By Teddy Luther
Head coach Saga Vae is “really excited” about his 2016 women’s volleyball team.
“This group never gives up. A lot of teams will be glad we’re small when they see us walk into the gym,” Vae said, referencing the team’s lack of height compared to previous years. “But we’ll surprise them.”
Sophomores Kijana Best and Tatiana Jimenez are the lone returners from last year’s team, which finished 20-7 overall before losing in the first round of the California Community College Athletic Association’s NorCal Regional Championships.
Best will be looking to build on an impressive freshman season in which she finished third in the state in hitting percentage and sixth in kills per set.
The team will be without last season’s front-row leader Sifa Faaiu. She transferred to Cal State Los Angeles after a stellar year for the Rams last year, when she lead the state in blocks per state.
“I feel even better this year,” said Best, who is poised to take on more of a leadership role for the Rams this season.
“We have great chemistry right now. It’s all about talking more on the court.”
Despite losing some height and blocking power, Vae has confidence his squad will find new ways to win this season.
“Our defense is really going to take us far this year,” he said.
The play of the incoming recruiting class, which includes seven freshmen, will be the key to the team’s defensive success. Led by libero Isoke Springer and outside hitter Jennifer Quarters (both freshmen), this recruiting class is one of the strongest Vae has had in his seven years at City College.
One of the highlights of this year’s recruiting class is sophomore setter Pam Dungo. After playing her freshman year at Ateneo de Manila University in the Philippines, the Richmond native is excited to be back in the Bay Area and playing at City College with several familiar faces.
Dungo, Springer and Best are all familiar with each other. Dungo and Springer have played together on and off since they were 12 and 11 years old on club and high school teams, while Best regularly played against them.
“We played against each other in high school,” said Best. “It’s good to have them on the same side now.”
Building a connection and relationship with her hitters has been Dungo’s number one priority in her transition to the Rams program.
“I got back at the end of May and started training here right away,” Dungo said. “We all somehow click.”
The Rams season kicks off with a home match against College of Marin on Wednesday, Sept. 7, followed by the annual Delta Classic preseason tournament, where City College will come in ranked no. eight in the NorCal Regional standings.