SACRAMENTO, Calif.- Fresno City women's volleyball opens the 2019 season this afternoon in Sacramento, when they take on defending CCCAA champion American River College. The Rams will look to avenge last season's 3-2 loss to American River in the State Championship game, as they open a difficult nonconference schedule today.
Having started the season 2-4, Fresno City would rally to as Head Coach Kieran Roblee put it, "play our best volleyball at the end of the season." The Rams advanced all the way to the CCCAA title match, where they took a two sets to one advantage into the fourth set, before falling to ARC 3-2. Coach Roblee wasted little time in putting her team to the test once again, as their preconference schedule includes three teams who appeared in the State Championship tournament last season, including 2018 champion American River College who the Rams open with today.
For Coach Roblee and the Rams, the goal of securing another conference title remains the same, though the difficulty of the nonconference schedule will prepare the team for a deep postseason run. They'll rely on experienced returners and a stellar 2019 recruiting class that has Coach Roblee excited about this season.
"(Our returners) will take their experience from the State tournament and help lead us through our process with the right approach," said Coach Roblee about her sophomores. Returning for the Rams will be sophomore pin hitter Marina Gonzalez. Gonzalez was recognized this offseason by the American Volleyball Coaches Association as a Two-Year "College Player to Watch" for the 2019 season. The former Clovis North standout was named to the All-Central Valley Conference First-Team last season following a year where she appeared in 32 matches, starting all but two. She also led the team in kills throughout the postseason, helping to lead the Rams to the CCCAA State Championship match. Gonzalez was named to the CCCAA State Championship All-Tournament Team as well. Joining Gonzalez will be Academy of Art transfer Kimiah Johnson, who redshirted last season.
In constructing her roster for the 2019 season, Coach Roblee once again is relying heavily on Central Valley talent. "The 2019 recruiting class in the Central Valley was extraordinary." "We're very excited about our local talent; we're very deep." Coach Roblee and the Rams will count on significant contributions this season from a standout freshman class. Freshman setter Julia Pagani, pin hitter Taylor Dilley, as well as fellow freshmen Sayda Taylor and Ali Santoyo will all look to make an immediate impact for the Rams. Freshman defensive specialist Katelyn Kirkman was also recognized as a freshman who has made significant progress over the course of the offseason, and will look to contribute for the Rams this season.
Coach Roblee was notably enthusiastic about her team's depth, particularly at the outside and right side hitter positions, and setter position. "We have nine players compete every day (at the pin hitter position) and push each other to get better," said Roblee of her depth. "We've also never had three setters before." The Rams also have four defensive specialists and four players at the middle back position who should contribute. "I love practice… there's so much energy."
The 2019 conference schedule will once again prove challenging, as Coach Roblee was adamant about the parity in the CVC this season. The strength of the CVC paired with a difficult preconference schedule, should benefit the Rams come postseason seeding, as this will be the first season where RPI is used in the criteria. Fresno City will host their 2019 home opener and debut their brand new playing surface next month, when they host Merced College on September 20th. The match is scheduled to begin at 6 PM.