There are two sides to Valencia High girls volleyball’s Bri Coleman.
“There’s a sort of dichotomy,” said coach Ray Sanchez. “Either you’ve got this happy-go-lucky goofy kid off the court, but when she’s training and when she’s competing, she’s a killer.”
The combination of friendliness and competitiveness makes Coleman the ideal team player. After transferring from Saugus High and joining the Vikings her junior year, she was bounced from outside hitter to middle blocker and back again. She never complained once.
“Just being a good teammate is the most important for me,” Coleman said. “I think a lot of people cherish my personality. Hopefully. I’ve been told that.”
Early in Valencia’s year, the outlook was dimmer than expected. Key players were out with injury, which necessitated a new outside hitter. Coleman, who was slated to continue playing middle blocker after a solid junior year at the position, found herself in that outside hitter spot.
Coleman was now required to contribute on offense, defense and serving.
“When we made the switch, I had a ton of confidence in Bri,” said Sanchez. “I knew she would be able to do it, it was just a matter of getting the reps in and getting her comfortable in that new role.”
She flourished in the role, leading the team in kills with 293 kills as well as finishing second in digs (235) and tied for aces (47).
“Everyone stepping up together, just pushing each other hard in practice (helped me),” Coleman said. “I knew that once our blocks and our defense got better, then my hitting would get a little bit better because we were going up against harder competition. It was a team effort.”
The Vikes’ season ended with a 3-0 loss against Edison in the second round of the CIF-Southern Section Division 1 tournament, but volleyball will continue for Coleman. Next season, she’ll be at Baylor University, which reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament this year.
But first, there’s basketball season. Her first and last with the Vikings.
“Basketball is helping a lot with my agility for volleyball,” Coleman said. “And that’s what I’m going to pursue in college. That’s the biggest benefit. Just getting faster and being able to move quicker.”
Balancing two sports is hardly a physical feat for the six-foot Coleman because of her sheer athleticism – the first thing Sanchez noticed about her.
“(She’s) very quick and just after a few days in the gym, it was really obvious that she was an exceptionally versatile player,” he said. “She could do just about anything.”
Coleman is multi-faceted, whether it’s in her personality, the sports she plays or the position she plays. Her functional style has earned her the title of All-SCV girls volleyball Player of the Year.
All-SCV Girls Volleyball First Team
Madi Fay, Hart, Senior
Fay was easily the strongest player on Hart High’s roster this season. As a setter/opposite and captain, she led the Indians with aggression and two years’ worth of varsity experience. After Hart’s season ended in the first round of the CIF-Southern Section Division 2 tournament, Fay was handed accolades that included first team All-Foothill League and Team MVP. She’ll continue her playing career at The Master’s University.
Katie Jacobs, West Ranch, Senior
On the court with Tasha Skabelund and Kaitlin Schultz, Jacobs was a force. A two-year starting captain, she “grew by leaps and bounds with her decision making and consistently making positive plays for her team,” according to coach Brandon Pank. Jacobs, who was also named first-team all-league will head to UCLA next year.
Kelsey Knudsen, Valencia, Senior
Knudsen earned co-Foothill League Player of the Year and was part of a Vikes squad that captured half of the league title and a playoff run that ended in the second round of the CIF-SS Division 1 tournament. On the season, she had a team-high 387 digs as well as 46 aces and 67 assists. Knudsen will now join her older sister, Lindsey, at Saint Mary’s College of California.
Caitlin Liebe, Saugus, Junior
The Centurions, who fell in the first round of the CIF-Southern Section Division 3 tournament, were spearheaded by Liebe. She was the only player from Saugus, which finished third in league, to be named all-league first team. Liebe had 304 kills in 92 games, according to MaxPreps.
Kaitlin Schultz, West Ranch, Senior
Schultz, a 6-footer, was a starter for back-to-back years for West Ranch. She was one of three Wildcats to be named All-Foothill League first team as a player who has great kinesthetic awareness on the attack and a vision for the game. Coach Brandon Pank calls her a “tactical savant.” Schultz is headed to play at Columbia University next season.
Tasha Skabelund, West Ranch, Senior
The co-Foothill League Player of the Year was part of a dangerous Wildcat trio that also featured Katie Jacobs and Kaitlin Schultz. Skabelund finished the year with 161 digs, 160 kills and 31 aces and helped West Ranch to a share of the Foothill League title. Skabelund will play at California State University Bakersfield next season.
All-SCV Girls Volleyball Second Team
Makenna Fall, Hart, Junior
Fall was thrust into the starting libero role, excelled and was aptly named All-Foothill League first team. Coach Mary Irilian said Fall brings “energy and intensity to the court” and plans to see her in an increased leadership role next season.
Allison Jacobs, West Ranch, Freshman
Jacobs took the court with her older sister, Katie, and brought a raw spark to the Wildcats. “It’s pretty cool to see a freshman come in out of nowhere and be at our level and mix with us well and play well,” said All-SCV first team honoree Tasha Skabelund of Jacobs during the season. Jacobs also earned All-League second team honors.
Holly Piroli, Saugus, Junior
A defensive specialist for the Cents, Piroli tallied 230 digs for the Centurions. In the team’s final league game of the season against West Ranch, she led Saugus with 21 digs. Piroli earned all-league second team thanks to her solid and consistent performance.
Lauryn Shockley, Valencia, Junior
Another underclassman who stepped up for the Vikes, Shockley led the team in aces with 47 and had a 91.9 serving percentage. She further impacted the offense with 228 kills — the second most on the team. Shockley was named All-Foothill League second team.
Sasha Thomas-Oakley, Canyon, Sophomore
Thomas-Oakley, who also runs track for Canyon, was a bright spot in the Cowboys’ season and is part of a young core that is sure to make waves in the future. A rival Foothill League coach called Thomas-Oakley Canyon’s most aggressive player. She has a knack for connecting with fellow hitters and keeping volleys going, two things that will come in handy for the building Canyon team.
Kaelyn White, Valencia, Freshman
When a freshman is named All-Foothill League first team, you have to pay attention. White was third out of all Vikings in terms of kills with 175 — behind All-SCV Player of the Year Bri Coleman and fellow All-SCV second teamer Lauryn Shockley. White led the team in assists with 350.
Einstein — Brianna Sanford, Senior
Canyon — Laska Stanford, Sophomore
Hart— Delaney Gibbs, Junior
Golden Valley — Jordan Nunez, Freshman
Saugus — Grace Ferguson, Junior
SCCS —Vanessa Cardenas, Senior
SCVi — Gabby Cario, Junior
Trinity — Jessica Eblin, Senior
Valencia — Kiora Sanchez, Junior
West Ranch — Lauren Smith, Senior