SRJC volleyball team regroups after two early losses

By HOWARD SENZELL
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

It seemed like a disaster to coach Kelly Wood when the Santa Rosa JC volleyball team started Big Eight Conference play with losses to American River and Sacramento. Now, that 48-hour period seems like a blessing in disguise.
Turns out, the losses served as a wake-up call to her freshman-laden team as the Bear Cubs responded by winning 12 straight and the conference championship.

At 7 tonight at Haehl Pavilion, Wood’s team will begin its quest for the California Community College State Championship. No.15 seed Siskiyous will be in town to face No.2 Santa Rosa.
If the Bear Cubs keep the streak alive, they’ll have three home games before traveling to Chaffey College (Rancho Cucamonga) for the state championship Dec.4-5. Two teams from Northern California will join two from the south in the finals.

“We’re very happy with our draw because it means a team will have to come in and beat us at home,” Wood said. “This year, we’re 11-0 in our gym.”
Wood certainly wasn’t thinking about a state title when her girls lost straight-set matches to American River on Sept.29 and two days later at Sacramento City.

“We had an 11-1 record going into league,” Wood recalled. “I think the girls, especially the freshmen, got overconfident. They didn’t realize how tough the Big Eight is every year. It’s one of the toughest, if not the toughest, leagues in the state.
“We got our butts kicked and the experience made the girls understand that they were going to have to work a lot harder. It definitely shook everybody up.”

The team regrouped the following week when returning home, sweeping Cosumnes River and Modesto in straight sets. In late October, they exacted revenge on American River and Sacramento City.
“We worked hard to get where we are,” Wood said. “We’ve got a talented group and believe we can go a long way in the tournament.”

Windsor High alum Taylor Nelson has been the offensive leader. The 5 foot-11 freshman was recently named Big Eight most valuable player and first team All-America.
Three girls from Analy also were named to the all-conference team: freshman setter Sam Siebert, outside hitter Laura Young and defensive setter Chelsea McCown.
“This is a smart group,” Wood said. “Instead of doubting themselves after those two losses to open league, they decided to work harder. It’s paid off. We’re confident in how we’re playing going into state.”

The Bear Cubs are 23-3 overall while Siskiyous (17-11) finished third in the Golden Valley Conference.
Top-seed in the NorCal Regions is Cabrillo (25-1). The Coast Conference South champs open against No.16 Sequoias (16-4).