Opening night of the 2016 Porterville College Volleyball season is finally here as the Pirates kick off the fall season at PC on Friday (Aug. 26) when they travel to Sacramento for the American River College tournament.
Holly Franks returns for her second season as Porterville College head coach. Despite a tough opening year that saw PC compile a 3-15 overall record and 3-11 mark in Central Valley Conference play, Franks is excited for what's to come in 2016. She expects a big improvement over last year's squad. With all but two players returning from 2015, the Pirates will have the experience necessary to compete for a conference championship.
"This year's team is hungry," said Franks when asked how to describe the 2016 Pirates. "Every single one of them has gotten stronger, faster, and all-around better in their volleyball skills. Since we had so many obstacles last year, the returners have more willpower than ever."
Franks will look to five returning Pirates to lead the team. She expects good things from outside hitter Callie Albison (Harmony Magnet Academy), setter Brandy Rico (Porterville HS), outside hitter Josefina Lopez (Strathmore HS), outside hitter Kendyl Estes (Shafter HS), and outside hitter Shelby Vanasen (Strathmore HS).
"They are all great leaders as well," Franks said. "So the new girls are in great hands."
Albison was a force from the back line, as she led the conference with 222 digs and an impressive 11.68 digs per set average over 13 CVC matches. Rico ranked sixth in conference play with 6.55 assists per set while splitting time at the position with Mackenzy Flynn (Porterville HS/5.0 assists avg). Lopez was third on last year's squad with 53 kills over 18 matches and also ranked second with 2.94 digs per set.
Estes and Vanasen both sat out last season as a red shirts, but were key members of the 2014 Pirates team that compiled a 16-10 overall record and went 9-5 in CVC play. Estes led Porterville with a 3.07 kills per set average while Vanasen was second on the squad with 21 total blocks.
Franks expects newcomers Brooke Reilly and Venesa Gutierrez to also make an impact this fall. Reilly comes to PC from Taft High School while Gutierrez played at nearby Porterville High School.
"Brooke with her power and Venesa's work ethic and smart playing abilities will definitely aid in our success," she said.
The Pirates will play their first 13 matches on the road, including a Sept. 30 contest at Fresno City College. Porterville opens Central Valley Conference play on September 14 at rival College of the Sequoias before coming home to host Sequoias on October 14 at 6 p.m. Porterville will play its final eight matches of the regular season at home. Highlights include a November 2 home match against Fresno City and the Pirates' regular-season finale on Nov. 11 against Reedley.
"FCC and COS will give us a run for our money," said Franks. "But I know the girls are hungrier than ever and want to make a name for themselves in the conference.
But the biggest goal is for the girls to put everything they have into every play," she added. "If they do that, the wins will come. Ultimately, I want the girls to get the best education they can along with our sophomores moving on to four-year schools. In the grand scheme of things, that's most important."
Porterville opens the American River tournament with a 4 p.m. match on Friday against Mission College and returns to the court at 6 p.m. to face host ARC. A 10 a.m. match on Saturday (Aug. 27) is also scheduled vs. De Anza College.