Volleyball Sets Up for D1 Success

Sage Zbinden | Natalie Zimmerer, junior business major, runs a slide and gives a nice set to Summer Avery, graduate student kinesiology major.

After a dominant 2017 season with an overall record of 29- 1, the California Baptist University women’s volleyball team is off to a strong start for the 2018 season.

Although many players who contributed to the team’s success last season graduated, head Coach Branden Higa said he has high hopes and is optimistic when it comes to the adjustments set forth for the fresh, new team.

“I have to admit it was different because so many people graduated that had been with the team for such a long time and made a big impact on the program,” Higa said.

“But we have a great group of returners who are ready to step into new roles and a great recruiting class who are ready to carry this mantle for years to come.”

Returner Sydney Marks, sophomore business administration major and middle blocker, said she is ready to step up and take the team to the next level and show the competition that they can still be successful in DI.

“I am trying to do what I can to make people feel comfortable on the court,” Marks said. “I really think we are going to surprise everyone with our ‘go-getter’ mentality this season.”

According to Higa, the team has adopted the phrase “more than” as its mindset going into the season.

“We are constantly looking for ways we can be ‘more than’ what we were before — to build, to improve and to impact,” Higa said. “We get a chance every day to build upon the team’s philosophy. Newcomer Hana Okuhara, freshman health science major and setter, said she does her best to compete hard and improve in practices every day.

“In order to support and contribute, I want to help the team play at the highest level possible,” Okuhara said. “The mindset is to play to the best of our abilities every match.”

With new freshmen, transfers and a graduate student added into the mix, their chemistry has exceeded the team’s expectations.

“The chemistry has been phenomenal,” Higa said. “The women on this team do a great job of caring for and supporting each other both on and off the court. It is really a special thing.”

The willingness to embrace the newcomers and the roles put upon the returners is a true testament to this year’s squad and their ability to adjust.

After picking up a win over the University of Texas-El Paso, the Lancers will be back in Van Dyne Sept. 22 at 7 p.m. as they take on the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley Vaqueros in their second Western Athletic Conference matchup of the season.

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