Pierce Pioneer

College Basketball Game: Pierce vs Highline

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Quintin Mattson-Hayward talks about the upcoming NBA Allstar weekend with two guest.

Editor: Quintin Mattson-Hayward

Guests: Uli Valentin and Jake Santiago

Logo: Jesus Contreras

NWAC Volleyball Championship 2019

The Blue-Collar Team

On November 21st, 2019, the women’s volleyball team had not only captured their third consecutive Northwest Athletic Conference (NWAC) west region title, they were also able to solidify their spot in Pierce College Athletics history by being the only team to have back to back undefeated conference seasons. Their next goal would be set on capturing the NWAC championship.

The road to the mountain top began with going head to head against the Walla Walla Warriors which ended with a score of three to zero giving the Raiders their first win in the tournament.

On Friday November 22nd, 2019 Pierce College continued full steam ahead as they went on to beat Edmonds Triton’s with a score of three to zero allowing them to advance.

However, there is no journey without it’s adversities and obstacles. As Lane’s Titan’s would go on to beat the Raiders with a score of three to zero giving the women’s volleyball team their first loss in the tournament.

Saturday, November 23rdthe day before the championship game Pierce College’s Raiders would compete in three games. They went on to defeat Rogue’s Osprey’s with a score of two to zero, then followed up by a draw between them and Tacoma’s Titans.

In the end, it came down to the Raiders having to face off against Lane’s Titans one more time in a rematch that would avenge their previous loss. Winning with a score of two to zero, they were placed in the championship game.

Sunday, November 24th2019 The Pierce College Raiders would face off against Spokane Sasquatch. In a back and forth match that had the crowd constantly on their feet, it would ultimately be Spokane that would come out with the NWAC championship.

Coach Greg Finel of the women’s volleyball team looked back at this season as one for the books. When describing the journey getting to the NWAC championship he says “It was a long journey, hard fought every single day and watching the growth from the players from the first day to the last day, I wouldn’t change anything.”

When it came to the mindset going into the championship game against Spokane, Mr. Finel describes it as “It was just be us, we got to where we were by being us and I didn’t want them to change. I wanted them to enjoy the match, of course we wanted to win but it didn’t happen but I wanted them to enjoy every moment of that no matter what the outcome was going to be.”

When it comes to the experience of playing in the championship game Coach Finel says that “it was fun, I mean we were chasing history by going undefeated in the conference, we were chasing history by going undefeated at home for the last couple years, we were chasing history every time we stepped out on that court.”

Lastly when asked if Spokane had any weaknesses if any Finel responded with “Their confidence. We’re a blue-collar team, nothing for us was given. We didn’t come into the season with people thinking over the last four years we could be anything. It’s its Pierce College, We’re Lakewood, we’re Tacoma, we’re Steilacoom. We’re not a high-profile team from a high-profile area everything we got is blue collar we don’t take anything for granted.

The Players had an incredible run this past season and reflect on making it to NWAC championship. Karlee Lewis says “I think it’s amazing we made it that far honestly, we all wanted to do better than what we did last year. We did it.”

When asked about what moments stuck out the most Peyton Foster says “The first time we played highline after they beat us. I personally went into that match kind of scared because they beat us before then after we beat them it was joy and relief.”

When asked about how much closer the team is now than at the start of the season Ainslee Eberlee says “There was definitely a lot of tension but living together fixed that on its own.”

With the season, finally over this 2019 Girls’ volleyball team have left their mark. They captured their third consecutive Northwest Athletic Conference (NWAC) west region title. They also had back to back undefeated conference seasons. What’s left, an echo an echo that rings “Legacy. What is a legacy?It’s planting seeds in a garden you never get to see.”

20 Years in the Making

pierceraiders.com / Courtesy Photo
Ready, set, go! #132 Serin Caldwell (left) and #133 Tiffany Compton(right) Line up at the satring line moments before the first race in the Pierce College’s
Womens Cross Country history.


This year marks the beginning of an era as Pierce College introduces its first ever Women’s Cross Country Team

For the first time in Pierce College’s history, the women’s cross country team debuted on Aug. 31 after twenty years in the making. Daniel Richards, head coach of the team, helped orchestrate the meets and practices, playing a key role in getting this team off the ground.

Richards had conversations with Duncan Stevenson, director of District Athletics, which focused on strengthening the college’s athletic program. This is what led to Pierce adding women’s cross country to the program, which has been a goal of Stevenson for the past two decades. 

“Year one we just wanted to form a team,” said Richards. “Next year, I want to be able to compete in the NY conference; it’s a prestigious conference when it comes to distance running and cross country and I want Pierce to be in the conversation as early as next year.”

As far as how Pierce should be seen in the realm of cross country, Richards mentions that he hopes to make this a place to go and run for. “That’s my goal – competing for and winning conference championships in the next few years,” he said.

Currently the team is excelling as the season progresses, and students are excited that they have this new opportunity available to them. Serin Caldwell, a student on the team, expressed her thrill for being able to be a part of this. “I’ve always loved to run and now that Pierce College has a cross country team I think it’s a great opportunity for lots of girls to go in and do their passion.” 

Other athletes on the team, such as Tiffany Compton, have also expressed their excitement about their experience. “I enjoy my time very well,” said Compton. “I’ve done this since high school and took a two-year break, so it’s really nice getting back into the individual school schedule.”

When it comes to Richards experience coaching he says his favorite part is the comradery. “Meeting these girls with a passion for running, it’s a diverse group of girls and it’s cool seeing how running can bring them together. Sometimes you have a handful of people and you’re like ‘how is this going to form a team?’. It’s cool to see them bond over hard work and practices day in to day out, that’s the biggest reward.”

Over the season, the team has done a total of six games, including their most recent one on Nov. 18 at Saint Martin’s University. Each member has been improving and enjoying their time since the creation of this team, and are looking forward to continuing to do so.

For those that have an interest in learning more about the women’s cross country team, students can check out the sports athletic page on the Pierce College website. Students can look forward to the future of this new team as it becomes a competitive and sought out school to run for. It is here to stay.

Raiders hold eye of the storm

Marji Harris / Staff Photo
Ashley Howell (No. 20) is shown batting for the Raiders’ softball game.

Women’s Pierce softball: too legit to quit

On May 1, the Pierce Raiders and the Skagit Valley Cardinals competed at the level of superior athletes from the start. The sun was shining over the field and the crowd cheered for the young athletes while they performed in one of the closest matches they’ve had all season.

Prior to facing the Cardinals, the Raiders endured a lengthy and heartbreaking day against the fierce Edmond Tritons, who rank in at number two on the nwac bracket. Pierce pushed back with everything they had but in the end, it wasn’t enough.

“They have nothing to feel bad about. They competed like champions against one of the toughest teams around in a game that lasted much longer than expected, leaving them fatigued going into their next event,” said Duncan Stevenson.

Marji Harris / Staff Photo
Brooklyn Taylor-Sparks (No. 11) is shown pitching.

No. 11, Brooklyn Taylor-Sparks, pitching performance was highly impressive. She maintained a tight focus, keeping the pressure and throwing no-hitters for most of the game. The Raiders won the game 4-2.

No. 4, Allyssa Hansen, struggled earlier in the season due to a spinal injury. “She hurt her lower back, but made a steady recovery and continues to play,” said Austin Procter, Allyssa Hansen’s boyfriend.

Sparks, who is a sophomore, came in from Lacey, Washington after graduating out of Timberline High School. She earned the position as primary pitcher for the team, holding a pitching average of 11.56 and continues to mature into a bold young adversary.

Sparks is a strong contender, knowledgeable advocate and a graceful colleague. “She’s been a tremendous benefit to the crew, with a positive attitude and good sportsmanship. She’s also been a dependable side coach, always helping her peers,” said head coach, Mike Nelson.

“I am honored to have trained them. They are absolute warriors,” said Nelson.

Challenges were faced without a full team, but it promoted a sense solidarity. “We lost our main pitcher and a couple other girls along the way. Being short numbered helped us grow closer, connecting as a team,” said Riley Rivera (utility).

Nelson had a tough ride but in the end earned the team’s respect. “He’s been an outstanding mentor, taking the position on short notice and training us to compete on a whole new level. It wasn’t easy for him either since he never got to hand pick us during tryouts,” Rivera said.

No. 2, Kayla Washington, played third base and has been competing since she was ten.

“She’s the youngest of her two sisters,” said Washington’s mother, Kelley Washington. “This is her last year while studying for her associate’s degree. Her two sisters before her competed too and received scholarships for Howard University,” she said.

No matter what the girls went through… they never caved to the pressure.”

— Mike Nelson, Head Coach

Washington is the top batter for the team, always impressing the crowd as she steps to the plate while holding an average of .313. “Her confidence level is fierce. Everybody gets excited whenever she’s up to bat. She consistently performs well and always looks for improvement,” said Nelson.

Washington and Sparks used to compete against each other during their youth. “When they were ten years old, they were rivals from different schools,” said Kelley Washington.

Lily Hope, No. 15, plays shortstop and gave an impressive performance on the field as her boyfriend, Jacob Link, watched from the sidelines. “She’s doing great. They (the team) get along well and maintain their studies together,” said Link.

Hope has been an outstanding well-rounded competitor all season, showing every other competitor she’s worth it, claiming her time on the field. “Hope is a courageous young athlete. She’s the kind of athlete that makes plays nobody else can make,” said Nelson.

The Raiders fought through every injury and training exercise, surpassing every challenge with pride. “No matter what the girls went through or wounds they received during practice and events, they never caved to the pressure,” said Nelson.

As the season wraps up, the Raiders have no regrets with everything they’ve accomplished this year. “I enjoyed every moment as their coach and look forward to next year. They’re a tough bunch and deserve every bit of recognition for their efforts. Go-Raiders!” said Nelson.

Raiders embrace their brotherhood

Duncan Stevenson / Courtesy Photo
The Raider’s focus this season was to enjoy the experience, have fun, and be bold in their playing.

Through the ups and downs of the season, the Raiders came together as a team and ended strong

This has been a unique and challenging season for the Raiders men’s baseball team. But throughout the season, they played with heart and soul and finished as winners.

Coach Jake Philips and some of the players touched on the highlights of the season. 

Who showed the most improvement?

Sophomore No. 2 Colby Tam, a graduate out of St. Anthony’s High school in Waihe’e-Waiehu Hawaii., is the team’s most improved player for this season. Tam has been a utility player, meaning that he can play several different positions. A strong competitor who has also played every position, his energy and drive would draw in those watching.

Most memorable moments?

The team’s most memorable moments have been as they are competing against rival teams in the Tacoma area. When the Raiders win, they dog pile each other on the ball field after the game.

Duncan Stevenson / Courtesy Photo
Spencer Howell shown pitching for the Raiders.

Most surprising player?

Brock Wrolstad No. 24 turned out to be a surprise pitcher for the team. One of the other pitchers was out due to an injury, so Philips put Brock on the mound. After one of the games when he pitched a “no hitter” for four innings straight, Philips asked Brock how come he did not say anything about his pitching ability.

Brock’s answer characterized the team competitor that he is. “Well, you didn’t ask,” he said. He was more focused on getting out there and playing the game.

Biggest upset of the season?

Dominc Agron is a sophomore from Covington, Washington, graduating out of Kentwood High School. He started as the primary pitcher this season, and was talked about as the top pitcher in conference receiving consistent observation from scouts. 

Duncan Stevenson is the athletic director for Pierce College. He was very impressed with Agron’s pitching ability. “He would go out there and own the plate and with him being a short guy, nobody takes you as serious as they should and you shoot off like a thunder storm,” he said.

However, a serious elbow injury partway through the season has put his future baseball career into question.

The team kept true to the heart of the game, which is to go out there and have fun. In doing so, they were able to focus their energies into developing each other’s strengths. Overall, as of May 1, the Raiders ranked in the top five in the Northwest Athletic Conference (NWAC).

Game Schedule

Day: May 10

Time: 1 p.m. and 4 p.m.

Playing against: Tacoma Community College

Where: Minnitti Field

Day: May 11

Time: 1 p.m. and 4 p.m.

Playing against: Tacoma Community College

Where: Mt. Tahoma H.S. Baseball Field

Raiders’ sportsmanship carries the team to victory

Duncan Stevenson / Courtesy Photo

Team’s mindset sets them up for the win

Raiders men’s baseball team has had its share of challenges this season. But the game on April 14 against the Grays Harbor Chokers highlighted their outstanding sportsmanship and team cohesion, all with a firm dose of competitive dominance.

For shortstop Mason Hoover, part of the team focus is having each other’s backs. “We weren’t connecting earlier in the season but we’ve been getting it together, feeling out our chemistry and having a great time and finding common ground,” he said.

Pitcher Anthony Hoopii-Tuionetoa No. 23 sees finding joy in the game has to be just as important as winning the game. “The coach gave us a better setting to have fun today and not being so serious because we still want to have fun just as much as we want to  win,” Hoopii- Tuionetoa said.

Coach Jake Phillips played baseball for the Raiders in 2011 and 2012 and has been the coach for the last five years. Training this year consisted of having his athletes improve their technique with new and interesting training exercises.

With a solid swing of the bat, he sent the ball flying into the outfield and his teammates to home plate.”

One of the training tools Philips used were whip sticks. Players use the short, slender sticks to hit tennis balls; by doing so, the batter can to improve control over the bat. He also had his players practice hitting sunflower seeds. If the batter can hit a sunflower seed, hitting a baseball is easy.

The Raiders formed up on the field three hours before the game started, embracing the cold as the rain soaked their uniforms. Getting a little wet was not going to hinder their pre-game exercises and team morale.

The tone was set early in the game. At the start of the third inning. the Raiders were `up to bat and ahead 2-0. It wasn’t long before the bases were loaded and no outs, when No. 7 Cody Russell stepped to the plate.  With a solid swing of the bat, he sent the ball flying into the outfield and his teammates to home plate.

As the spectators cheered, the Chokers answered with three points of their own, but the Raider’s team would continue to dominate. By the end of the fourth inning they were ahead by another four runs. Ultimately, the Raiders would finish the game 11-5 and the second game 10-0.

The last set of games for the men’s team is against Tacoma Community College. On May 10 at starting 1:00 p.m., they will be playing at Minnitti field. May 11 is a home game, playing at Mount Tahoma High School starting at 1:00 p.m.

A family on the field

Duncan Stevenson / Courtesy Photo
Top – 35# (Lachlan Arford), 31# (Jason Sizemore), 27# (Balas Buckmaster), 33# (Spencer Howell), 23# (Anthony Hoopii-Tuionetoa), 9# (Jacob Hinkle), 13# (Clay Spacher).
Second row from the top – 27 # Balas Bukmaster, 22# (Cole Benson), 34# (Ashton Dulfer), 28# (Andrew Oasay), 15# (Chris Trisler), 17# (Trucker Stroup), 26# (Jamie Maples), 6# (Alex Sisley).
Third row from top – 8# (Nainoa Paragoso), 19# (Dominc Agron), 25# (Ryan Ancheta), 16# (Wyatt Ohlson), 11# (Kennedy Cook), 1# (Nathan Gelbrich), 3# (Hobie Mahon), 12# (Cody Isa).
Last row – 2# (Colby Tam), 7# (Cody Russell), 5# (Josiah Factora), 4# (Josiah Factora), 20# (Austin Eisenmenger), 10# (Tyler Fox), 24# (Brock Wrolstad), 14# (Rhys De Highden).

A Championship Culture and high aspirations for Pierce College Baseball

Last year, the Pierce College baseball team dominated conference play en route to the Northwest Athletic Conference (NWAC) Super Regionals. This year, they aim to put championship rings on their fingers when the season ends.

After finishing with an overall record of 26-23, and out matching conference opponents with a record of 17-8, this year’s group has the mix of veteran leadership, talented young players, and a bond amongst each other to take them to great heights.

Sophomore pitcher Brock Wrolstad touched on the goals of the team and what it takes to achieve them. Wrolstad is currently getting a general Associate in Arts degree and plans to further his baseball career beyond Pierce College, but has not decided where.

“Our goal is to win an NWAC Championship and to do that we need to play with confidence and for one another,” Wrolstad said. “We cannot go out playing selfish, we need to play as a family.”

The family culture the team carries is something they have built through relentless offseason preparation.

Sophomore pitcher Tyler Fox intends to major in sports management and further his baseball career as well. He is waiting until the season’s end to decide where. Fox knows how important the culture the team has created is to their success.

Duncan Stevenson / Courtesy Photo
“Play fast and relaxed and never give up on your teammates,” Tucker Stroup said.

“We have a culture of family and want to fight for each other every day,” Fox said. “We’ve been grinding for about seven months now and we all know we would go to battle for each other.”

The team’s family mindset pairs well with the high standards and goals players have individually.

For Fox, he wants to have an earned run average (ERA) under 2.00 and a batting average above .300. Wrolstad also wants to have an ERA under 2.00 and be named to first team all NWAC.

Sophomore pitcher Tucker Stroup also has the goal of having an ERA below 2.00. Stroup plans to get his Associate in Arts degree before transferring to a four year university to continue his baseball career. Stroup had other individual goals he brings whenever he’s on the mound.

“Play fast and relaxed and never give up on your teammates,” Stroup said. “Be consistent as a pitcher, throw strikes and throw with intent.”

For the Raiders offensively, a top returner at the plate is outfielder Nainoa Paragoso, who had a strong freshman campaign with a batting average of .325 while also wreaking havoc on the basepath with 12 stolen bases.

On the mound, Dominic Agron hopes to continue making an example of opposing batters as he did in his freshman season where he had a 2.44 ERA, 70 innings pitched, and 58 strikeouts; all second on the team.

For the freshman, there is definitely a bit of a transition from high school baseball into college, Fox said.

“In high school you kind of know if you’re going to play a lot,” Fox said. “But in college ball, you’re fighting for a spot in the lineup every single day.”

This far into the season, the Raiders are 6-10, but with the most important games ahead, the team will gear up to dominate the conference as they did last year.

Student Spotlight: Jocelyn Hillyer

A great leader takes her final bow

Twenty-four-year-old Pierce College student Jocelyn Hillyer is a humble athlete, a military wife, a mother, a future educator and a decorated Pierce volleyball player. Her drive and ambition has made a definite impact to those around her and added a sense of family to the team.

Taimane Rice / Staff Photo
Jocelyn Hillyer won the AVCA, All-American two-year college award as a first team pick among fifteen other state wide college students.

As a member of the Raider volleyball team, she earned a number of awards last year. Hillyer won most valuable player for the Northwest Athletic Conference West Division. She was also voted player of the week for Under Armour, and the national Amateur Volleyball Coaches Association award.

Hillyer played for Pierce in 2015 before moving to Texas. She had a scholarship for Texas State University, but found the atmosphere and environment was not for her. She returned to Pierce last year.

Women’s volleyball coach Greg Finel was captivated by Hillyer’s skill, heart and passion. “Hillyer is one of the top five, best female athletes to ever play at Pierce. I don’t know if there will ever be another player like Jocelyn in the Northwest Athletic Conference again,” he said.

Hillyer has a soft but noticeable leadership. She does not allow fear or nerves to set in when she plays because she trusts in her ability. “She has added dimension to the team. There is an underlying feeling that you have to play up to this potential, because you know she’s going to do the same thing,” Finel said.

Duncan Stevenson / Contributing Photo
Jocelyn Hillyer was first introduced to Volleyball when her high school coach approached her. She says she was not any good at first, but today she is one of the top 5 female Pierce athletes.

Teammate Kenzie Seitz relied on Hillyer in order to gain momentum. “Every ball she puts down just fueled me to get the next one dug for her to attack again,” Seitz said.

As a high school freshman, Hillyer made varsity, even though she did not play well. As a beginner, she discovered the value of being a humble athlete. “It puts an aspect on who you are to society and what you cannot only bring to your team but to the world,” she said.

The team would take Hillyer’s 2-year-old daughter with them to games like she was their tiny Raider mascot. Hillyer said she felt as though she had a second family with her team because the player’s loved ones watched over her daughter while they cheered.

The family dynamic moved the Raiders to succeed. The team built a stronger connection because they adopted an “I got your back” mentality. “We cared about each other’s lives and got to know each other on a deeper level, which made us a family – not just a team,” Seitz said.

Hillyer will be exchanging her Raider uniform for a Geoduck this fall. Thanks to a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics partial scholarship, she can further her education at Evergreen State College.

She will continue working towards her degree in teaching kindergarten through third grade at Evergreen. Her love of teaching extends from a charming place in her heart. “I didn’t have a good experience growing up with teachers,” she said. “I also came from a minority town, and we didn’t have the resources or teachers that fostered my learning, so I want to be that teacher for children.”

Hillyer took her last bow on Pierce’s court in November; but she will be bringing her determination and influence to Evergreen. “I hope she continues to play for the love and passion of the sport,” Finel said.

Swinging into a new era

New friendships and leaders have Pierce College Softball headed in the right direction

The Pierce College softball team comes into the new season with a number of new players. Leading them is a familiar face from the past: Coach Mike Nelson. His experience has helped form one of the most successful teams in program history.

Duncan Stevenson / Courtesy Photo
Coach Mike Nelson

Led by Mike Nelson, the Raiders have goals of reaching the Northwest Athletic Conference (NWAC) tournament this year and playing for a chance at a ring following a 9-27 finish last year.

Nelson brings an approach that emphasizes the most basic parts of the game which has a trickle-down effect on other things too.

“Proficiency in the basic fundamentals leads to the game becoming easier to play,” Nelson said. “Teaching not only the how, but the why. In the long run, a better understanding of what we are doing leads to more confidence.” Confidence as a team leads to positive experiences both on and off the field and having fun as a team will also be important, Nelson said.

Duncan Stevenson / Courtesy Photo
Brittany Camp

Nelson returns to Pierce College, where he was an assistant from 2010-2012. He helped guide those teams to a 67-46 record over that span. That includes 2011, where the team tied a school record with 37 wins. Sophomore catcher Brittany Camp said the team has come together as a unit and the bond between the women is a key theme this year. Camp plans to get her general Associates in Arts degree and evaluate her options to play at the next level when the season ends.

“We honestly revolve around food,” Camp said. “We always go out to dinner and hang out with each other. We’re all really close this year and hang out even on our off days.”

Duncan Stevenson / Courtesy Photo
Michaela Hougland

Among the returners, outfielder Michaela Hougland has an opportunity to repeat as a member of the NWAC’s North All Region first team. She terrorized opposing pitchers in her freshman season with a .412 batting average and a .521 on base percentage.

Natalie Vollandt returns for her sophomore season after leading the team in innings pitched last year with 86.

Freshman utility player Riley Rivera comes to Pierce College all the way from Rathdrum, Idaho. She said the transition has not been a whole lot different but there’s more work and responsibility now.

Duncan Stevenson / Courtesy Photo
Riley Rivera

“It’s a big reality check having to move states and live on my own,” Rivera said. “You learn to take responsibility for more things.”

Rivera also said the experience has been positive so far and spoke on the transition from high school to college softball.

“There is definitely more talent so you are working with girls at a similar skill level,” Rivera said. “In high school you are working with younger girls and in college most people only have a year age gap.”

So far this season, the team holds a 3-7 record and will look to come into league action playing their best. Their next matchup is a road double header against Highline College on April 9.

Lady Raiders are No. 2 in Conference

Lady+Raiders+are+No.+2+in+Conference

Women’s Volleyball Places Third in State Tournament

Pierce’s women’s volleyball team competed in the Northwest Athletic Conference championships from Nov. 15 to Nov. 17, hoping to rank in the top four, which would be a first for the program since 1980.

Though Pierce lost to Spokane and Highline at the Tacoma Convention Center, the Raiders placed third and felt proud of how they ended the season. Players Hattey Smith and Jocelyn Hillyer were the team’s most valuable players throughout the season and during the tournament.

In order to qualify for the championships, teams have to place in the top four out of 16 in the regular season. The tournament was held at the Tacoma Convention Center.

“Jocelyn was the MVP of the West; she finished the season first. She was first team selection,” said women’s volleyball head coach Greg Finel. “Hattey actually finished the season first in assists; she made second team (selection) for the West, and she made second team for the alternate team also.”

Even though those two stood out, the rest of the team did their part and held their own during the matches, Finel said.

“You have players who do really well when they lead different categories,” Finel said. “But it took everybody, every single person and every single moment to be as successful as we were. We had some players stand out this day, and another player stand out that day. So when one player wasn’t doing well, another one stepped up just to pick the other one up.”

The coach reflected on his time here at Pierce and working with the volleyball team. “I’ve been here three years, so it was a combination of all the work we’ve been putting forth in the last three years as far as going out and putting the right foot forward,” Finel said.

The chances of the Pierce women’s volleyball team being in the final two was squashed when they lost to their toughest competitors in the tournament.

As for any changes in the team’s roster next season, Smith said: “Some new freshman. But we have a lot of freshman this year, so the sophomore class will be really big.”

Finel shared his vision for next year’s team. ‘We’re losing three key players. But the goal is to bring in five to six new players that are bigger, better, faster, stronger than the players leaving and some of the players we have. The goal is to find the right fit, not just they can play, and they’re athletic and they’re big. But will they fit into the system and will they get along with the girls we already have?’

 

For more about Pierce College’s Raiders at NWAC Volleyball Championship, watch this video!

Raiders women’s softball finds redemption this season

For new coach Amber Coburn, anything that could go wrong did before the season was half over.

The season started with just enough players to call a team. Then, one-by-one the players either got hurt or life got in the way. Thankfully, other players were able to join the team – but the roster never got over the required 10.

“The biggest challenge being a new coach is coming in to (train) athletes that you didn’t recruit and then putting that team together with very few athletes,” Coburn said.

Natalie Vollandt is one of those players recruited by previous coach Mark Edmonston. Vollandt is a pitcher and first base player and played under Edmonston for several years before coming to Pierce. Edmonston was the deciding factor for Vollandt to play for Pierce. Her mom, Kellee, and the family dog, Bentley, have followed the team all season.

Debbie Denbrook / Staff Photos
Riley Reyes-Redhair prepares to connect with the ball.

“Other four-year schools were looking at her. I suggested that she go play for “E” (that’s what we called him) for two years, get your prerequisites done. She’s not ready to give it up yet,” Kellee Vollandt said.

Another factor the team faced: games are double-headers with no extra players. Any injury meant they were done.

“That’s what’s challenging when you have only 10 athletes, 2 pitchers. That’s our challenge, when somebody is getting hurt or sore or tired, that’s our biggest challenge of how many players to fit into a game,” said Coburn.

It is hard enough to get a mix of seasoned players vs. green players to play as a team. Other teams they were competing against have been able to play as a team the whole season. The season was about half over before the team started coming together.

When the Raiders played the Bellingham Bulldogs on April 20, the players were starting to show the pressure.

“The last few games have been a struggle. We are short on players midseason. Girls getting hurt, girls getting tired, just trying to piece it together,” Coburn said.

But their spirit is undefeatable. Despite the challenges, Coburn said the team is in good standing to be in the playoffs in Spokane. As of April 30, the team is in last place in its conference.

“This team has it, we have the talent. We stay competitive. How exciting it would be for the sophomores to finish their season up and for the freshman their first season to make it there, my first year as a coach, it would be exciting to make it,” she said.

Freshman centerfielder Michaela Houglane signed on last year under Edmonston, too. Coming together as a cohesive unit with new players in the middle of the season has not been easy, she said.

“It’s been challenging just because you’re having to work with new people constantly. You don’t know them, you don’t know their styles as well and then people leave and you get attached. It’s sad because it is a very team-oriented sport,” she said.

Coburn’s optimism is felt by the team’s potential.

“I believe in this team. I believe in them a lot. There is a lot of mental challenges, as well as physical. This team is very much in their heads. But we do have a good chance at the playoffs, keep getting better every day. It is just a matter of coming together as one, working together,” she said.

Debbie Denbrook / Staff Photos
Michaela Hougland slides into second base.
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