Gator triple threat makes All-CCAA team
November 29, 2010 12:22 AM
With a few ups and many downs, the SF State women's volleyball team came close to reaching their goal of making it to the postseason, but ultimately finished two spots short of the playoffs.
Despite this setback, three players from the team were named to the 2010 All-California Collegiate Athletic Association women's volleyball team on Nov. 18. Sophomore setter Iris Tolenada was chosen to be on the first team, while junior libero Sarah Kurfess and junior outside hitter Halimah Oswald were chosen for the second team.
"I thank my teammates," said Tolenada, who was the top setter in the CCAA with 10.68 assists per set. "I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for them."
The award is given to the players who have had outstanding performances in the conference, an accolade Tolenada is familiar with. Last year, she was chosen to be on the second All-CCAA team and received the conference's Freshman of the Year award.
"Being a sophomore this year and competing with all the other good setters in our conference, I was a little bit surprised," Tolenada said about moving up to the first team.
Sarah Kurfess, Tolenada's defense partner, had a tremendous impact on the Gators during her first year as the team's defense captain. She led the CCAA during the regular season with an average of 4.95 digs per set.
"I felt really thankful and honored to have gotten it in the first year of coming here," Kurfess said. "It was a big surprise and a good surprise."
Halimah Oswald, the only player who has been on the team since the program restarted in 2008, led the Gators' offense with a .286 attack percentage, making her 10th overall in the CCAA. She is also ranked second in kills on the team with 2.44 kills per set.
"I've been striving for this since I got here," Oswald said. "It was exciting that I got it. I partially reached my goal by getting second team. Next year I'm going for first team."
This season marks the third year since volleyball was brought back to SF State's athletic department. The Gators made it to the postseason last year as they finished seventh in the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division II West Region poll, but their postseason was cut short when they were eliminated by UC San Diego in the first round.
The Gators added seven new players this season, including four incoming freshmen and two junior college transfers, including Kurfess. At the beginning of the season, senior defense specialist Jackie Domecus said the team was "definitely deeper this year than last year."
With more returning players than the previous year, the Gators anticipated having stronger chemistry than season's past.
The Gators started strong at home, but the road proved to be a problem. Despite struggles along the way, the team was ranked sixth during the first release of the West Region poll in October. The team needed to remain in the top eight to keep their postseason dreams alive.
Hot one game and cold the next, the Gators' position in the poll began to slip. They lost at home to Cal State San Bernardino and Cal Poly, both top ranked teams in the CCAA.
By the third poll, after losing to Cal State Monterey Bay in a five set match, the Gators dropped to 10th place and were unable to recover the rest of the season.
"The season was a little up and down," said head coach Michelle Patton. "There were some games that we needed to have more maturity and play better. "
Despite falling short, the Gators were still an impressive team. Of the 19 players on the squad, 10 were either freshmen or sophomores and only three were seniors.
"We definitely learned a lot as a team about finishing strong and starting out strong," said senior outside hitter Sarah Lewis. "Overall the season was a lot of fun. It was a lot of hard work and a lot of ups and downs."
Compared to some of their opponents, the team was also extremely undersized. Lewis and Division I transfer Laura Watt were the only players over six feet and while the team was strong in digs, their blocks suffered.
Although their season didn't end as they'd hoped, the Gators' success could be credited to the strong chemistry the players had with each other.
"From being here the first year, this season was the fastest we all bonded," Oswald said.
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