Unbeaten Cal State San Bernardino gets Central Washington this week in the first step toward nailing down the first-ever national women’s volleyball championship in the lengthy history of Lady Coyotes’ play.
The rest of the eight-team NCAA Division II West Region field will be trying to knock off the top-ranked, 27-0 Lady Coyotes to reach the nation’s elite eight next weekend.
Metropolitan State University (Colo.) will host the Dec. 12-14 finals at the Auraria Event Center in Denver.
To reach that point, Cal State needs to hold court in its own events center, Coussoulis Arena, perhaps the best site in San Bernardino County. Some eight 8-team regionals are being played to determine the nation’s top eight sides.
The Lady Coyotes, coached by California Collegiate Athletic Association Coach of the Year Kim Cherniss, will included with a fully-loaded squad of blockers, setters and attackers to protect that unblemished record.
Armed to protect against opposing attackers is CCAA Libero of the Year Leilia To’omalatai, along with middle blocker Sascha Dominique, plus outside hitter Stephanie Doak and setter Mehana Ma’a -- each an all-conference selection.
Behind those players lurks two-time CCAA Player of the Year outside hitter Alexis Cardoza, the likely first choice of Lady Coyotes’ setters Ma’a and Marlee Nunley in a 6-2 attack.
It’s the 20th straight appearance in the West Region championship for Cal State, hosting for the 10th time, seeking their eighth title.
West Region Tournament (Dec. 5-7)
No. 1 Cal State San Bernardino (27-0) vs. No. 8 Central Washington (18-10)
No. 2 Western Washington (26-2) vs. No. 7 Hawaii Hilo (23-7)
No. 3 Cal State LA (20-8) vs. No. 6 Azusa Pacific (26-4)
No. 4 Alaska Anchorage (22-6) vs. No. 5 UC San Diego (18-8)
WOMEN’S COLLEGE SOCCER
Reyna VanDamme fed Caitlyn Saucedo with the second goal in overtime, lifting San Bernardino Valley College past Mt. San Antonio College in the CCCAA playoffs last week. The double overtime 2-1 triumph came after SBVC overcame a 1-0 deficit in the first overtime.
Saucedo, who assisted on Eliana Martinez’s first overtime goal that tied the match, helped propel the Lady Wolverines into the next round last Saturday at San Diego Mesa for the Southern California championship.
But a goal from 35 yards out, unassisted, in the game’s 83rd minute knocked the Lady Wolverines (15-4-3) from the playoffs.
It would have been the second straight year SBVC had reached the State’s final four.
MEN’S COLLEGE SOCCER
Cal State San Bernardino’s triumph over Cal Poly Pomona last month has set in motion some high hopes for the Coyotes in their NCAA Division II Tournament chase.
Thursday’s match against Colorado School of Mines in Los Angeles (3 p.m.) would be the next hurdle to clear in the chase to the Dec. 12-14 NCAA tournaments in Pittsburgh, Pa.
The Coyotes’ 1-0 win over Pomona on Nov. 23 was their first as a Division II side.
“Last year at this time,” said senior captain Brandon Sagbarani, who scored the goal, “we were already done. It means a lot to have the opportunity to chase something bigger.”
The Coyotes, armed with freshman Frank Daroma, an all-conference player who was named All-Region second team after scoring three goals, racking up four assists in 16 matches matches while starting the final 15.
Said Daroma: “Obviously this is a big honor. This is a team effort and without my teammates and coaches, I would not have this opportunity.”
Goalkeeper Jacob Huber, who has surrendered just 11 of the 12 goals surrendered by Cal State this season, has 61 saves in the Coyotes’ 13-3-3 season to date.
The back line constructed by coach Darren Leslie -- defenders Tony di Donato, Francisco Sierra, Isaac Balderrama and Juan Larios -- has cleared virtually everything that opposing attackers have pursued.
Since Nov. 1, only two goals have been scored against the Coyotes.
Up front, Redlands East Valley product Jonathan Garcia (5 goals, 7 assists) leads the team with 17 points.
San Gorgonio High product Jesus Ortega (2 goals, 1 assist) has played productive minutes in Cal State’s attack.