Like most first-year head coaches, College of San Mateo women’s volleyball coach Katie Goldhahn had visions of grandeur when the school started the program in 2016.
Three years later, the expectations remain the same, but the execution has been leaps and bounds better than that inaugural season.
With wins over San Jose City College and City College of San Francisco to open Coast Conference North play last week, the Bulldogs ran their program-best winning streak to eight straight matches and was tied for 25th in the state rankings with an overall record of 15-4.
Over their last six matches, the Bulldogs have dropped only one set, having posted three-game sweeps against Cañada, Lassen, Sacramento, Monterey Peninsula, San Jose and San Francisco.
“During the figuring out process early in the season, we were playing with different lineups, different pairings. Just trying to get in the groove,” Goldhahn said. “That’s what’s been most apparent in the last few weeks, the trust on the court and with that comes confidence and you can see that in their play. They’re having a lot of fun.”
This being the third year of the program, however, means Goldhahn is all but starting over, recruit wise, as the team features just two sophomores to go along with seven freshmen.
These freshmen, however, know how to play. Hannah Gamez, a freshman outside hitter from Moreau Catholic-Hayward, was a late arrival. She’s not even on the Bulldogs’ online roster, but she has been a real find, ranking sixth in the state in kills, with 219. Grace Willming of Pitman-Turlock and Lille Tuivailala, out of Aragon, are also having a strong freshmen seasons, as they both average just under three kills per set.
Running the offense is redshirt sophomore Bri Tellier (West-Tracy), who is third in the Coast Conference North in assists per set with just under 9. Defensively, Honoria Aguilar is 13th in the state in digs with 240 (3.89/set).
Goldhahn said there have been two main reasons for the Bulldogs’ success. One, is just the character of the team and how they have bought into Goldhahn’s system.
“The other part is having these freshmen who have high volleyball IQs, who come from good (high school programs), good clubs,” Goldhahn said.
As good of a start CSM has had, it’s about to get a whole lot tougher as the Bulldogs get into the meat of the Coast Conference North schedule. Their first big test of the season comes today when the Bulldogs host a 6:30 p.m. match against a Cabrillo-Aptos squad that is 14-2 and ranked No. 4 in the state. The Bulldogs follow that with a match Friday against country rival Skyline.
“Some wins have been easier than others (so far this season), that’s why we’re really excited for Cabrillo,” Goldhahn said. “It’s going to be a good test. … It will be interesting to see, despite the outcome, how [we] handle the outcome. Practice this week has been so high energy. They’re ready for it.”
But CSM won’t be out of the woods after one of two matches against Cabrillo. They then still have two conference matches against each Hartnell-Salinas (ranked No. 8) and West Valley (No. 18).
“[Cabrillo] is only going to be our third conference game,” Goldhahn said. “We’re going to be hitting (conference play) heavy in these last few weeks (of the regular season).”
While CSM has been soaring this season, the other two county programs — Skyline and Cañada — have had their share of struggles. Both are 0-2 to start conference play, with Skyline in the North and Cañada in the Coast Conference South. Combined, they are a 7-18. In addition to CSM Friday, Skyline hosts Monterey Peninsula Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. Cañada will be on the road for a pair of matches this week: at Las Positas-Livermore for a 6:30 conference match Friday and will be at College of Redwoods for a non-conference game at 3 p.m. Saturday.