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College volleyball: SCV plays part in 3-peat

Pierce’s state championship runs include handful of locals

Posted: December 27, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: December 27, 2012 1:55 a.m.
The 2012 Pierce College women’s volleyball team is shown after winning a third straight CCCAA state championship and finishing a perfect 33-0 season. The 2012 Pierce College women’s volleyball team is shown after winning a third straight CCCAA state championship and finishing a perfect 33-0 season.
The 2012 Pierce College women’s volleyball team is shown after winning a third straight CCCAA state championship and finishing a perfect 33-0 season.

The last time Pierce College women’s volleyball lost a match, half the team was still in high school.

A good number of those players were playing at Santa Clarita Valley high schools.

Now two years and 66 wins later, players like Valencia graduate Brooke Dawson and West Ranch graduate Janelle Futch can call their college careers flawless at Pierce.

“This is so rare and awesome and it’s just so cool for us to be able to talk about this the rest of our lives,” said Dawson, a two-year starter for Pierce, which won a third straight state championship on Dec. 2 and extended its win streak to 66 straight matches.

The last time the Brahmas lost was Dec. 5, 2010 to Santa Rosa Junior College in the California Community College Athletic Association double-elimination tournament.

Right after that, Pierce bounced back and beat Santa Rosa to win the 2010 title. It hasn’t lost a since.

“To me, it comes down to plain hard work,” said Pierce head coach Nabil Mardini. “There’s no magic.”

In addition to Dawson and Futch, there were three other SCV products to take part in this year’s perfect 33-0 season for Pierce.

Valencia graduate Lindsay Maxoutopoulis, West Ranch grad Danielle Hochman and Hart grad Brittani Elser also played major roles for the team this year.

Dawson and Futch were both named to the CCCAA women’s state all-tournament team.

When the Brahmas defeated Golden West 3-0 for the state crown, they became just the second community college team in state history to win three straight titles.

As it is, Pierce’s match win streak is the second best of all-time behind Golden West’s mark of 103 consecutive wins from 1997-2001.

“It’s really surreal,” said Futch, who three weeks ago committed to play at Gonzaga University. “In high school, we obviously didn’t have a perfect season, so going into Pierce and not losing a match, it’s still surprising to me.”

This group isn’t the first crop of SCV players to play for Mardini. The 12th-year Pierce head coach also runs a large youth volleyball club called Los Angeles Volleyball Academy, which runs out of both the San Fernando and Santa Clarita valleys. He admits it's helped attract recruits from this valley.

Four years ago, LAVA (known as Santa Monica Beach Club at the time) opened a branch in Valencia, where it currently operates out of Spectrum Athletic Club.

“I’m very selective in my recruiting,” Mardini said. “I don’t just go after anybody. It has to be suitable. The girls really have to fit the program.”

Earlier this month, Mardini was honored as the American Volleyball Coaches Association two-year college coach of the year, which is the second time he’s won the national award in three years.

Even before Pierce went on its big run starting in 2010 though, Mardini said he’s had plenty of SCV players come through his program.

Dawson, Futch and Maxoutopoulis were all teammates on a LAVA team their senior years of high school.

The three of them have remained friends and have spent the last couple seasons carpooling from the SCV to Woodland Hills, where Pierce College is located.

“I knew that it was the right route to go because I would not only get a lot better with my game, I knew (Mardini) had a lot of connections with other schools,” Dawson said of her choice to play at Pierce.

The former All-Foothill League first-teamer said she’s looking into continuing her career at a few four-year colleges, including Auburn University, which she’s been in contact with.

In the meantime, Pierce will try to keep its streak going through 2013.

Mardini said he’ll do what he and his teams have always done — never stop working.

“I definitely don’t want to sit in my office and expect all these players to keep coming just because I’ve won a few championships and expect people to come play with me because we’re winning,” he said. “So I definitely don’t want to be complacent. I don’t want to fall into that trap.”


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