High School Sports

Prep volleyball rankings: Mission Oak eyeing section run with lineup of title winners

Thaliana Grajeda, right, leads Clovis East into a battle for sole possession of first place in the Tri-River Athletic Conference Tuesday against Clovis West.
Thaliana Grajeda, right, leads Clovis East into a battle for sole possession of first place in the Tri-River Athletic Conference Tuesday against Clovis West. ezamora@fresnobee.com

As Mission Oak High closes in on the East Yosemite League volleyball title and a likely top-three seed in the Central Section Division III playoffs, Hawks coach Casey Norman doesn’t lack for girls who have been there and done that.

In fact, six of the 13 players on Mission Oak’s roster have won section championships in other sports.

Nashedah Mu’min, Aubrey Cardoza, Tristen Myers, Samantha Arellano and Rhegan Fernandez were all members of the Hawks’ Division III champion girls basketball team in March, while Cardoza and Averee Johnson played for Mission Oak’s Division IV-winning softball team in May.

And Mu’min is a state qualifier in track and field, too.

“They have that taste of what a Valley championship is,” Norman said. “Their drive is to get one in volleyball.”

They have that taste of what a Valley championship is. Their drive is to get one in volleyball.

Mission Oak volleyball coach Casey Norman, whose 13-girl roster features six who have won Central Section titles in other sports

Mission Oak has never advanced beyond the quarterfinals and never been seeded higher than sixth in three previous trips to the playoffs. The 7-year-old program hadn’t won more than two matches in a season prior Norman’s arrival in 2012.

But the Hawks, ranked No. 2 in D-III behind defending champion and South Sequoia League-leading Bakersfield Christian, have put themselves in the discussion for the top seed by going 23-6 overall (the second-best winning percentage of all teams in the division behind Arvin) and 8-0 in the EYL so far.

Mission Oak can clinch the EYL title outright with a victory at rival Tulare on Tuesday. The Hawks close the regular season Thursday against Delano, and seedings for the section’s five playoff divisions will be announced Friday.

Mission Oak has a budding college recruit in 6-foot-4 sophomore middle hitter Samantha Arellano, who has produced 94 kills and 33 blocks in eight EYL matches.

94 Kills produced by Mission Oak sophomore Samantha Arellano in eight league matches

Cardoza, Myers and Christa Pilgrim join Arellano as key contributors in the front row, libero Johnson and Alyssa Parkinson head up the defense, while Kelsey Brown sets with support from Fernandez, who also plays opposite hitter.

Mu’min, Ali Gomez, Leslie Ruby, Jazmin Ramirez and Julia Wise also play key supporting roles for a team that has won six straight and owns wins over D-II contenders Redwood and Mt. Whitney.

“The girls are coming together and playing really good volleyball,” Norman said. “They have goals they are trying to achieve.”

▪ Huge matches for Division I playoff seeding purposes are set for Tuesday at Clovis East and Centennial, respectively.

The Bee’s No. 5-ranked Timberwolves (28-7, 7-1) host No. 4 Clovis West (27-12, 7-1), while the No. 2 Golden Hawks (24-5, 7-1) face top-ranked Liberty-Bakersfield (29-6, 8-0) in matches that will help decide the titles in the Tri-River Athletic Conference and Southwest Yosemite League.

Clovis East, which lost to the Golden Eagles during the first round, has never won a TRAC title.

Key results to remember: Clovis West and TRAC third-place Clovis own wins over Liberty, while the Patriots have beaten Centennial twice so far.

▪ The City/County All-Star volleyball matches are set for Nov. 22 at Hoover’s Event Center.

Players from schools in Central Section playoff Divisions III-V will square off in a North County vs. South County format starting at 4 p.m., while players from Divisions I-II face off in a City vs. County format at 6 p.m.

Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for students/seniors, while all club volleyball players with their membership card will be admitted free.

Nick Giannandrea: 559-441-6103, @NickG_FB

Central Section volleyball rankings

OVERALL

(Records through Oct. 31)

  • 1. Liberty-Bakersfield (29-6)
  • 2. Centennial (24-5)
  • 3. Independence (20-7)
  • 4. Clovis West (27-12)
  • 5. Clovis East (28-7)
  • 6. Central (30-7)
  • 7. Clovis (20-15)
  • 8. Central Valley Christian (24-10)
  • 9. Frontier (25-12)
  • 10. Garces (17-10)
  • 11. Exeter (30-6)
  • 12. Buchanan (16-18)
  • 13. Bakersfield Christian (21-7)
  • 14. Clovis North (17-19)
  • 15. Stockdale (13-19)

DIVISIONAL

  • D-I: 1. Liberty; 2. Centennial; 3. Clovis West
  • D-II: 1. Independence; 2. CVC; 3. Garces
  • D-III: 1. Bakersfield Christian; 2. Mission Oak (23-6); 3. Yosemite (28-9)
  • D-IV: 1. Sierra (27-3); 2 Minarets (24-4); 3. Liberty-Madera Ranchos (24-8)
  • D-V: 1. Frazier Mountain (19-7-1); 2. Immanuel (10-14); 3. California City (17-10-2)
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