CSUSB Women’s Volleyball team is in position to win the CCAA Championship for the 3rd year in a row and is currently the No. 1 team in the Nation.
With playoffs set to begin, the team is 22-2 overall and 15-1 in CCAA.
Recent victories over Cal State Dominguez and nationally ranked Cal State LA has head coach Kim Cherniss and her team playing their best volleyball of the year.
When asked what the team is doing well, Senior Jayann DeHoog credits focus and team depth.
“Every point, we play with intent and purpose,” said DeHoog. “A lot of the girls can step up too when needed.”
With high expectations that stem from last year’s NCAA Elite 8 appearance, CSUSB started the season ranked 11th in the nation. They eventually reached No. 1 earlier in the year, but with a league loss at No. 25 Cal Poly Pomona, they moved down a couple spots.
While nobody likes to lose, a loss in the middle of the year has the potential to be beneficial. The goals for this team go beyond league play and it has allowed them to grow.
“Losing exploited our weaknesses and they helped highlight the areas we needed to improve on.” Junior middle blocker Sascha Dominique said. “Individually it made me realize what I could work on and down the line, as a team, we may look back and be grateful for the things it taught us.”
Since the loss at Pomona, the team has gone on a 6-game win streak while sweeping the last 4 opponents.
Of its 21 wins, CSUSB has swept 17 of their opponent’s. It even swept Cal State LA on their home floor, who at the time was sixteenth in the nation.
When asked what sweeping an opponent does for the team, Dominique emphasized the future.
“Other than being a statement of intensity, it prepares us for the playoffs when we run into tougher competition,” Dominque said. “It gives us an idea of what level we are at and forces us to stay focused. We have bigger goals in mind, and sweeping teams are all part of the process.”
After losing Lauren Nicholson who was an All-American as a senior last year, the team has relied on all of the players for their success. Whether it is in practice or just moral support, every player is vital.
It is the experience of DeHoog, Dominique and Senior Hailey Jackson, that has helped make this team No. 1 in the nation.
DeHoog has a league-high 981 assists while the duo of Dominique and Jackson lead the CCAA in hitting percentage. Dominique’s is hitting .423 on the season while Jackson is hitting .413. Both are ranked top 5 nationally and are only two conference players hitting over the 40 percent mark on the year.
Coming off of a knee injury, Dominique has been able to be more impactful this season.
“I feel more fit and healthy,” Dominique said. “I put in a lot of work this offseason and I am glad it is showing and helping the team. Playing alongside Jayann and Hailey make my job a lot easier too.”
Sophomore Alexis Cardoza has also stepped up. Cardoza has a team-high 377 kills on the year to go along with 224 defensive digs. Moving forward, Cardoza looks like a force to be reckoned with.
Losing top talent means the coaching staff must recruit the best of the best to stay relevant. This year’s team has 4 freshmen and 7 sophomores who are all making an impact.
Most notably is freshman Asia Clarke who on the year has 179 kills along with 30 blocks. At 18 years old, the program seems to have a gem on their hands.
“The potential from all of our youngsters is huge,” DeHoog said. “I am excited to see what their future holds.”
Under head coach Kim Cherniss, who has been at the helm for 27 years, the women’s volleyball program is always a force.
Cherniss presence on the sidelines and trust in her players allows the team to go and compete night in and night out.
“Having an experienced coach in Kim on the sidelines adds even more confidence to our game,” Dominque said. “The trust goes both ways and it is fun playing for someone who expects a lot out of us.”
In the last 20 years, our Coyotes have won the CCAA thirteen times and has made noise in the national playoffs.
The players know the expectations in playing for CSUSB and at No. 1 in the nation, it is only right to assume that anything short of a National Championship would be heart-wrenching.
The team has one more regular season game against California State University of Monterey Bay on Nov. 3 before heading into the CCAA tournament in Turlock California from Nov 8-10.
The Yoties will automatically advance to the NCAA West Regional playoffs on Nov. 15 where they need to win in order to advance to the NCAA Championship in Pittsburgh on Nov. 29
“We know how good we are and we have been steadily getting better,” DeHoog said. “The goal is to win it all, but we know the importance of taking it game by game.”