(Walnut, CA) Through the years, the Mt. SAC Women's Volleyball team has always finished in the top three or four in the standings. They even had a perfect 8-0 season, when the conference was split into two divisions in 2016. L.A. Harbor and Chaffey colleges both left in 2019, as the SCC became a nine-team conference.
But that all changed on Friday (November 11), as the Mounties won their first South Coast Conference Championship with all nine teams, with a 3-0 (25-23, 25-13, 25-11) sweep over visiting Long Beach City College.
With the regular season over, the 11th-ranked Mounties (19-4, 11-1) now await the post-season, which begins on Tuesday (Nov. 22) for the first round of the CCCAA Southern California Regionals. Brackets will be announced in the coming days on the CCCAA website.
"This two-year process has been a long journey and been so incredibly rewarding and challenging," Mt. SAC Women's Volleyball coach Samantha Neely said. "I couldn't be prouder of this two-year journey."
Neely took over the program in late 2019 as interim coach and was officially named head coach in 2020.
After the cancellation of the 2020 season, Mt. SAC had a completely new roster in 2021, which included all freshmen.
This current group of players, which included seven of the nine sophomores from last season, plus the addition of some key players, knew they had something special as this year began.
"I think when we all stepped into the gym on day one (this year), there was this common understanding that we were going to pursue excellence and do something great," Neely said. "That's exactly what they did.
"To bring a conference championship to this gym in the very last year that we're playing in it makes it so special. It's emotional just thinking about it."
Mt. SAC assistant coach, Lauren Quinonez, was on that 2016 team that was the North Division champions, but she knew how special this title would be.
"Between the coaches, we saw the potential that the girls had and Sam (Neely) and I knew the type of environment that it took (for a championship team) and the sky is the limit these girls have," Quinonez explained. "We knew that we could expect nothing less than a conference championship."
Leading the way for the Mounties in the win over LBCC was sophomore outside Riley DeGroot (8 Digs, 1 Assist) with 10 kills (.526 K%). Angelina Burton (.375 K%) and Allison Whiteman (3 D, .375 K%) had seven kills each, while JJ Quarrels (4 D) and Zyra Green (1 D) had five and four kills, respectively.
"It feels so great," Quarrels said. "It's so crazy, so surreal, I can't believe it. It is a good day to have a perfect game. With everyone jumping and crying, I'm going to Disneyland."
In the first-set win over Long Beach, the Mounties led the whole way, starting off with an 8-3 lead and only late in the set did the Vikings make a run.
The Mounties had a six-point, 23-17 lead, but the Vikings had a 4-0 run to get within two points, 23-21.
After a kill by Burton, who transferred from Santa Monica College, and a misplay by the Mounties hitting the ball out, freshman setter Capri Salmon dumped the ball over the net on the second hit for the win and the 1-0 set lead.
In the second set, Long Beach never got closer than five points to Mt. SAC. Leading 18-13, the Mounties won the last seven points for the win, highlighted by three kills from DeGroot. Whiteman had the final block for the victory.
In the final set, there was an even bigger margin of victory, as the Mounties opened with a 7-1 lead and were never threatened the remainder of the way.
Highlighting the set were Rhodes, Green and two kills by DeGroot early on, which led to a 12-4 lead. With a 19-9 lead, another three kills by sophomore opposite Victoria Arnold, Green and Burton and a block by DeGroot sent the Mounties to the 23-9 lead.
A final long rally ended with a kill by Green that sealed the victory and bedlam on the court for the outright bedlam on the court followed, for the outright conference title.
"I'm still on cloud nine," Neely said. "It's such a surreal moment."
What they said:
Angelina Burton, sophomore outside hitter: "Honestly, the first practice (this year) I definitely saw that there was something special and I did not regret my decision (transferring to Mt. SAC) at all. I felt like we were going to be where we are (Friday).
This is what we worked for, I'm just really proud of our team. I know we have it in us to get to state. We played like family."
Riannel Arevalo, sophomore libero: "It (championship) feels great. I could tell that when we walked into the gym as freshmen, we just grew as a family and as a team. It's exciting and we are going to carry this momentum all the way into the playoffs.
Sam told us that we're contenders and we're going to bring our "A" game into the playoffs and to state."
Allison Whiteman, sophomore opposite: "It's such a proud moment seeing our girls and the potential really paying off this year.
Those games (3 losses in Grossmont) were a learning experience that brought us to this moment because we were able to adapt from the season."
"The support from the coaches and families is crazy."
South Coast Conference Release - https://southcoastconf.com/sports/wvball/2022-23/releases/20221116v3g8a6
For additional information, please contact the Mt. SAC Sports Information Office at 909.274.4630.