Life has come full circle for former Immanuel High volleyball standout Janell Gonsalves.
Twenty years after helping lead the Eagles to the school’s first CIF state volleyball championship, the former Janell Gruenstein will watch her daughter, Brooke Gonsalves, chase a state title of her own from the best seat in the house.
Mom will be courtside as Immanuel’s third-year head coach, leading her daughter, a junior setter, and nine other players on the Southern California Regional Division V champion into the state final against North champ Head/Royce-Oakland).
The match between the Eagles (27-15) and Jayhawks (33-1) is scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday at Santiago Canyon College in Orange.
“When I was there, it really was an awesome time,” said Janell Gonsalves, a 1998 Immanuel graduate who delivered nine kills as the Eagles defeated Modoc-Alturas 15-7, 15-13, 15-6 in the 1997 D-V final. “I wanted to try and bring it back.
“It’s such an overwhelming and humbling experience to be a part of it. The amount of trust they have placed in me is huge. And to see them actually succeed is a big honor for me.”
Immanuel was once the Central Section’s premier small-school girls volleyball program, winning nine D-V titles between 1981 and 1997.
But the Eagles wouldn’t add a 10th section title until this season, when second-seeded Immanuel swept top-seeded and defending champion Frazier Mountain 25-13, 28-26, 25-23 in the D-V final on Nov. 12.
That launched an unlikely run through the CIF SoCal Regional.
The fifth-seeded Eagles opened with a 25-13, 25-9, 25-17 home sweep of No. 12 Poly-Sun Valley before three straight road upsets – 25-19, 25-13, 17-25, 25-18 over No. 4 Tarbut V’Torah-Irvine, 25-18, 25-18, 25-22 over No. 1 San Gabriel Academy and 25-23, 25-13, 25-13 over No. 2 Capistrano Valley Christian-San Juan Capistrano to reach the state finals for a third time. Immanuel, as a section runner-up, also won a state D-V title in 2001.
“We weren’t even expecting to make this game at all. We just wanted to win Valley for the first time in 19 years,” Brooke Gonsalves said. “But the minute we won the first (SoCal Regional) game, we were like, ‘If we’re going to do it, we’re going to do it all the way.’ ”
We weren’t even expecting to make this game at all. We just wanted to win Valley for the first time in 19 years. But the minute we won the first (SoCal Regional) game, we were like, ‘If we’re going to do it, we’re going to do it all the way.’
Immanuel junior setter Brooke Gonsalves, on the Eagles’ journey to the CIF state volleyball championship match
Just because the thought of reaching the state final seemed far-fetched, it didn’t keep the Eagles – behind the hitting of Lindsay Unruh, Danielle Jefferies and Averie Lloyd, the middle blocking of Ava Galpin and Ashley Scheidt, the back-row play of Breanna Wood, Bailey Price and Aubree Ventura, and the setting of Brooke Gonsalves and Makaila Hall – from dreaming big. Especially with inspiration provided by their state title-winning coach.
“Ever since I knew what she accomplished, it’s been my goal,” Brooke Gonsalves said. “I wanted to be a part of a team that went there because of her. Obviously, I love the sport for myself, but I also want to be what she was. She inspires me more than anyone I know.
“This is so special for me because I get to see what she went through, all the camaraderie she talks about. The memories will be the most amazing part. I will have these memories and my team will have these memories. It’s going to be amazing.”
CIF STATE DIVISION V CHAMPIONSHIP
The matchup: Immanuel vs. Head/Royce-Oakland
Friday: 7 p.m. at Santiago Canyon College, 8045 E. Chapman Ave., Orange
Records: Immanuel 27-15; Head/Royce 33-1
Previous state titles: Immanuel (2) 1997, 2001; Head/Royce (0)
The skinny: With Lindsay Unruh, Danielle Jefferies (the daughter or Reedley College coach Shannon Jefferies) and Ava Galpin leading the attack, fifth-seeded Immanuel upset the Nos. 4, 1 and 2 seeds on the road en route to winning the Southern California Regional. Head/Royce, led by twins Alison (setter) and Jessica (outside hitter) Almgren-Bell, has won 25 straight since a 25-11, 25-27, 15-4 loss to Campolindo-Moraga, a North semifinalist in the Open Division.
Tickets: $12 general admission, $8 children, students with ASB card and seniors; available online at TIKATAP.com