By Nick Giannandrea
Fifth-year College of the Sequoias women's volleyball coach Kim Rix isn't in the prediction business.
So the former Giants' standout won't forecast a conference title following three straight runner-up finishes, or a deep postseason run after three consecutive trips to the Northern California regional playoffs ended in first-round or play-in match losses.
But with a solid core of returning players, and an influx of talented freshmen, Rix has high expectations for COS, which opens the season Wednesday at the City College of San Francisco Classic.
The Giants are scheduled to face Alameda at 1 p.m. and tournament host City College of San Francisco at 3 p.m.
"We want to make playoffs, that's anyone's goal," Rix said."We'd love to win state, but you have to take it one step at a time. If that takes us to the playoffs, then that's where we want to be. Hopefully we don't plateau too soon, and we go further than we've gone in the past. This team definitely has a ton of potential."
COS returns 6-foot middle blocker Cassidy Dolin (who prepped at Tulare Union), 5-7 outside hitter Emily Soto (Tehachapi) and 5-7 defensive specialist-turned-setter Aubrey Cardoza (Mission Oak) from a team that went 23-10 overall and finished second behind Fresno City College in the Central Valley Conference at 11-5 last season.
Dolin contributed 156 kills and 69 blocks last season, while Soto had 200 kills and Cardoza provided 181 digs and 133 assists.
Also back is 5-2 defensive specialist Peighton Sisk (El Diamante), who missed all but six matches last season because of a hip injury that necessitated a medical redshirt.
Rix and assistants Lindsay Hall and Aaron Gardner welcome aboard 10 other freshmen, headed up by 5-11 outside hitter Christa Pilgrim (Mission Oak), 5-2 libero Alexis Carmona (Madera) and 5-10 right side Jillian Nyberg (Redwood).
Pilgrim, Carmona and Nyberg are expected to join Dolin, Soto and Cardoza in the Giants initial starting lineup Wednesday.
Other newcomers include 5-8 outside hitter/middle blocker Madison Sousa (Hanford West), 5-6 defensive specialist Haley Jensen (Kingsburg), 5-11 outside hitter/right side Karen Rodriguez (Kingsburg), 5-8 right side/setter Grace McCann (Lemoore), 5-9 middle blocker Mikayla Grimes (Edison), 5-8 setter Sydney Guinn (Exeter) and 5-4 defensive specialist/setter Eryn Christensen (Lemoore).
The team consists of players from five counties (Tulare, Kings, Fresno, Madera and Kern) and represents nine different towns.
"I like the fact that we have players from all different areas and backgrounds," Rix said. "This is what college is about, taking kids from different areas and making them one unit."
COS' home debut is set for Friday (Aug. 31) when it hosts Bakersfield at noon and Cuesta at 2 p.m. The Giants open CVC play Sept. 12 at Cerro Coso.
"This is a group that wants to learn. They want to be good and they work hard," Rix said. "Now everyone has that desire to win, but are you willing to put in the work to win. And I think these girls are. They worked their tails off over the summer. They are a special group of girls for sure."