my name will be in this gym for history,” junior Vanesa Quiepo said. “I am really excited for when I have kids and we will be able to come back here and I can show them all the accomplishments I have done and especially because the name will be on the wall. I just feel like this will be really memorable. Every new Wildcat will be able to see that they can potentially do it someday.”

Calistoga athletics is on the upswing and continues in a solid direction. In the past year, the boys soccer team won their league championship, girls volleyball won the NCS title and both the boys and girls basketball teams made the playoffs with the girls advancing all the way to the NorCal Div. 6 state tournament, another first in school history.

Football also almost made the playoffs and has strong returners looking to make a run in eight-man next year.

“When you look up on the walls and don’t see any girl’s names anywhere. Then what do the girls think when they come into the gym, maybe I can’t do it,” Pochini said. “Now they hopefully will have a feeling of yeah I can do this, because someone already has.”

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