By Jesse Muñoz
For The Signal
The 2018 fall season is just four weeks old, but the Cougars’ athletic programs are already starting to climb the polls.
College of the Canyons women’s volleyball made the biggest leap of the week, going from unranked all the way up to the No. 9 position in the most recent California Community College Women’s Volleyball Coaches Association (CCCWVCA) Top-25 poll. COC is also the No. 5 team in Southern California.
Canyons (5-4) accomplished that feat by knocking off two top-five opponents in a week’s span. COC swept No. 10 Long Beach City College last Wednesday, then followed that up with a 3-2 (25-23, 25-23, 15-25, 20-25, 15-13) victory over No. 3 El Camino College at the annual El Camino 3-Way event on Saturday.
COC nearly took things a step further later by playing a tough five-set match vs. No. 8 Grossmont College to finish the day, but eventually fell 3-2 (23-25, 25-18, 19-25, 25-23, 15-12) to the Griffins.
“I think we played our best match of the year, so far, against El Camino, and I think we played really well again 20 minutes later against Grossmont,” said COC head coach Clay Timmons. “I’m really happy with the way the girls competed and fought and executed some of the things we’ve been working on in practice.”
With the volleyball program’s history of success — state championship tournament appearances in 2015 & 2017 to go with conference titles in 2017, 2015, 2014, 2013 — COC head coach Clay Timmons was hard pressed to remember the last time Canyons was not included in the state’s Top-25 ranking.
“Maybe the 2012 season?” he pondered.
“There was maybe a little bit of a ‘huh, okay’,” Timmons said about not being included among the Top-25, a season after finishing third at the state championship tourney. “But I think it worked in our favor.
“We’ll use it as motivation,” Timmons added. “We’d like to climb (the polls), even if it’s just one position, or a couple positions every week. But the focus is always going to be on the very next match.”
COC is back in action at the San Diego Mesa College Quad event on Friday. The Lady Cougars are scheduled to take on the host Olympians at 1 p.m. before squaring off vs. No. 24 Mira Costa College in the afternoon affair.
Cougar Football No. 4 in CCCSIA Poll
Following the Cougars’ convincing 63-0 victory over Santa Barbara City College in Saturday’s home opener, COC moved up two spots in the California Community College Sports Information Association (CCCSIA) poll to tie with conference rival Ventura College for the state’s No. 4 spot.
Defending state champions Fullerton College holds the top spot followed by No. 2 City College of San Francisco and No. 3 Laney College.
The Cougars also moved up two spots to the No. 6 position in this week’s JC Athletic Bureau Top-25 coaches poll.
COC (3-0) travels to Cerritos College in week four to take on a highly regarded, and ranked Falcons team.
Cerritos (3-0) enters the matchup as the No. 9 team in the CCCSIA poll and No. 7 in the JC Athletic Bureau rankings.
“This is going to be our biggest test to date, there is no question about it,” said head coach Ted Iacenda. “They’ve handled the three teams on their schedule very easily, and if we don’t come ready to play and execute and do the little things right, it could be a long night for the Cougars.”
COC defeated Cerritos 45-9 in week eight of the 2017 campaign. But prior to that meeting, the Falcons had won three straight vs. the Cougars, when the two programs were conference rivals competing in the National Division, Northern League.
Cerritos moved to the National Division, Central League prior to the 2018 season.
“We know who Cerritos is,” said Iacenda. “We know they’re going to be physical, we know they’re going to be tough, they typically have a lot of guys and rotate on defense. So we know them in that sense, but scheme changes come year to year, and they’ve got a few new wrinkles.”
The Falcons are expected to feature returning sophomore quarterback Isaiah Bravo alongside running back Rhamondre Stevenson, who is averaging 153.3 rushing yards per game to rank second in the state. The Falcons will also have a new head coach in Dean Grosfeld.
“They have tremendous skill guys,” said Iacenda. “We’re expecting them to be physical up front on both sides of the ball.”
COC currently enjoys the state’s third-longest win streak at eight games, dating back to the 2017 season. The Cougars also have several players included among the state’s statistical leaders.
Sophomore quarterback Andrew Brito is averaging 326.3 yards per game, good for the state’s No. 4 position. Wide receiver Jarrin Pierce is fifth in the state with 21 receptions while averaging a third-best 121.3 receiving yards per game. Canyons’ kicker Tanner Brown is a perfect 8-for-8 on field goals to lead the state.
The Cougar defensive unit has surrendered just 20 points over the first three games to slot in at No. 2 in the team defensive rankings, slightly behind Cabrillo College which has played just two contests. Last week, Canyons limited Santa Barbara to a paltry 1.8 yards per play and forced the Vaqueros to punt 13 times in the contest.
Canyons and Cerritos kickoff at 6 p.m. Saturday at Falcon Stadium.