At a glance, the Pasadena City College women's volleyball team appeared to have a breakout season last year. The Lancers won 18 matches, the South Coast Conference North Division title at a perfect 8-0, and were victorious in a playoff match for the first time in four years.
And while head coach Mike Terrill, the SCC North Coach of the Year, was pleased with the team's progress, he is set on trying to get his 2018 team ranked in this year's State Top 25 and earning a higher seed (15th in 2017) in this year's SoCal Regional Playoffs. The Lancers are playing one of their toughest non-conference schedules since Terrill took over the program in 2016.
"We have talked about taking the next step as a program, and our players are ready." Terrill said. "One way we are achieving that is to challenge ourselves by playing perennially strong programs in our pre-conference schedule. We'll be tested, but we are excited because we have a team that has shown to be cohesive in the pre-season and are striving to get better every practice. Regardless of our results we have an opportunity every day to learn how to be great teammates and ultimately a stronger program"
Terrill put his team into the frying pan by playing a scrimmage match v. defending state champion Irvine Valley on August 24 and on Wednesday night, the Lancers opened the 2018 season by using a strong attack and serve to knock off host Saddleback in four sets, 25-21, 25-16, 23-25, 25-16. The Gauchos were No. 19 on last year's final CCCWVCA Top 25.
PCC had an impressive .402 team hitting percentage, the first time the team hit above the .400 mark since 2016. Newcomer and freshman outside hitter Leslie Rivera (Gabrielino High) slammed 14 kills, hit .520 (only one error in 25 attempts) and added 12 digs. Returning All-SCC middle blocker Rachel Johnson was dominating on 12 kills in just 15 attempts (.800). The Lancers spun 12 aces, five by returning outside hitter Camille Ferguson, who added nine kills (.364) and tied Rivera for team best in digs with 12. Frosh opposite Abby Martin (Arcadia High) contributed eight kills, made two blocks, five digs and served two aces.
"We sustained pressure from the service line," Terrill said about the victory. "We were able to get contributions from all of our starters and off the bench."
Overall, Terrill has 10 players returning from last season's division champion, one a medical redshirt freshman middle blocker in Danielle Johnson, to go with seven other freshmen. The team's starting rotation includes Rachel Johnson and Jade O'Mally as middles, Martin at opposite, Rivera and Ferguson as outside hitters, Hernandez at setter, and Ramirez at libero. One of the team's reserves is an All-San Gabriel Valley News Second Team selection in Janell Currier, an outside hitter from Walnut High. Rivera was a Pasadena Star-News Second Team choice in her senior year of 2016.
"I feel like one of our strengths is serving as we have players who have different styles. We have a blend of returners and newcomers that are building a good rapport. We're seeing leadership qualities in some of our key players. The entire SCC North appears to have gotten better and that only will help us."
The Lancers host a quad tourney on Saturday, Sept. 1 as they face Cypress (#18 in state poll last year) at 10 a.m. and then MiraCosta, a state tournament qualifier and No. 5-ranked in 2017, at 12:30 p.m. The opening home matches will be played on PCC's home floor of Hutto-Patterson Gymnasium.