Pierce Pioneer

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.”

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.

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 win first round in tournament

Stronger, faster, better Raiders show what they are made of


Pierce College Raiders (left to right) #14 Ryleigh Burdick and #6 Kenzie Seltz after NWAC Tournament at Pierce College Health Education Center Monday, November 20, 2017.

Chloes Galiki and Caleb Bromley/Video Credit

From the start of the game the Raiders showed they meant business. #2 Julia Heronema, an outside hitter, dominated the court with repeat power hits. Two minutes in to the game and the score stood at 12-2.

#12 Allie Bauer, team setter, seemed to have the skill of a seeker. When the Saints (Mt. Hood) sent the ball over the net, more often than not Bauer would be there to either set it up for a power hit or just send it back.

The Raiders would win the game 25-10.

The Saints caught their rhythm in the second game. Nearly every point the Raiders gained, the Saints answered. Three minutes in and the score was tied 14-14. For the rest of the game each side fought point for point, keeping the score tied.

When the score reached 20-20, the Saints managed to gain the upper hand, winning 25-23.

In the third game, Raiders again scored almost immediately, but the Saints answered right back, tying the score 3-3.

Then the Raiders suffered a reversal of fortune. They continued to fight to get ahead, but the Saints defense would knock them down, gaining the lead at 12-6.

Then the Raiders sent a combination of power hits and sneak attacks, bringing the score to 17-11. They held their ground, slowly closing the gap to 20-18.

Despite the Raiders’ best efforts, the Saints had a few sneak attacks of their own. They won 25-19.

The Raiders started the fourth game with fresh energy. They haven’t made it passed the first round in the tournament in 3 years and today they were determined to change that.

The Saints also came in the game with fresh energy. Both teams answered point for point, but eventually the Raiders were able to score just enough to stay 2-3 points ahead of the Saints, ending the game at 25-20.

The Raiders kept the energy going into game five. They needed to win it if they wanted to stay alive. Otherwise it would be the survival round later that day if they were to stay in the tournament.

Again, they wasted no time in scoring, but the Saints weren’t about to let them get comfortable. Both teams wanted this win bad.

The Raiders kept finding holes in the Saints’ court, but the Saints never let up the pressure, staying just a few points behind.

But the Raiders never lost their lead and would win the game 15-12.

At the end of the game the coach, Greg Finel, was proud of his team. “It was a great opportunity for the players to show what they are capable of. Great champions get knocked down, but then get right back up,” he said.

When asked what made this team different than other years, his answer came without hesitation. “They play for each other. They look out for each other. They care about each other. It makes a difference,” Finel said.

Raiders vs. Skagit Valley Cardinals

September 14 @ HEC


Final score 3-0
Raiders won

Raiders Fight Hard for a Division Title

The Raiders volleyball team starts the season with a record of 3-2 in division play.


The Raiders season started off to a tough start including a 5 game losing streak. Overall the Raiders have a record of 10-16 with a 4-2 record in conference matchups. Pierce has won 5 of their last 8 games featuring a homecoming thriller at home versus their arch rival TCC. The Raiders came into to their crucial battle versus TCC with a lot of confidence after a dominant 3-0 performance against Green River in their 5th conference game of the season. TCC came into the game with a conference mark of 2-2 after coming off a nail biter against S. Puget Sound. TCC started strong taking the first set 25-18. The Titans continued their hot start winning the second set 25-24. The matchup seemed to be a mismatch.

Down 2 sets, the Raiders came together as they have all year and fought back winning a match saving 3rd set 21-17. The Raiders defense was fierce in the 4th set holding the Titan’s offense that had been in sync all night long to 17 points. The teams battled back and forth the whole night and never letting down which accumulated into a match winning 5th set. 

The Raiders and Titans went in to the 5th set having very different ways of getting there. The Titans came out of the gates swinging opening a 2-0 lead, whereas the Raiders shifted the momentum and dominated TCC in the final 2 sets. The 5th set was an epic battle between division rivals. Both defenses stood strong until the very end with Pierce’s coming out on top. The Raiders offense scored 20 while their defense allowed a mere 18 points.

The Raiders comeback was their second straight conference win giving them a record of 5-2. The next game for Pierce was against another conference rival in Centralia (1-6).

The Raiders came into the matchup with a lot of confidence and swagger from their big comeback victory. Centralia on the other hand came into this matchup on a 5 game conference losing streak.

The 1st set was a duel of offenses with Pierce eking out a win 27-25. The next two sets were anything but competitive. The Raider annihilated Centralia by scores of 25-14 and 25-11 giving Pierce a playoff convincing 6-2 conference record.

The next big game for the Raiders is on October 26th as they take on a power house S. Puget Sound team.      

Greg Finel becomes Pierce College Volleyball’s Head Coach

Assistant coach moves up


Pierce College is pleased to announce the selection of Greg Finel as the new head coach for the Raider Volleyball program. Finel served as an assistant coach with the Raiders this past season, helping lead the team to their first appearance at the NWAC Championships since 2012.

Finel has coached club ball the past six years. He has been with the Lake Tapps Volleyball Club (LTVC) the past four years, and was with Above the Net for two years before joining LTVC. His club teams have won two bids to participate at Nationals, and many of his players have earned college scholarships. Finel is also an accomplished player and coach in beach volleyball.

“We are extremely fortunate to have Coach Finel take over the reins of the program,” said Pierce College Athletic Director Duncan Stevenson. “He provided a great deal of leadership this past season in his role as assistant coach, and we see nothing but great things for the program in the year ahead. His passion for the sport of volleyball, and his approach to developing the skills and abilities of young women in a positive team environment are a formula for success for Raider Volleyball.”

“I am truly excited about the opportunity to be named as the head coach of the Pierce College Volleyball program,” said Finel.  “I look forward to developing the program, continuing our success from 2015, and growing our Raider Volleyball Family.​”

A native of Washougal, Wash., Finel attended at Clark College and Eastern Washington University. He currently works as a branch manager for Randstad Staffing, and lives in Puyallup with his wife and their two sons.

End of the season review: Volleyball

The season for our volleyball team has ended and the focus for next season begins

The Raiders volleyball team fell into fourth place in the NWAC West division this year, missing the playoffs by just one place down. The team pulled off 5 league wins this season, but came away with 9 losses also. Their division was tough this year with Tacoma going 13-1 and Highline right behind them at 11-3.

The turning point for this season was the match at Grays Harbor. The Raiders needed to win the next 3 out of 4 games in order to reach the play-offs.

The game at Green River, which was the Sophomore night, was a need to win game.

“We played well again, but again Green River stood tall, blocked well, and played well,” said Doug Carlson, Raiders volleyball head coach of the game. “We performed good, but they performed better.”

On the offensive side of the game, the kills ( successful, legal, point-scoring play ) leader this year was Hailey Harn with 195. Right behind her was Brianna Hardee (167) and Taylor Buell(113).

Defensively, the digs (A defensive contact following an opponent’s attack resulting in a playable ball) leader was Helena Stout with 452. Following up was Taylor Buell (284) and Brianna Hardee (254).

“Hailey Harn and Brianna Hardee played really well, hitting outside for us and playing great defence with blocking real well. Those two are our stand out players this year.” Carlson said when asked about stand-out players. Both are sophomores that will not be returning for next season.

This year is a building year. Five freshmen were on the team this year and are expected to be back for next season.

“We have a good freshmen class.” stated Carlson “I am excited to have the freshmen. We will have a good returning class.”

Stats for the season


Games played: 80
Kills per game: 9.65
Assists per game: 8.60
Service aces per game: 1.62
Reception errors per game: 1.46
Digs per game: 19.76
Blocks per game: 1.01
Ball handling errors per game: 0.05
Reception errors per game: 1.46
Overall record: 9-12  Conference: 6-8

Head Coach: Doug Carlson

Asst. Coach: Cami Medlock

Team: : Brianna Glass, Taylor Buell, Karissa Smith, Brittany Smith, Breana Horvill, Lianna Guajardo, Haley Harn, Samatia Huntley, Marissa Morris, Helena Stout

About the Writer
Photo of Dominic Wilkerson
Dominic Wilkerson, Managing Editor

Dominic Wilkerson is the Managing Editor of The Pioneer. Please contact me at [email protected] or 253-964-6604. The Pioneer office is located in...

Thunderbird’s take down third place Raiders

Justin Harmon Staff Writer

It was a tale of two nights for Pierce’s women’s volleyball team. In a match-up pitting the second place Highline Thunderbirds against the third place Pierce Raiders viewers witnessed two talented teams go head to head Wednesday night as they get ready for the upcoming playoffs.

Early on it looked as if it would be the Raiders night. Mackenzie Valdez and Brittany Rutherford were a force to be reckoned with throughout the first set. Behind Kill after Kill the raiders jumped out to a 19-13 lead and were seemingly in control of the game.

Valdez standing 5 feet six inches tall did much of her damage (13 kills overall) in the first set. Valdez along with Rutherford combined for 21 kills altogether and helped set the early tone for the Raider’s volleyball team. “I thought we served well and played good Solid Raider volleyball,” said Head Coach Doug Carlson.

The Thunderbirds would narrow the margin to 21-19 but behind two vicious spikes from Freshman Casey Williams the Raiders would put the set away 25-21.

Unfortunately, that would be the high point of the night for the Raiders. Highline would take a 6-2 lead early in the second set forcing Coach Doug Carlson to take a timeout. The Raiders clawed back to even the score at 6-6 but behind great defense and a flurry of blocks the Thunderbirds went on stifling 19-4 run to close out the second set 25-10.

Mikaela Ballou and Jessica Markham who combined for 27 kills led the Thunderbirds on an 8-0 lead to start set three. The Raiders rallied for a 17-14 point differential over the latter half of the set but couldn’t overcome the early deficit. The Thunderbirds took the third and fourth set by scores of 25-14 and 25-8 all but seizing momentum and taking the win in a dominant effort.

“We didn’t make the adjustments we needed to make. It’s as simple as that,” Said Coach Carlson. When asked if he thought the defense of the Thunderbirds led to the momentum shift he responded,” I thought they were good not great. I don’t think it was anything they did that disrupted us.” The Raiders look to rebound at the Crossover tournament Oct. 18th-19th before traveling to Centralia Oct. 23rd.

Pierce College hosts state championship volleyball game

Denise Yochum
Contributing Writer 

Dear College Community,

You may have heard that Pierce College will be hosting the WIAA 2A State Volleyball Championships on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 9 and 10, at the FS HEC.
This is the first time that Pierce College has had the opportunity to host a state championship event, and it will be quite an undertaking.
The HEC will be fully taken over by the WIAA to run the state championship, and as a result, will have some impact on our normal flow of academics and events.

The HEC will shut down on Thursday, Nov. 8 at 12:00p.m. for set up of the event.  There will be no classroom, fitness center, gym, or locker room use in the facility until Monday, Nov. 12.  Academic classes in the HEC will move to other buildings on campus for their Friday sessions.  Most of the event spectators will use the South Parking Lot and South Overflow Lot.   The Dental Hygiene parking lot will be used for event staff and team parking on Friday and Saturday.

If there are any areas of questions or concerns, please direct them to me; otherwise Duncan and Doug will be on-site full-time for the event, and any logistical questions can be directed to them.

We look forward to a great community and state event, and know that this will be attracting students and bringing Pierce College to the forefront of students and parents minds when they are choosing a college.

Go Raiders!


Denise Yochum
Pierce College Fort Steilacoom
(253) 964-6776

Lady Raiders volleyball team optimistic for next year

Cutline Lady Raiders huddle together before taking the court in a game versus Lower Columbia.


Freshmen head into the offseason prepared for Coach Carlson’s strength and conditioning program

Sarah Carlson and James Cooks
Staff Writers

Despite an entirely new team this year, with a team built entirely on freshman, the Pierce College Volleyball program was represented well with a “good” season, according to Coach Doug Carlson.

So how has this fresh group of young ladies impacted the Pierce College Volleyball Program? Coach Carlson said, “This year’s team has been great to work with. They have each grown a lot this year and I look forward to next season when they have the experience and confidence on top of their skill”.

When asked how he thought his team performed this past season, he answered, “Overall, this past season was a good one. We won about 50 percent of our games, and were 6-6 in the league games.”

He added, “However, we have a lot of room for improvement, and my goal is for each of the players to develop their skill and push themselves before next season.”    His proudest moment this season, “Our comeback at Green River CC. We were down 2-1, 20-24, but we came back in the 4th game and won 26-24. We also won the 5th game. It was one of the greatest comebacks I have experienced as a coach, and definitely my proudest moment of this season.”

Coach Carlson points out the Raiders three biggest competitors this year. “TCC, Clark and Lower Columbia. TCC has our number.”

He added, “We were close in both matches but, you know, a point here or a point there will change the whole tenor of game. So it was close, but TCC got us this year. We had two really close games against Lower Columbia and Clark, but in the end, those three teams swept us.”

Over the course of the season, players improve and regress as well. As the season progresses, the leaders of the lockerroom also start show.

This year Carlson identified three players for that category, “Hannah Steidle, Dori Smith and Jennie Demick were probably the most improved this year.”

As far as leadership skills, “I’d have to say all three of my captains (Richelle Carel, Natima Doss and English Bryant) showed great leadership skills. The three of them will definitely all come back next year as captains.”

Two of the three team Captains, English Bryant, Richelle Carel both had similar statements concerning how they feel this past season went.

Bryant claimed, “I enjoyed this season and getting to know each of my teammates and growing with them has been a blast!”

Carel stated,“It was a good year, but next year is going to be even better!”

Every team must continue to improve season to season to improve their play, and ultimately their result. Coach Doug wants that for this team.

This is what he had to say regarding their offseason training plan, “Mainly just overall strength, quickness and jumping ability will need to be improved going into the offseason. The skill is there, it’s just a matter of improving with experience, so I am really excited to see how they each grow as players and as a team coming into the next season!”

Thank you for a great season Lady Raiders! See you on the court next fall.

NWACC West League Table

                    W-L     PCT      W-L

Z -Highline     9-3     .750        15-22

X-Tacoma       8-4      .667       26-13

X-Clark           8-4      .667       14-18

X-Low. Col.    7-5      .583       18-23

Pierce            5-7      .417       12-23

G. River          4-8      .333       10-20

Centralia        1-11    .083        3-25

Spotlight: Jennie Demick

Sports can often be a helpful tool in a student’s development over time, and for Jennie Demick learning to play volleyball changed her life forever.

Before Demick found her passion for volleyball, she and her sister grew up in foster care.

At the age of seven, Demick was with her third foster family.  A couple adopted her and her biological sister with children of there own.  Although Demick and her sister finally found a home, the transition was not without its challenges.

“In the beginning it was difficult because they missed a part of my childhood,” Demick said.

“ I had a different style growing up so I had to adjust to their way of life and meet them in the middle.”

One thing that was able to help her overcome these difficulties was her participation in different sports, starting in the sixth grade.

“ At first, sports were like an escape. There were many problems growing up in my life and I would go to volleyball or soccer practice upset,” Demick said.

“ Sports became my life, but then I had support from my love ones and the passion grew. Playing a sport helped me become more caring.”

As time went on, the confusion of her life turned into dedication for sports, particularly a love for volleyball.  Jennie recalls that at one of her sister’s volleyball tournaments, a friend on the team gave me the coaches’ number for a college team. She called him and came in for tryouts. From that moment on, she became devoted to her practices and soon found a family in not only her adoptive parents and sister, but also in her teammates.

Demick refers to her teammates as a family that supports each other on a daily basis.

“If we see one person go down, we help each other,” Demick said.

Volleyball was her main focus, but she also found comfort in figure skating. She helps college students with disabilities because she wants to assistance those in need.

Every situation is different. I honestly have to say sometimes the worse has to come before it becomes good,” Demick said.

“I can remember crying all the time and something good would happen, but life is full of obstacles. This is why we have friends and family there for us.”


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