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Malie Kaanapu and the Lady Rams practice at the Gavilan College

Gavilan’s first-year women’s volleyball has coaches, players and
the school excited
Gilroy – Freshman Malie Ka-anapu had already planned on attending Gavilan because her parents live in Gilroy. But when her mom told her the school was starting a women’s volleyball program, it made the Seaside High graduate even more excited about her decision.

“I knew I wouldn’t have to wait to play,” said Ka-anapu, who originally had planned on playing club ball while at Gavilan in hopes of eventually going on to play for a four-year school.

In March, the Gavilan board of trustees unanimously approved the addition of a women’s volleyball program. In May, former San Jose State volleyball player and assistant coach Stephanie Pascucci was hired as head coach. On Wednesday, the nine members of the team put on their new white uniforms and took their first team picture in the Gavilan gym.

Gavilan athletic director Ron Hannon said he wanted to start a women’s volleyball program ever since he came to the school in 2001. Now, after about a year of planning and a total of $20,000 in grants from Calpine and South County Auto Group, the team is a week away from its first game.

“I’m just really excited to start and compete,” said Pascucci, who was a first-team All-WAC selection at San Jose State and played there from 1999-2002. “The goal for the season is to improve every time we step on the court.”

Because of the late hiring, Pascucci, a 24-year-old Southern California native, didn’t have a lot of time to recruit. Word of the new program was mainly spread through fliers on campus and newspaper articles. Many of her players have little experience on the court, which is a little different than what she’s used to. After graduation, Pascucci spent two years as an assistant coach at San Jose State and coached high school level players for Club Yahoo in San Jose.

“Not many have club or little to no experience with volleyball so I’m teaching the game of volleyball instead of refining skills,” Pascucci said.

“It’s challenging, but fun at the same time,” she added.

Breianna Hernandez, who graduated from San Benito High in 1997, is getting the chance to play the sport she didn’t have the opportunity to do in high school. Hernandez attended San Francisco State after high school but left after a few semesters. Playing on the volleyball team is part of her new start at Gavilan.

“I want to enjoy school and this is one of the things that makes me happy,” she said. “It’s been really fun. I’m enjoying my time with the girls.”

Four years ago, Shanna Silveira and Nadine Gorena both played for the Golden Oak volleyball club in Morgan Hill. Silveira went on to play for Gilroy High and Gorena played for San Benito. Both graduated in May and have now been reunited on the Gavilan squad.

“I thought (my volleyball career) was over after college,” Silveira said. Now she’s considering playing at a four-year school.

Both are glad to be continuing on in volleyball. And both are excited about playing for Pascucci and the two assistant coaches Rachel Dahlstedt and Jeanine Haldi, who also played at San Jose State.

“It’s cool because they just got out of college and played so they know what they’re doing,” Silveira said.

According to Hannon, the players have bought into Pascucci’s competitive philosophy, which he was a little worried about in the beginning. When he asked the young coach what her plan was for the start of the season, he worried she might be too ambitious with her inexperienced squad.

“She said ‘I want to go two-a-days (for practice),'” he said. “I’m thinking, this is maybe three years from now a good thing to do. You don’t want to scare players away.”

But even after that grueling first week, everyone stayed.

“It blows my mind,” Hannon said.

“That’s the commitment she developed and instilled in place from Day 1.”

Now all that’s left to do is play the games.

The Rams were supposed to open their season at home against Contra Costa Wednesday, but Hannon said it is most likely going to be canceled because Contra Costa doesn’t have enough players on its team. It that’s the case, the team’s first game will be at Los Medanos next Friday.

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