Men’s volleyball will have a target on their back as the quest to repeat as state champions begins.
Despite starting last season with a 4-6 record, the Brahmas finished on a hot streak, winning ten straight games winning the California Community College Athletic Association State Championship.
For a program that won their 8th state championship, a new season comes with different expectations.
For head coach Lance Walker, the pressure to be the best is nothing new because every team across the region wants to beat Pierce. As a competitor, Walker embraces the feeling of being the team to beat.
“Nothing really changes whether we won the state championship or if we’re on a 15-year drought, everybody wants to beat Pierce and I love it,” Walker said. “It’s like being the Yankees, or being the Lakers. Everyone just wants to beat us.”
Grant DeGrasse, captain and outside hitter, has become accustomed to being the team everybody wants to beat and is ready for the ultimate challenge to get another championship ring on his finger.
“I think it’s cool to have that big target on our backs,” DeGrasse said. “I’ve always wanted to be a part of a team that people want to go after. Usually that’s the case when you are Pierce College, but that’s good and I’m looking forward to it.”
The road to repeat is not an easy one for the Brahmas, who are already facing adversity with losing key players from last year’s championship team including State Championship All-tournament players Morgan Wadlow, outside hitter, and Bernardo Roese, setter.
Competing for a title becomes even harder with both Long Beach and Orange Coast being inserted into the same conference as the Brahmas. Last year, they had to go through both of them to win the state title.
Walker is excited about this group because they are a smaller group but pointed out that they are hard workers and are willing to learn.
“I find that having 12 guys who are a bunch of good, hardworking teammates who will look after each other is better than just a ton of quantity,” Walker said. “Its quality over quantity.”
Some of the returning faces from last year’s team are Grant DeGrasse, Daniel Grogan, Brent Norkus and Evan Stevens.
According to Walker, Grogan was a midseason transfer from Pepperdine last year and a key component to helping them win the state championship.
Walker believes that Stevens is a great moral compass for the team. According to Walker, when Pierce was turned into an evacuation shelter, Stevens was one of the first to volunteer with the Red Cross and help victims that were affected by the Woolsey fire.
DeGrasse said that Norkus is the middle blocker and stands at a towering six feet nine inches.
“He is pretty huge,” DeGrasse said. “He is going to be a big force for us on offense and defense.”
Some of the newcomers this year consist of Scott Bender, Wyatt Bates, Joshua Giron and Gene Kim.
Walker said he coached Bender’s two older brothers.
“[Scott] is the last of the Bender’s,” Walker said. “He’s just a good guy from the core and he’s just a freshman.”
DeGrasse had high praise for rookie outside hitter Wyatt Bates who graduated from Hart High School in Valencia.
“He has such a high volleyball IQ,” DeGrasse said. “Just to be on the court with someone who really knows what’s going on is a pretty reassuring feeling.”
Freshman setter Gene Kim is taking over for Bernardo Roese and Walker said those are some big shoes to fill but he is confident that Kim is going to do a great job for them.
Joshua Giron, middle blocker, is coming in as the youngest on the team and wants to prove to the team that he has a great work ethic.
“My job is to encourage everyone and remind them that what they achieved last year can be done again if we all have a winning mentality,” Giron said.
Giron said that DeGrasse is the veteran everyone looks up to and that his leadership is what stands out about him.
“So far he’s done a great job helping out his teammates to improve with both mental and physical parts of the game,” Giron said.