Reaction to NCS Open Division, competitive equity changes

Today the North Coast Section Board of Managers voted in a four-team Open Division football playoff plan, and a competitive equity plan that moves some successful teams up a division in football, basketball, girls volleyball, water polo, baseball, softball and lacrosse. Read about it here.

Coaches are still absorbing what the changes will mean when they go into effect this fall. Here’s an early sampling of reaction from East Bay coaches:

Compiled by Phil Jensen and Daniel Mano

Campolindo football coach Kevin Macy:
(on competitive equity) “The variables that are thrown into this mix … I just want to stick to school size. … Who is the arbiter of competitive equity? I’m not a big believer in this. …. We are just fighting to keep football alive in our town. Our name has become much bigger than our kids.”

Clayton Valley Charter football coach Tim Murphy:
(On the Open Division) “Fired up about it. … I think everything that went down in the meeting is what I agree with. … The only negative thing is that a team that wins a section could be eliminated. … Now you are not allowing people to control their own destiny. That would be my only complaint. Everything else I agree with. Continue Reading


Bishop O’Dowd girls volleyball coach goes to Branson-Ross

Bishop O’Dowd High girls volleyball coach Jorge Peñate is leaving the school to become co-head coach at Branson-Ross, he announced Monday on Twitter.

Peñate helmed Bishop O’Dowd the last two seasons, including to the North Coast Section Division 3 crown this past year. The Dragons were 27-13 last season and reached the CIF State Division 3 quarterfinals a year after going 28-6 and falling to eventual champion Sonoma Valley in the NCS Division 3 semifinals.

The move means Peñate be going from NCS title team to NCS title team, since Branson-Ross is the seven-time defending Division 5 champion. He is joining forces with “close friend” Michelle Brazil, who has led the Bulls to six straight CIF State Division 5 title matches, including championships in 2010-13.

Prior to Bishop O’Dowd, Peñate coached Berkeley from 2012-2013, when the Yellowjackets went 22-11 and 20-12 respectively and twice lost to California in the NCS Division 1 quarterfinals.



Semifinal matchups for East Bay teams in the North Coast Section girls volleyball playoffs

Among the North Coast Section girls volleyball semifinals set for 7 p.m. Saturday, seven involve at least one local team. Here’s a look at the local teams in those matchups.


No. 1 Monte Vista hosting No. 4 Liberty

  • The defending champion Mustangs (30-5) swept College Park and San Leandro in the first two rounds, respectively. They lost just once in the hyper-competitive EBAL and recently took second at the strong Northgate Varsity Tournament despite dealing with injuries — though their health is improved now as they ready to face a team they beat 3-1 in their season opener.
  • The Lions (31-9) cruised through BVAL play undefeated and swept Dublin in the first round of the playoffs before battling Amador Valley in a four-set win in the quarterfinals. They’re looking to win the school’s first NCS title since a three-peat from 2003-2005.

Continue Reading


East Bay girls volleyball rankings, with comments

  1. Campolindo (13-8) — The Cougars went 4-1 at Notre Dame Belmont’s Tiger Cup tournament, including a win over a Pitman program that was runner-up in the CIF Division 1 state playoffs last year, plus swept Las Lomas and Dublin, so they stay where they were..
  2. Monte Vista (17-3) — The Mustangs pulled out wins over No. 15 Carondelet, in four games, and crosstown rival No. 5 San Ramon Valley, in five games, to remain at this spot.
  3. Bishop O’Dowd (13-8) — In two non-league matches, the Dragons swept Arroyo and lost in four games to Presentation of San Jose, a wash to keep just ahead of Head-Royce.
  4. Head-Royce (21-0) — The Jayhawks easily defeated University for a measure of revenge in a rematch of last year’s North Coast Section Division 5 semifinals, staying unbeaten at here.
  5. San Ramon Valley (13-5) — Though the Wolves took No. 2 Monte Vista to five games and couldn’t topple their crosstown rival, they swept No. 7 Foothill to move up a few spots.
  6. Albany (19-6) — Along with sweeps of then-ranked Saint Joseph Notre Dame and Salesian, the Cougars went 3-0 at the NorCal Invitational at Mare Island to go up three places. 
  7. Foothill (15-5) — After suffering a sweep to No. 5 San Ramon Valley, the Falcons beat No. 13 Amador Valley to only drop two places. 
  8. James Logan (17-4) — Sweeping then-ranked Irvington as well as Newark netted the Colts a better ranking by two.
  9. California (14-7) — The Grizzlies swept Livermore and downed No. 15 Carondelet in four games to continue an upswing after dropping earlier this season, moving up three.
  10. Granada 15 — (12-8) — The Matadors made it past No. 13 Amador Valley in five games and swept Livermore to jump up five spots.
  11. Acalanes NR — (8-4) — From the bubble to this spot go the Dons, who swept Miramonte and bubble team Alhambra.
  12. Miramonte (13-6) — Being swept by No. 11 Acalanes dropped the Matadors down six spots.
  13. Amador Valley (11-7) — Though the Dons lost twice, it was in five sets to No. 10 Granada and four to No. 7 Foothill, keeping them in the rankings.
  14. Liberty (17-8) — The Lions continued their BVAL dominance by sweeping Freedom and Pittsburg to return to the rankings.
  15. Carondelet (11-9) — The Cougars are on the fringe after four-set losses to No. 2 Monte Vista and No. 9 California.

East Bay girls volleyball rankings, with comments

  1. Campolindo (6-7) — The Cougars took care of business against Acalanes and Dougherty Valley, both teams that have been ranked this season, and attended another stacked tournament, the Presentation Panther Challenge, where they went to three sets with three teams that have a combined 41-9 record.
  2. Monte Vista (13-3) — After falling behind early in the first set against Foothill on Thursday, the Mustangs raced to a 3-1 win over the then No. 3 Falcons before sweeping No. 9 Granada.
  3. Bishop O’Dowd (7-3) — A quiet week for the Dragons included only a sweep of Berkeley, but they’ve clearly faced tougher opponents than Head-Royce.
  4. Head-Royce (16-0) — The Jayhawks, who have only dropped two sets all season, kept their undefeated streak going with three sweeps in league play.
  5. Foothill (12-5) — The Falcons lost on the road to Monte Vista but came back to sweep California.
  6. Miramonte (11-5) — The Mustangs beat No,. 7 San Ramon Valley and No. 12 Alhambra, impressive enough to bump them up eight spots.
  7. San Ramon Valley (10-4) — Though the Wolves lost to No. 6 Miramonte, they defeated No. 8 Carondelet and No. 10 Amador Valley.
  8. Carondelet (11-5) — A win over Granada offsets a loss to No. 7 San Ramon Valley, pushing the Dons into the rankings from the bubble.
  9. Granada (10-6) — In a pair of five-set thrillers this week, the Matadors beat No. 11 California and lost to No. 8 Carondelet.
  10. Amador Valley (9-5) — After sweeping No. 11 California, the Dons were swept by No. 7 San Ramon valley and St. Francis, ranked No. 3 by the San Jose Mercury News.
  11. California (12-5) — Four straight losses, including to No. 10 Amador Valley and No. 5 Foothill, drops the Grizzlies four spots.
  12. Alhambra (14-4) — The Bulldogs had a tough week, not only suffering their first, second, third and fourth defeats but also losing their libero to a concussion.
  13. Albany (12-5) — The Cougars edged No. 15 Saint Joseph Notre Dame in five sets before a 2-2 trip to the St. Ignatius Golden Gate Challenge, where they beat defending NCS D4 champ Marin Catholic.
  14. James Logan (13-4) — Winning seven times this week extended the Colts streak to nine victories and vaulted them into the rankings despite not being on the bubble last week.
  15. Saint Joseph Notre Dame (12-4) — The Pilots fell to No. 13 Albany in five sets but beat St. Patrick-St. Vincent, a NCS D4 semifinalist last year.

Girls volleyball: Alhambra aiming at NCS playoffs after extended absence

A year after registering its first Diablo Foothill Athletic League win since 2007, the Alhambra High girls volleyball team is taking aim at North Coast Section Division 3 playoffs.

The Bulldogs’ 14-match win streak to start the season sure seems like reason to believe it could happen for the first time in, well, a while.

“Nobody knows exactly when but everybody thinks it’s been at least 20 years” since Alhambra made the postseason, coach Willie Marchesano said. “The girls have put a lot of work. I’ve got to give them props.”

Eleven players returned from last year’s 12-18 squad, which graduated only senior libero Glenna Herbert, and Marchesano said all eleven elected to participate in open gym sessions this summer.

“In the past we’ve been pretty good hitting-wise, but people weren’t playing defense,” said Marchesano, a Northgate alum whose twin brother Andrew is an assistant at Alhambra. “They’re really buying into the fact that they need to be good at defense.”

The change was immediately obvious, with road sweeps of Mt. Diablo, Ygnacio Valley and Antioch to start the season. Five more wins later, including a 3-2 victory over Freedom, the Bulldogs won all five of their matches in the third tier of the East County Invitational, even beating Freedom 2-0.

“I’m very impressed by the work they put it and how much better they are in four years,” Marchesano said. “Before, teams couldn’t wait to play us, but now they’re like, this team is a real challenge.”

Alhambra ran into its second challenge of the season in its Sept. 24 league opener at Miramonte. Senior libero Emma Farr sustained a concussion during a match that the Matadors won 3-1. “She got blasted in the face,” Marchesano said of Farr, who will be out at least another week.

That didn’t bode well for the Concord Varsity Tournament last weekend, when the Bulldogs went 2-3. “We lost we couple matches we definitely would have won with her,” Marchesano said. But even then Alhambra pushed Benicia, which was 29-2 and a Sac-Joaquin Section semifinalist last year, to a third set before falling.

That’s because Farr is far from the only skilled Bulldog. Senior captains Haley Jones and Lexy Swenson, middle blocker and setter respectively, lead the way with senior middle blocker Lexi Hammer also integral. Marchesano also mentioned junior outside hitter Ainise Taimani, a returning starter who missed the first few weeks while recovering from a leg fracture, and freshman middle blocker Sterling Parker, who stands 6-foot-1-inches.

“The cool thing is, this is the deepest team we’ve ever had, so it makes practices much better,” said Marchesano, who is in his fourth year with the program and third at the helm. “When they play each other at practice, everybody is just about equal.”


Girls volleyball: Monte Vista fends off Foothill in EBAL victory

DANVILLE — Senior Maclaine Fields made her presence known Thursday night at Monte Vista High School, blocking six shots and assisting on two others as the Mustangs’ girls volleyball team rallied from early first-set deficit to secure a 3-1 match victory over visiting Foothill.

“She had a lot of one-on-one blocks,” Monte Vista coach J.J. Utchen said. “The different of the match was, we took control of the net.”

Asked about memorable moments in the East Bay Athletic League match, Mustangs junior E’lan Riter said simply: “Mac’s blocks.”

Lots of credit goes to Riter, too, since she tallied team-highs of 13 kills, 24 digs and seven aces. Several of her swings added momentum for Monte Vista (12-3, 2-0 EBAL), which coasted in sets two through four but trailed big in No. 1.

Foothill (8-3, 1-1 EBAL) built first-set leads of 15-6 and 19-10 partly thanks to four of senior Erin Page’s six aces.

“They came out with all guns blazing, totally fearless,” Utchen said, lauding the Falcons.

A block by Fields edged Monte Vista within 19-14 and induced a timeout from Foothill coach Dusty Collins.

“They turned us on our heels very quickly,” Collins said. “And that’s what it felt like for the rest of the match.”

The Mustangs tied things up at 19 and 23 — boosted by another Fields block, two aces by Ava Patterson and a pair of kills by Morgan Burroughs — but Foothill prevailed on a service error and a block by sophomore Hana Okuhara (6 aces, 9 digs).

That first-set surge, though, spilled into the second set. Monte Vista pulled away midway through the second set and coasted to a 25-18 win.

In the third set, Monte Vista took an early lead largely because junior Alex Nickerson accomplished the volleyball version of a hat trick: ace, kill, block. And again the Mustangs galloped to a 25-18 win.

Foothill fought off a fourth-set deficit of 23-16 with the help of Andrea Paduraru, who totaled 16 kills two days after missing a match because of flu-like symptoms. Also integral was senior libero Taylor Campbell (15 digs).

The Falcons inched within 24-21, but Burroughs buried a swing to end the match.



East Bay girls volleyball rankings, with comments

  1. Campolindo (4-5) — Sure, the Cougars lost four times at the Durango Fall Classic in Las Vegas, but two of those defeats included to the eventual tournament champion and a powerhouse program from Georgia. Finishing 15th at a prestigious 63-team tourney is impressive enough to stay top these rankings.
  2. Monte Vista (11-3) — The Mustangs only lost once, to eventual champ Redwood, at the loaded East County Invitational and opened league play Tuesday with a sweep of Amador Valley, moving them back up a spot. But watch out for Thursday’s league match against Foothill, which I’ll be covering.
  3. Foothill (8-2) — Dropping matches to eventual East County Invite finalists Redwood and Pleasant Grove was buffered by the fact that both were in three sets. In other words, the Falcons weren’t far from winning the tournament, and swept Lowell-S.F. in the third-place match and Livermore in their league opener Tuesday.
  4. Bishop O’Dowd (6-3) — After falling to defending CIF Division 3 champion Sacred Heart Cathedral last week, the Dragons have won three times including over host Valley Christian, the school that beat SHC for the Central Coast Section Division 3 title last year.
  5. Head-Royce (13-0) — The Jayhawks rolled through St. Joseph Notre Dame’s D5 Showcase last weekend, winning four times without dropping a set. That keeps them unbeaten and unable to be ignored, moving up three spots in our rankings.
  6. San Ramon Valley (3-3) — The Wolves bounced back from three losses to strong teams at the East County Invite — including Foothill by a 2-1 set score — by sweeping a decent Carondelet team Tuesday. They have three more matches to prepare for a rematch with Foothill followed by a face-off with rival Monte Vista.
  7. California (12-3) — The Grizzlies swept Liberty before starting the 3-0 in the second tier of the East County Invite, enough momentum to keep them high despite a tourney loss to upstart Dougherty Valley and a 3-2 road defeat at the hands of Granada on Tuesday.
  8. Granada (10-4) — Downing Cal on Tuesday impressed nonetheless, adding to the Matadors’ win streak after two sweeps last week.
  9. Alhambra (12-0) — A 4-0 run through the third tier of the East County Invite kept the Bulldogs unbeaten ahead of their toughest test this season, Thursday at Miramonte.
  10. Liberty (9-3) — Being swept by Cal shows the Lions are vulnerable, though they still have sweeps of Granada and Dougherty Valley.
  11. St. Joseph Notre Dame (11-3) — The Pilots won four times at their own D5 Showcase last weekend, only falling in the finale to unbeaten Head-Royce.
  12. Dougherty Valley (5-6) — Placing second in the second tier of the East County Invite boosts the Wildcats into our rankings, especially since that included a win over California.
  13. Acalanes (4-3) — Splitting four matches at the East County Invite slides the Dons down, even though one of their wins was over Miramonte.
  14. Miramonte (5-3) — The Matadors did not have a good showing at the East County Invite, losing in two sets to San Ramon Valley and Acalanes.
  15. Amador Valley (8-3) — League play opened with a sweep at the hands of Monte Vista, dropping the Dons two spots and closer to the bubble.

On the bubble: Albany (7-3), Carondelet (6-3), Irvington (8-4), Dublin (8-4), Arroyo (11-6).