When the 2019 girls’ volleyball season had reached its completion, both Linfield Christian and Cornerstone Christian won CIF-SS titles. Paloma Valley earned a runner-up trophy (second straight finals loss to Ontario Christian) and several other teams made deep runs. Two years later a new high school volleyball season is upon us with lots of new faces in new places.
In the Valley News coverage area, six programs will welcome new coaches and five jobs have been filled at press time).
In – TBD
Out – Jim Downey
Under former coach Jim Downey, the Eagles were a finalist in 2018 (runner up to small school power Canoga Park Faith Baptist) and No. 1 seed in Division Seven for 2019 but could not be admitted to the tournament due to a lack of space in the draw. As a result of Carnegie’s (Riverside) closure, they are currently a freelance program.
In – Patrick Vilanueva
Out – Neemias Costa
A former Vista Murrieta and Rancho Christian assistant, Vilanueva takes over a side that needs stability to build. Pat Manning led the Rams to a 2017 playoff appearance at 14-12 overall, 0-10 Southwestern League.
In – Neemias Costa
Out – Dennis Palpallatoc/Nicole Hraygil
In 2018, the Golden Bears were CIF-State Division One champions under Rafu Rodriguez who since left for a college job. Dennis Palpallatoc had the job in 2019.
In – Dana Ortiz
Out – Eric Hawes/Jessica Hagan
Under Eric and Dani Hawes, the Lions won CIF-SS titles in 2018 and 2019. Jessica Hagan was named to lead the program last season in a season which never happened.
I spoke with Ortiz via phone recently and she said about the opportunity, “There’s definitely some pressure jumping into a program on the upswing like Linfield was under Eric Hawes and trying to sustain that momentum. However, with the unique circumstances we find ourselves in (the fact that these girls didn’t have a season last year) I’m trying to be patient as we build things with both myself and the girls.”
Ortiz is Linfield Christian’s eighth coach in 16 years and she said about the need for stability, “I grew up in the area with a brother who attended Linfield Christian and love it here. During the interview process I was told about their lack of coaching stability in this program, and I’d love to provide that for Lions volleyball.”
As a player, Ortiz (Backlund then) was at two power five conference programs in Oregon State and the University of Florida appearing in 126 sets over her combined time in Corvallis and Gainesville. Locally she played at Murrieta Valley under Sue Lilly and was a four time all Southwestern League selection (three time all CIF-SS nominee) while in Nighthawk red and black.
In – Cheyanne Te’o
Out – Laikin Ramirez
Te’o takes over one of the Valley’s stronger programs that is known for volleyball excellence. The Wolfpack made deep playoff runs in both 2014 and 2015 under former coach Mark Motluck.
In – Antoinette Campbell
Out – Eric Burnett
The Titans were 7-15 overall with a 4-7 mark in league play in 2019.
In addition, the area gets a new high school in Liberty HS (Menifee) which will be part of the Perris Union High School District. Kevin Hart, who played on Paloma Valley’s first boys’ team, was named the first volleyball coach in Bison history.
I spoke with Hart via phone, and he said, “My biggest challenges right now are not having a gym while ours is finished and not having an idea of what my talent pool will be like. I’m looking forward to walking into our building when it is finished and getting everyone together for that first program workout at home.”
Paloma Valley will host Liberty’s initial camp and tryout sessions. The Bison have freshmen and sophomores in this inaugural season fielding just two levels (varsity and JV) as a freelance school this year and attempt to gain league affiliation in 2022-2023 (hopefully in the Mountain Pass).
When asked about goals for the upcoming season Hart remarked, “We need to lay out a strong team culture regardless of wins and losses this year and show we’ll give kids an opportunity to play no matter their club affiliation. When you put on a Bison uniform you play for Liberty first, no matter your club.”
With regards to their schedule, Hart said there are some dates confirmed but a lot is still moving. Bison AD Scott Moore is handling scheduling and has taken thus far a conservative approach to things not knowing what the talent level will be or what kind of numbers they’ll have. Thirty-four players showed interest at a recent meet and greet plus those on interest lists from junior high schools.
Derryl Trujillo can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.