Flying High: Women’s volleyball set school program record for conference awards


Xavier Zamora

The Cal State LA bench celebrate their fourth set win during their match against Cal Poly Pomona at the University Gym on Saturday, September 24, 2022. The Golden Eagles would go on to lose against the Broncos by two points in the 5th set.

Braylin Collins, Sports Editor

The Cal State LA women’s volleyball team concluded a historic regular season with a school program record of eight conference awards, including CCAA Coach of the Year for Head Coach Juan Figueroa. 

The volleyball program has seen nothing but success since Figueroa took over in 2017. Since then, the team has a record of 98 wins and 43 losses, averaging almost 20 wins a season. The only season they had less than 20 wins was in 2017. 

A key component to every successful team is buying into the program and a culture that creates a sense of family. Figueroa believes that is what separates this team from teams he has coached in the past.

“When [the players] came into the program, they knew what to expect,” Figueroa said. “We have been successful in recent years, so that is what set the standard. We have been focused on being more disciplined and giving our best effort every night.” 

Shifting from a program that battled against tough conference opponents to having 15 shutout wins this season, the change in culture has turned into dominance. The team posted an impressive 16-2 conference record and claimed the CCAA Conference championship outright for the first time since 2000. 

Since Figueroa took over, this season’s success was not a guarantee. Last season, the program graduated five seniors that were the core of the team’s success. However, the young players that have been added to the program have made huge contributions this year–-a surprise that even the coach didn’t expect.

“I knew that I was bringing in some really good players, but I didn’t know they were going to be that good, that fast,” he said. 

One of the young players that has made a huge impact on the team is freshman Jameson Sanders. Sanders came into the program highly decorated with her accolades from volleyball at Heritage High School. Her success on the court has carried over into the collegiate level, earning All-Conference Honorable Mention this season. 

Sanders is extremely thankful to play the sport she loves at such a high, competitive level and for the trust that her teammates and coaches have in her ability.

“I am grateful for the chance Coach Figueroa gave me to prove myself and earn a starting position. Knowing that the coaches and my team believes in me has helped my confidence and improved my game,” she said. 

So far, Sanders has 96 assists, 38 service aces, and 269 digs, creating 43 points for the Golden Eagles this season. 

Along with Sanders, the Golden Eagles have six other all-conference award-winning athletes on the roster. Iane Henke and Emily Elliot (first team), Eliza Cannon and Ashley Dittman (second team), and Ayjah Landers and Shelby Grubbs (Honorable Mention). Grubbs also won the Elite 13 Award for the second year in a row. 

As far as Figueroa, this is his first time being awarded Conference Coach of the Year. He has also twice won the Coach of the Year Award at the Cal State LA athletic awards. 

He credits his staff and players as the reason he won.

“This is like a team award,” he said. “Usually, the teams at the top are the ones that get this. We’ve been getting better and better every year. Without Coach Crimes and the players on the team, I wouldn’t be in this position. This isn’t mine, it’s ours.”

The Golden Eagles volleyball team will next be in action in the NCAA Volleyball Tournament as the #3 seed in the West Region. They will face Sonoma State this Thursday at Western Washington University.