East County Sports

Hawks continue changing of guard

2021 SAN DIEGO CHRISTIAN COLLEGE VOLLEYBALL

HAWKS 3, VANGUARD 0

By Nick Pellegrino
ECS staff writer

EL CAJON —- There are many top women’s volleyball programs in the Golden State Athletic Conference, but the one “opponent-to-beat” that means the most to San Diego Christian College is, undoubtedly, Vanguard University of Costa Mesa.

Some call it a situation similar in baseball, even geographically.

While the San Diego Padres claim the Los Angeles Dodgers are their chief rivals, the eyes of Dodger Blue look farther north to the San Francisco Giants are the team to beat.

So while SDCC would like to bounce Vanguard, the Lions also look north to Santa Barbara to take down nationally-ranked Westmont College at its top rival.

However, on Saturday (Nov. 6), things are definitely changing.

Behind a career-high seven blocks by freshman middle blocker Celestina Iupeli, the Hawks posted their first three-set sweep of Vanguard in more than a decade, taming the Lions, 25-15,25-20, 25-18, at the new Salvation Army Gym.

“We talked about being in the season and how we wanted to finish, and it was to finish above Vanguard,” said Hawks head coach Gene Kreiger. “We also wanted to finish above the coaches preseason prediction poll, which had us in sixth place.”

The Hawks can still finish as high as fourth, especially since the third- and fourth-place clubs, including Life Pacific, both lost earlier in the day.

“That would be a great step for our program,” added the coach. “Plus, we only lose three seniors from our core group, which bodes well for the future.”

That trio fo seniors will be honors next weekend. On Friday, the Hawks cap the seasons by hosting GSAC leading Ottawa (Ariz.), which is ranked 15th in the nation, on Friday. Then on Saturday, Seniors Day will be a showdown with Arizona Christian.

Ottawa and second-place Westmont have already clinched berths to the NAIA nationals. However, there is talk about a possible secondary tournament for runners-up to both the Golden State Athletics and California Pacific conferences.

“If we can find a school to host it, that would be a great idea,” noted Kreiger. “It would be a great way to award schools which also had a great season.”

A fourth-place finish could land such a postseason tournament bid for San Diego Christian.

“That would be an NIT (National Invitation Tournament) event they hold in basketball,” added the coach. It would a nice way to keep playing since GSAC dropped its conference tournament last season because it was too expensive.”

As for defeating Vanguard for a rare season-sweep of Vanguard, Kreiger pointed positive figures throughout his roster.”

“First off, we also beat them in four sets up there in the first round, so sweeping Vanguard is quite an accomplishment,” he noted.

“Against Vanguard Celestina really made a pretty good impression with her blocking at the net It was great for the freshman to have a solid game there.”

Meanwhile, sophomore transfer Isabella Marshall came back from an injury to play well against her neighborhood school. Marshall is a transfer from Golden West College in Huntington Beach, which is located just a few freeway exits from Vanguard along the San Diego Freeway (I-805).

“It was¬†Isabella’s first match coming off her injury. She delivered with 10 kills, so we’re glad to have her back.”

Marshall also had only two hitting errors, finishing with a stellar .320 kill percentage.

Overall, Jessica Pinasco paced the Hawks (13-9 overall, 8-8 GSAC) with 11 kills to allow the club to snap a mild 3-match losing streak.

Meanwhile, Kayli Barrera fueled the back row with 15 digs, picking up a resounding 30 percent of all team digs.

“Now that we’re healthy, we can see how we stack up when we pay Ottawa next weekend.”

The match with Ottawa on Friday starts at 6 p.m. The regular-season finale against ACU is slated for 2 p.m. on Saturday, but fans should arrive early for the Seniors Day pre-game ceremony.

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