Katie Goldhahn is heading into her “senior” season as head coach of the College of San Mateo volleyball team.
Yes, this will be CSM’s fourth season since Goldhahn reestablished the volleyball program in 2016. As a cornerstone of the Encore Volleyball Club in Redwood City, she has built a network of local players, and that network has paid dividends in the overall roster number — 17 players — the Lady Bulldogs will carry heading into 2019.
“Senior” seasons always rely on a bit of magic to turn into something special, though. And this would seem to be the case as Goldhahn learned over the summer that former Terra Nova standout outside hitter Krystal Hin was transferring to CSM from the University of Hawaii with two years of community college eligibility after Hin’s hopes of walking on with the Rainbow Warriors fell by the wayside.
“When [former CSM player Malia Kolomatangi] found out Krystal was coming here, she was like: ‘Whoa! Program changer,’” Goldhahn said.
CSM was bit by the injury bug last season after topping out a roster with just enough players to run full six-on-six scrimmages in practice. This year, with just five sophomores, the new recruiting class matches the entirety of the 2018 roster.
“It’s big for us,” Goldhahn said. “We carried 12 last year but, with some injuries, it just made us modify our practices. … We still got it done on the court when we needed to. But the depth gives us security, peace of mind, and just being able to move people around on the court like we need to.”
The staple of community college volleyball tends to be the middle attack, and this is where the Bulldogs are most experienced.
Sophomore middle Lille Tuivailala (Aragon) is the centerpiece of this year’s lineup, along with transfer sophomore Monika Leon out of the two-year NJCAA program at Missouri State University-West Plains. And while Goldhahn is busy evaluating three freshman setters — a depth that could allow the team to run a 6-2 offense; last year, with just one setter, the Bulldogs were limited to a 5-1 — she is confident Tuivailala and Leon will determine the rhythm of play.
“The tempo is where it needs to be,” Goldhahn said, “and they’re really just getting the setters on board with where we need to be as a team.”
With CSM debuting its beach volleyball program in the spring, Tuivailala opted to focus on the indoor game. It turned out to be a wise decision, according to Goldhahn.
“Lille took the spring off of sand just to kind of rehab her body and is just firing on all cylinders now,” Goldhahn said.
The trio of setters — Goldhahn calls them “three true setters” — is composed of freshmen Kelly Luz (Mills), Clarissa Murad (Woodside) and Ashlee Daguio (a transfer from Notre Dame de Namur, though she did not play there last season).
CSM’s depth extends to its pin hitters, giving the trio of setters plenty of options.
Hin is far from the only slugger in the mix. True freshman Morgan Lee (James Logan-Union City), Lei Cassidy (Hillsdale), along with Kendall Smith and Hannah Gamez (Moreau Catholic-Hayward) will balance the outside/opposite attack.
“We have a lot of depth on both pins,” Goldhahn said. “So, I think right now we’re looking to run a 6-2 (offense), but the season is long so there’s always room to adjust.”
In the back row, the libero position is still being hashed out, with five defensive specialists vying for playing time: Gina Jackson (San Mateo), Michelle Cheuk (Pacific Bay Christian), Kaelyn Famor (San Leandro), Megan Campbell (Mills) and Abby Legaspi (Aragon).
“It’s just going to be trying different variations of lineups and seeing how everyone plays next to each other,” Goldhahn said.
CSM opens the season Tuesday, Aug. 27 at home against De Anza College at 3 p.m.
Goldhahn, a fulltime kinesiology professor at CSM, recently received her tenure and said she anticipates staying at the campus at College Heights for the foreseeable future. The Stanford alumna who played for former head coach Rich Feller from 2002-05 has brought the program a long way in that short period of time.
“I can safely say that the work in those foundation years has really paid off,” Goldhahn said. “The recruits we’re getting embody the type of player I look for and strive for. The recruiting should become easier. We have pipelines from the local clubs … so I’m going to continue to do that.”