A year ago, they were known as the “Road Warriors.”
From August 21st until the 17th of October, the Westcliff women’s volleyball team played 18 consecutive road matches, winning 11.
It was a remarkable group of players, led by 10 seniors, who all said goodbye on a memorable senior night that included a pink-out charity function, as well as a nifty 3-1 win over visiting OUAZ.
But even though the Warriors lost a lot of firepower to graduation, head coach Derrick Trent is in no mood to rebuild.
“We will be reloading this year, not rebuilding,” he said. “We have great expectations for this coming season.”
Trent has many reasons to be optimistic, including a number of big-time contributors from last year’s squad who will return, as well as an exciting infusion of talent that will suit up at Westcliff for the first time.
Among his returners, Trent may count on Rylee Adair most, as she steps into the starting libero position and will spearhead Westcliff’s defensive effort.
“She was instrumental for us last year,” Trent said. “She kept working hard and setting a standard on this team of what it means to be a libero.”
Adair is an intense competitor, but she also brings a steadiness that Trent describes as a calming influence that her teammates rely on.
“No matter what, she always has the defense in control,” Trent said. “She is always leading and directing the defense and really holds that back line steady.”
Libero Sierra Lim will also be incredibly important for Westcliff’s defense in 2020. A major contributor a year ago, Lim is beloved by her teammates, and Trent says he will count on her to take on a leadership role this year.
Another team leader will be outside hitter Leah Price. Price is now the oldest member of the team, and her guiding influence will be paramount.
Trent says Price brings maturity to the squad and he is excited to see how she teaches the younger players what it means to be a Warrior.
A year ago, Hailey Frey was just beginning that journey as a freshman, but after winning the team’s Most Improved Player award, Trent says Frey will set a good example for young players looking to make an impact.
“She will have to step into some big shoes to help the incoming freshmen transition to college life,” Trent said. “She learned so much from last year’s senior class, so now that they’re gone, we still have a solid person who can continue to lead with the same passion and maturity that they led with.”
Two more returners for Westcliff fans to keep an eye on in 2020 are Brooke Scheidle and Amanda Gross, perhaps Trent’s most explosive, above-the-net players.
Gross was an absolute beast for the squad a year ago at outside hitter, where she sent home 143 kills, second only to team-leader Sarah Roach.
“(Gross) always has a fire to push our team to be more competitive every time she steps on the court,” Trent said. “I’m excited to see her instill that same passion in the younger players.”
Scheidle, meanwhile, was a force on the defensive end at opposite, where she made her mark taking on the opponent’s best attackers at net.
Scheidle finished with 16 blocks and 39 digs on the defensive end and chipped in 60 kills on offense as a reserve player with limited minutes.
“She was a key player for us last year,” Trent said. “She garnered a lot of blocks on the right side and shut down many of our opposing teams’ best hitters. Because of her beach (volleyball) background, I know she will bring even more than she did last year and help us bring some consistency to the opposite position.”
As if his group of returners wasn’t reason enough to be optimistic, Trent’s recruiting period has gone fantastically well, and Westcliff will look forward to reloading with some incredibly explosive players.
Perhaps the biggest name on the list of newcomers is Kami Marion, an incoming freshman out of Stockdale High School in Bakersfield.
Marion, who sports an eye-popping vertical, has won league championships, has been to CIF, and is a gold medal winner at the club level (Bakersfield Volleyball Club).
“She brings a hunger to win and expects nothing less of herself,” Trent said.
Trent has known Marion personally since she was 13 years old.
“Even back then, you could tell she was a perfectionist every time she stepped on the court,” he said. “I am so excited to have someone like her in our gym.”
Two more names to look for among the newcomers will be Meghan Tilschner and Trinity Bennet.
Tilschner (Exeter HS) will come in and fill the sizable shoes of Tiana Gildernew at setter, and Trent says she is going to be a key player in 2020, bringing instant fire power to the position.
Bennet, a transfer out of Casper College, is a powerhouse hitter from Hawaii who will help bring maturity and college experience to the squad.
“We have so many great new recruits coming in that there’s just not enough time to talk about all of them,” Trent said. “Each one is going to bring a lot to our team. I really can’t say enough (about the recruiting class).”
Trent is a perfectionist himself as a coach. One of his favorite quotes is, “Practice does not make perfect – perfect practice makes perfect.”
His coaching philosophy stresses team unity, respect and trust as well as positive reinforcement, reliability and delegation.
It’s these types of values that help volleyball teams not only survive 18-game road trips, but thrive within them.
Trent says the Warriors are looking forward to a little more home cooking in 2020, and with the COVID-19 pandemic still ongoing, it’s a certainty that Westcliff will be playing a Southern California-only schedule.
August matches have been cancelled, but will hopefully be made up on the backend, if and when the season gets the green light from the NAIA and the California Pacific Conference.
“Our players are dealing with COVID as well as then can, home workouts, and finding a way to play, even if it’s against a wall,” Trent said. “They are just getting excited as we get closer and closer to our move-in date.
“They can’t wait to get back in the gym.”
To contact Brandon Petersen, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tag(s): Westcliff University