PC notebook: PC spikers huge underdog against Santa Rosa
Not many are giving the Porterville College volleyball team much of a chance against perennial power Santa Rosa Junior College, Northern California’s two-time defending champion.
Conventional wisdom says a small school team can only go so far before running into a larger force – especially one that posted a perfect 14-0 record in the state’s toughest conference and is currently riding an 18-match winning streak.
The No. 3 Bear Cubs (24-2) will host the No. 6 Pirates (20-6) in a California Community College Athletic Association regional semifinal at 6 p.m. Saturday.
It provides another challenging – and seemingly impossible – task for coach Dale Henderson to continue a dream season.
While PC has recorded six wins against postseason qualifiers, and held its own against six-time Central Valley Conference champion Fresno, the program has yet to conquer one major hurdle in Henderson’s six seasons: win a road playoff game.
Santa Rosa, guided by coach Kelly Wood, has finished state runner-up to Los Angeles Pierce the last two seasons. And this year’s Bear Cub team appears to be on a mission, squashing every team in its path since late September.
It easily dispatched a 23-1 Yuba College team in Tuesday’s opening playoff round, and did so in less than an hour.
“Santa Rosa is the cream of the crop,” Henderson said.
“Any discussion about the top programs in California starts with what coach Wood has accomplished over the past decade. We don’t see their teams much, be everyone knows about Santa Rosa.”
Henderson has yet to face Santa Rosa, but it’s another opponent to scratch off the coaching bucket list, in terms of playing the best.
Wood said there is no secret about her team’s focus: trying to stop Amanda Monge.
Santa Rosa will send at least two blockers her way, in effort to slow down PC’s top offensive weapon.
“We don’t know much about Porterville, so the unknown always makes you a little nervous,” said Wood, a two-time NorCal Coach of the Year.
“We will continue to do what we do – out-ballhandling the other team and getting all five hitters involved. We try to get the other team out of their system by serving tough and creating problems. We’re pretty good. We have an unselfish team that will win at all costs.”
The Bear Cubs have a deep roster, led by All-American outside hitter and Big 8 Conference Most Valuable Player Olivia Urban, who is heading to the University of Hawaii.
Wood also praised the play of All-NorCal outside hitter Kaitlin Dunaway and All-Big 8 middle blocker Kristyn Casalino.
After Tuesday’s 3-2 thrilling comeback win over No. 11 Monterey Peninsula, the Pirates will have to play near perfect volleyball to stand toe-to-toe with the state’s fourth-ranked team.
“I’m confident in our team,” Monge said.
“It will come down to passing, playing defense, and working together. We didn’t play our best on Tuesday, so we have to regroup and focus on taking it point by point. We need the intensity we had to finish round one and that fifth set. We’re looking forward to the challenge.”
Henderson said his team has nothing to lose.
“Here we go again,” he said.
“Our 4,000 enrollment school against 20,000 students. Small versus big. We’re used to being the underdogs. I love being in this position, and I think our team just wants to prove that Porterville College belongs with the best teams in California. Win or lose, we just became one step closer.”
The men’s basketball team will play its third consecutive weekend tournament, participating in the Citrus College Neil Edwards Classic.
The Pirates (0-4) will face Orange Coast (1-2) in the opening round on Friday at 3 p.m.
The women’s team (2-3) has the weekend off, and will open play at the College of the Sequoias Tournament in Visalia on Nov. 29.