By: Derryl Trujillo 

— Writer

— SAN BERNARDINO – For a second straight year all eyes in the CCAA volleyball world are turned toward Coussoulis Arena as an automatic bid to the NCAA D2 West Regional is decided with five matches in three days. Regular season champion Cal State San Bernardino and runner-up Cal Poly Pomona earned byes to Friday’s semifinal session and both advanced to the championship round.

If there was a theme to the evening it would be high-powered offenses at the disposal of Coyotes coach Kim Cherniss and Broncos coach Tracy Dahl.

In semifinal No.1, the Broncos posted a team .313% attacking percentage behind a combined 21 kills, 5 errors and 59 attempts from sophomores Jazmyn Wheeler (11k) and Jazminn Parrish (10k) to sweep San Francisco State 25-17, 25-21 and 25-20. Set one featured seven ties and five lead changes with the Gators last holding a lead at 14-12 off Trinity Barr’s kill on Kimberly DeBoer’s assist. From there, the Broncos finished on a 13-3 run to grab a one set lead with Daisy Duke’s kill ending it. Cal Poly Pomona led wire to wire in sets two and three, surviving late Gator runs (9-2 in set two and 5-2 in the third) to advance.

Dahl said in post-match remarks, “We got off to a slow start tonight and I don’t feel like we found ourselves until about halfway through the first set. After that timeout everything we did was a lot cleaner, and we played Bronco volleyball.”

Brynn Sherbert (Temecula/Great Oak HS) who recorded 12 digs, added, “All during the COVID break we were in open gyms three times a week working for the opportunity we now have in the finals.”

Gators coach Matt Hoffmann remarked, “My choice tonight was not to talk about this loss but instead about the climb and how much hard work and trust we’ve had to have in each other to get here. Throughout this process we’ve realized that there will be good with the bad and it’s been about getting into the gym that next day and seeing what progress we can make.”

Jessica Haynie (Temecula/Chaparral) who recorded 10 kills said, “It’s been an honor to have played here and have played a part in building Gator volleyball into a program where people want to come and play. Being good teammates and friends came first and then the volleyball product came next.”

Cal State San Bernardino and runner-up Cal Poly Pomona both advanced to the championship round of the CCAA volleyball NCAA D2 West Regional finals. Valley News/Courtesy photo

Drew Morris (Temecula/Great Oak) who added 3 kills and 10 digs remarked, “It’s about connections and playing for the person next to you. We are truly just a family and want to play till that final point.”

Host Cal State San Bernardino dropped a set to Cal State Los Angeles in their match despite hitting .323% in set two but bounced back to prevail 25-19, 25-27, 25-19, 25-18. Alexis Cardoza (Chino Hills) led the Coyotes with 18 kills while Jenna Patton (REV), Jalyn Hayes (Cajon) and Melissa Garciglia all added 10 kills each. Marlee Nunley (Vista Murrieta) recorded 49 assists and guided the Coyotes to a team .257% attacking percentage.

In set one, the Coyotes finished on a 9-3 run with Garciglia and Patton providing the final kills. Meanwhile, set two saw extra points as the Golden Eagles rallied from a 22-17 deficit after Patton’s kill to prevail 27-25. In that stretch Cal State Los Angeles recorded back-to-back service aces and Alejandra Negron added a solo block to help even the match. Sets three and four saw early lead changes but once the Coyotes took control in each of those sets, they were never seriously threatened.

CSUSB coach Kim Cherniss said, “As long as we learn a lesson going forward from it, I’m ok with dropping that second set. What I hope we learned was that you just can’t stop chasing points against quality teams like CSULA. We needed to push through that 25th point.”

Cardoza added, “Not getting to play last year was certainly disappointing but we had to just roll with the punches and be prepared for that day when we could get back out here. Everyone plays their best against us, and that pressure is something we thrive on. It’s why you come here as a player.”

Hayes said, “During the break, our staff did such an excellent job of keeping everyone engaged and checking in on us to make sure we were ok. Cal State LA is such a fun team to play against because they are highly skilled and full of energy, and we enjoy trying to match that. We had the mindset of playing for each other and having fun in the process and it’ll be the same thing in the finals.”

Patton remarked, “We started to adjust to what they were doing and did an impressive job of communicating their tendencies as the match went on. Our team is all about communication and that’s a big part of defense and frustrating opposing offenses.”

Golden Eagles coach Juan Figueroa said in defeat, “We fought and played hard tonight but really didn’t execute. In that set we won we just got lucky and overall, it was just a struggle. This is the group I started with, and they’ve been a joy to coach. I’m proud of them and now we prepare for what we hope is a trip to regionals.”

Derryl Trujillo can be reached by email at socaltrekkie@gmail.com.