East County Sports

Hawks underrated despite great season

SDCC outside hitter Jessica Pinasco and middle blocker Breanna Brooks. / SDCC



By Nick Pellegrino
ECS staff writer
EL CAJON —- Following the best season in San Diego Christian College women’s volleyball in the 21st Century, the Hawks are confounded by being ranked just sixth in the Golden State Athletic Conference preseason poll.

The reasons are simple.

The Hawks earned their highest finish in GSAC history, finishing second behind nationally-tanked Western, the division champion.

The ballclub returns virtually its entire starting line-up, plus have an infusion of new talent to bolster both the offense and the defense, which will allow other players to go to their regular positions. Plus, preseason rankings are usually based on the previous season.

Still, being rated for just a sixth-pace finish may be puzzling to Hawks head coach Gene Kreiger, who is in his second season leading the Hawks after a successful stint at NCAA Division II Hawai’i-Hilo.

“It’s a head-scratcher, but it is just a preseason poll,” said Kreiger. “We’ll just work hard and move on.”

SDCC set school records for digs, as the defensive-oriented club frustrated opponents who typically walked all over the Hawks, but found themselves in ultra-competitive matches.

Included was national power Vanguard University of Orange County, which had won more than 25 straight matches in GSAC action. However, the Hawks took three of four head-to-head hook-ups to finish above the Lions in the standings for the first time ever.

The Hawks return a par of key players, both of whom were both All-GSAC and All-West Region in the NAIA. They are outside hitter Jessica Pinasco and middle blocker Breanna Brooks.

“Both are talented and experienced, plus they are team leaders” noted the coach. “Brooks should be even better because we can now move her to her natural position.”

Brooks received triple honors during the 2021 spring season. Along with All-GSAC and All-regional awards, she was placed on the NAIA honorable mention All-America team.

In 2021, Brooks will be able to move to the outside at the net thanks to the addition of Celestina Iupeli, a 6-foot-3 middle from Honolulu. She is one of several Hawks hailing from Hawai’i based on connections made during the coach’s stay in the Islands.

“Celestina was in school last year, but didn’t play because of an injury and surgery,” Kreiger added. “She gives us the size we didn’t have last season, so we no longer need to solely rely on our defense.”

The backcourt defense also returns a key component in libero Kayli Barrera, a senior out of Grossmont College and West Hills High. Barrera established a Hawks record for digs to pace the defense last season.

Another addition is Anuhea Kaohi, of Hawai’i, who placed for Western Nebraska Community College, where she was an NJCAA All-American.

Kaohi, who came to SDCC because she has family living in the San Diego area, will also be a key contributor to the Hawks’ brand-new beach volleyball team which will start play in the spring.

In the conference, Westmont is picked to again come out on top, but the rest of the predictions may not be a true indicator. Following the Warriors are The Master’s and Ottawa (Ariz.), then Menlo, which sat out last season.

Next, surprisingly, is Vanguard, which was chosen above San Diego Christian.

The Hawks will again play their home contests at the new Salvation Army gymnasium on Main Street in El Cajon. Spectators are welcome this season as long as they wear masks.

The Hawks open the season with a two-match road trip to Los Angeles County, meeting Providence Christian (Pasadena on Aug. 26) and Marymount California in Rancho Palos Verdes (Aug. 28).
The home opener is on Tue., Aug. 31, entertaining La Sierra University of Riverside at 7 p.m.
Further information, including the team roster and schedule, may be found on the Hawks website HERE.


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