Anna Cmaylo Acton remembers a time in her life when she was the new kid on campus, a seventh-grader at Silverado Middle School, and not knowing anyone after moving from San Francisco.
All of that changed pretty quickly, as Acton met a family that was very involved in the sport of volleyball. She was invited by Chrys and Pat Fitzpatrick to sign up and try out for their club team, Napa Valley Volleyball Club.
“They were just very active in the volleyball community,” said Acton. “It opened up an entire world of friends. It was super fun. Honestly, it was completely life-changing, because that really shaped my entire experience – in school, in life, everything.”
Acton played during her eighth-grade year for the Napa Valley Volleyball Club. She took her a game to a new level when she got to Vintage High School, as she excelled as a 6-foot-3 right-side hitter and a middle hitter-blocker. As a senior in 2003, she helped lead Vintage to the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division II title and to the Northern California tournament.
“She is one of a kind, a great individual,” said Jim Cherniss, Acton’s coach at Vintage. “I’m honored to have worked with her. A wonderful, wonderful person to be around, to get the opportunity to know. She was a standout.”
Acton, a 2004 graduate, will be honored for her outstanding play during a record-setting prep career when she is inducted into the Vintage High Athletic Hall of Fame next month. Acton and seven others were selected for this year’s Hall of Fame class.
Steve Wallace (Class of 1977), Jerry Smith and Mike Jarecki (Class of 1979), Adam Housley (Class of 1989), Ryan Steen (Class of 1993), Liza Saunders and Marty James are also in the class.
Saunders recently retired after 41 years as Vintage’s head swimming and diving coach. James, who retired on June 4 after 40 years with the Napa Valley Register, is a special category inductee.
The newest class will be introduced at Vintage’s Hall of Fame Game on Friday, Sept. 6, when the Crushers face Acalanes-Lafayette in a nonleague game at 7 p.m. at Napa Memorial Stadium.
A dinner and enshrinement ceremony is on Saturday, Sept. 7 at the Elks Lodge of Napa. Tickets for the event go on sale Aug. 1. More information is available at vintageboosters.com.
The mission of the Vintage Athletic Hall of Fame Foundation, which is now in its seventh year, is to recognize and honor the outstanding achievements of individual athletes, coaches and/or special individuals who have contributed to the development, success, tradition and integrity of VHS athletics.
Individuals may be nominated in one of the three following categories: athlete, coach, or special/other.
The selection committee reviews the submitted nominations and makes its recommendations to the board of directors. The board approves the recommendation.
Vintage High years
Acton set Vintage High records for total kills (over 400), kill average (15.5 per game) and hitting percentage (.413). She dominated at the net and all over the court her senior season, recording 20 or more kills in five matches as Vintage (25-9 overall) tied for the Monticello Empire League title with Wood.
She had 29 kills, a season-high, and 17 digs in a 3-1 loss to Los Gatos in the opening round of the CIF Northern California Division II Championships in 2003.
Acton was the MEL Most Valuable Player. She shared Player of the Year honors on the 2003 All-Napa County team with Heather Dunn of Justin-Siena.
“Volleyball has been a huge part of my life,” she said from her home in Park City, Utah. “I could not be more thankful to have had the experiences that I’ve had, that have opened so many doors, to playing at a college, to opening doors to opportunities that I never would have known existed had it not been for volleyball.
“I wouldn’t have continued to play if I wasn’t having a blast. And I had a blast because I was playing with really fun girls. If I receive an honor like this, it feels like there should be so many other names on the certificate with me, because I didn’t do this myself by any means.
“It’s an amazing honor. And my coaches … who gave me confidence … and made me feel like I was somebody and made me feel like I could do anything.”
Acton was named to John Tawa’s PrepVolleyball.com’s Top 250 Senior Aces, a list that recognized the top volleyball recruits for the Class of 2004.
Acton, who was named to the 2002 All-Napa County team, was 94th on the list.
She also played for the Empire Volleyball Club of Santa Rosa.
As a junior, she was named to the All-MEL Second Team. She finished the season with 196 kills, a .268 hitting percentage, 1.07 blocks a game (91 total) and 3.4 digs per game (282).
Acton’s senior season came to an end with a 22-25, 25-17, 25-22, 25-21 loss to Los Gatos, the Central Coast Section runner-up and champion of the Santa Clara Valley Athletic League. The Crushers were appearing in the NorCal playoffs — which is part of the state tournament — for the first time.
“I didn’t mess around – I put her on the varsity right away (as a freshman),” said Cherniss, who will be the presenter for Acton. “It became pretty obvious that her real strength was in the middle, as both a blocker and a hitter.
“She played club volleyball as a young player and got a lot of experience at a high level there.”
It was a very talented Vintage team, with Acton playing alongside other seniors, including Lindsay Gray, Natalie Facchini, Koryn Kendall, Emilee Wright and Tamara Heidemann.
“It was a truly exceptional team,” said Cherniss. “There were other players on that team that had wonderful seasons. I was able to build the offense around (Acton), because she had such great players around her. It made it easier for me to construct the offense and defense, emphasizing her talent.”
Acton is thankful and appreciative to Cherniss and all the other coaches that helped her.
Cherniss, a former Napa Valley College and Vintage head volleyball coach, was inducted into the Idaho State Sports Hall of Fame in 2017. He was presented with the Lifetime Achievement award.
Cherniss was Idaho State’s coach from 1982-1987. He led the Bengals to Mountain West Athletic Conference championships in 1986 and 1987. He was named as the MWAC Coach of the Year in 1985 and also in 1987. The Bengals advanced to the NCAA Tournament in both 1986 and 1987. The 1987 team had a 31-win season, the best in school history.
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Cherniss was at South Pasadena High School (Los Angeles County) for 12 years and is in the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame. He led the boys and girls volleyball teams to a combined 15 Rio Hondo League titles, including nine in a row.
He was the head coach at Saint Mary’s College in Moraga for seven years. He was the West Coast Conference Coach of the Year.
He was Napa Valley College’s coach for five years and led the Storm to the state playoffs three times.
Cherniss was Vintage’s head coach for eight years. He won two MEL titles. Cherniss retired from the Napa Valley Unified School District in 2010.
He has coached club volleyball at Sonoma State and led the SSU men’s team to a second-place finish in the Gold Division at the National Collegiate Volleyball Federation Club Championships in 2014 at the Dallas Convention Center in Texas.
He was honored as the 2014 Division II Coach of the Year at the National Collegiate Volleyball Federation Club Championships.
“I had access to amazing high level coaching at a pretty young age,” said Acton. “I got to cross paths with (Cherniss), to where I got to completely benefit. These coaches and playing opportunities became available to me because of the community that was around Vintage High School.”
Acton is Vintage’s all-time kills and kills-per-game leader.
She went on to play at Santa Clara University and became one of the most accomplished players in the history of the Broncos’ volleyball program.
She put up very impressive career numbers for hitting percentage (.365), total blocks (449), kills (1,247), and kill average (3.11 per set).
As a freshman in 2004, she was voted Best Offensive Player and Most Improved by teammates. She ranked fifth in the WCC in hitting percentage (.308) and seventh in blocks (1.15 pg).
As a sophomore in 2005, she became Santa Clara’s fifth American Volleyball Coaches Association All-American recipient, picking up Third-Team honors. She participated in 30 matches, compiling 336 kills and 117 total blocks in 103 games, ending the year with a .356 hitting percentage. She was selected to the 12-member All-Pacific Region team. She was named to the All-WCC First Team.
As a junior in 2006, she was named AVCA All-America honorable mention. She was named to the All-WCC First-Team for the second year in a row. She led the WCC with a .405 hitting percentage, which was also eighth-best in the nation and also the highest single-season hitting percentage in Santa Clara history. She posted double-figure kills in 18 matches. Starting all 28 matches, she also averaged 3.89 kills and 1.12 blocks a game.
She earned AVCA All-Pacific Region First-Team honors while also being named as the Broncos’ Offensive MVP.
She used 2007 as a redshirt season after injuring herself in a spring tournament that year against UC Davis. Acton suffered an injury when she landed on her right shoulder, diving for a ball.
As a senior in 2008, she was named third team All-American by the AVCA and was named to the AVCA All-Pacific Region team.
She was named to ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District VIII third team.
She was named to the All-WCC First Team. She led the Broncos with 106 blocks and a .376 hitting percentage.
In the WCC, she was second in hitting percentage, third in blocks, eighth in points and ninth in kills.
Acton graduated in 2008 with degrees in political science and environmental studies. She received a minor in French.
Acton also served as president of Santa Clara’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.
“I am so thankful for those years at Santa Clara, that they saw me out of high school and it was like, ‘OK, let’s take this girl and let’s work with her,’ ” she said.
“I had amazing coaches that believed in me and it gave me the confidence that I actually was good enough to play at that level – that I could play against anyone. I was quite lucky. We had a really great group of girls.”
Acton played professional volleyball in Europe for six years. She was with Cheseaux, Switzerland (League A), Dresden, Germany Bundesliga 1 (Champions League), Dresdner Sport Club of Germany, and Klagenfurt Wildcats of Austria (Austrian 1st League).
She ended her pro career in 2013.
Acton and her husband, Matt Acton, got married in July. She works for an advertising agency in Salt Lake City.
Acton, 32, is still involved in volleyball, as she plays beach volleyball.
The game, she said, “is still a huge part of my life.”