PC notebook: Colunga has been a great gift for Pirates
For her 18th birthday, Nayeli Colunga had a rather normal day as a Porterville College student-athlete. She woke up early, drove to campus, attended class, and went to practice.
The only thing different was watching her volleyball teammates sing “Happy Birthday” before presenting a card and handing out lollipops to everyone. Colunga’s head coach Dale Henderson said he received the best gift of all.
The night before, on Sept. 26 in a home match against Reedley College, Henderson saw his prize recruit come of age. The statistics by Colunga (8 kills and 5 digs) weren’t the reason. In fact, they were well below her regular output.
“It was the way Nayeli attacked and played aggressive, without fear,” Henderson said. “It’s the type of performance we’ve been waiting for. Everything just really clicked for her against Reedley. Since, then she’s been a different player.”
Behind Colunga’s effort, the Pirates dominated the Tigers in three straight sets. “I realized that my attitude has an effect on my teammates,” she said. “My role to be aggressive and stay positive is going to help us win. My attitude has changed. I’ve learned how to handle mistakes and become a smarter player.”
Growing up in Strathmore, Colunga’s favorite sport was soccer. It was her only sport of choice from age three until the sixth grade. At Strathmore High School, she lettered in soccer, volleyball, basketball, softball, and track.
She turned down a soccer scholarship offer from Cal State Bakersfield, and a partial volleyball scholarship from Fresno Pacific University. After completing her A.A. degree in biological and physical science at PC next year, she wants to attend a university in San Diego. She plans on becoming a pediatrician.
“I don’t think I was ready for the four-year college level yet,” she said. “I really wanted to go to PC and play volleyball.”
Colunga had to learn quickly on the job. And, learn a new position. As a four-year varsity player at Strathmore, Colunga was primarily a middle-blocker. At PC, Henderson moved her to outside hitter. Along with sophomore standout Amanda Monge, the two have become the team’s “one-two punch.”
While Monge ranks third in California with an average of 4.78 kills per game, Colunga ranks 10th among all freshmen in the state with a 3.13 average. No other tandem in the Central Valley Conference has a higher ranking.
Henderson said with those numbers, and the way the team has been improving, the Pirates are peaking at the right time. “Nayeli is just starting to grasp what college volleyball is all about,” he said. “If we can continue to play well around our leaders, then we can make a serious run these final three weeks and deep into the playoffs.”
That would be a nice gift for the whole team.
The No. 6 Northern California ranked Pirate volleyball team will host No. 9 Taft on Friday at 6 p.m. The team will wear red jerseys, and is hosting “Alumni Night” in which former PC athletes can receive two free tickets by calling 791-2460.
The college is also hosting TC VillainZ football team members as special guests, to be introduced throughout the evening.
On Saturday, the PC softball alumni game is scheduled for 11 a.m., while the alumni baseball game is set for 1 p.m. Both games are free to the public.
Any past softball players interested in playing can call assistant coach, Gracie Steidley, (559) 361-7486 or head coach Vickie Dugan, (559) 791-2291. Donations to the program can be sent to the PC Softball Foundation, 100 E. College Avenue, Porterville 93257.