Santa Ana women’s volleyball opens their 2023 season on Friday, August 25 against Southwestern.
The program is coming off one of their best seasons after finishing 18-6 and appearing in the California Community College Athletic Association playoffs. Of the 11 players on last year’s active roster, only opposite hitter Lily Chavez is returning.
Although the roster is brand new, there’s a silent, significant confidence among the players.
“It’s been really smooth, We have a great connection, which is amazing for the team,” said Chavez. “Eventually we might feel the pressure, but right now we’re not (feeling it).”
This season is also the debut of first-year head coach Myriah Kunipo-Aguirre. She previously held the title of assistant coach, and played volleyball for the program in the 2013 and 2014 seasons, being named First-Team All-Orange Empire Conference.
Kunipo-Aguirre has to balance a brand new roster, with hefty expectations impressed by last year’s team, all while implementing her own standards.
“My reminder to them is ‘this is time you won’t get back,’” said Kunipo-Aguirre. “Every minute of every game, go all out, you won’t get that opportunity back.”
She also acknowledged that many of the other colleges in the conference have had roster or program shakeups. Cypress, for example, just hired a new head coach.
Four OEC teams earned playoff bids in 2022.
“It’s a brand new year. I feel like we’re coming in with such a great chance,” said Kunipo-Aguirre. “We’re coming in with expectations that we’re going to do our job, and do our best to land high in the conference.”
As previously mentioned, the team is only returning one player from 2022. They lost four All-OEC players.
Outside hitter Matilde Teixeira, the engine of that team, holds the records for most kills and service aces in program history. Libero Ines Lopes is third in program history with 322 digs.
Kunipo-Aguirre recognized the difficulty of filling their void but offered who she thought would make a big impact this coming season.
Fans should keep an eye on sophomore setter Taylor Vagana, sophomore setter Madeline Castillo, and sophomore outside hitter Camille Birrer.
Birrer came previously from Golden West College and has experience playing against OEC competition. Her best game was against Cypress last year. She tallied seven kills with 45 percent kill efficiency.
While at Santiago High School, Castillo totaled 876 assists, ranking 16th in the state of California. Look for her to lead the team in assists this season.
“We’re all great,” said Chavez, “I haven’t really looked into the rest of the conference, but knowing them from last year, I think we’ll do pretty good.”