The Final Round: Volleyball, Soccer Programs End With Heartbreaking Losses


Courtesy of Andrea Vasquez/SJC Marketing, Public Relations and Government Affairs Department

Ivan Cruz (left) and Carlos Blasco (right) beat conference rival Angelina College on Oct. 20 to advance to the semi-finals. The Coyotes and the Lady Ravens lost their final bids to bring home national titles before the programs are permanently shut down.

Heartbreaking loss marked the final games of an emotional year for both San Jacinto College Women’s Volleyball and Men’s Soccer as the teams sought to advance to their national tournaments and bring home championship titles before the programs permanently shut down. 

Volleyball and soccer are two of the four competitive athletic programs the College is terminating at the end of the academic year as a result of a unanimous decision taken by the Board of Trustees last fall. In the spring, Men’s and Women’s Basketball will meet the same end when their seasons conclude.   

The volleyball team was one game away from clinching the runner-up spot to the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) national volleyball tournament but was defeated Nov. 3 in a 3-1 loss to Panola College. The Lady Ravens ended the season ranked 12th in the nation with an overall 26-7 record and 8-1 in conference play.

Similarly, Men’s Soccer suffered a 2-1 loss to Laredo Community College on Oct. 28 in the NJCAA District XIV semifinals. The Coyotes ended their season with a 13-4 overall record and 11-3 in conference play.

Going into the tournament, volleyball Head Coach Sharon Nelson was not distracted by the program’s looming end noting she and her players were focused on the upcoming matchup – which she characterized as a “dogfight.”

“We’ve had a tradition of success since the program started,” she said. “We can’t go in every game hoping someone higher up is watching to keep this program alive and have that be the deciding factor.”

Nelson reflected on the administration’s decision to close down the program and admitted the team “didn’t handle it very well” going into last year’s tournament. However, they were able to work past their feelings and return to play a fierce final season.

“No matter what,” she added, “when we step foot off the court it will be with no regrets – that we put everything out there that needed to be done.”

Likewise, Coyotes’ Head Coach Ian Spooner said his team faced the final season with a competitive spirit aimed at winning big.

“Even though it is our last year, we just have to make sure we end on a high note,” Spooner said. “So I guess there is more pressure maybe to finish on a high note than in the past – because there is always another year. With this year, it is win or bust.” 

Spooner reflected on his tenure at San Jac, both as the assistant coach and head coach, determining “it’s been good.” However, even with a roster of accomplishments under his belt Spooner claims one lingering sore spot he nurses is making it to the final four twice, but not returning with the national title.

“But all in all, I have been very successful as a young coach, and I think the future is bright for me,” he said. “And for the guys that have played under me.”

Meanwhile, echoing the sentiments of many in the community, San Jac student and longtime volleyball fan Robert Jeter said he is holding out hope the Administration will reverse its decision, and the four teams will be allowed to continue.

“I do believe these programs are worth saving and worth keeping,” he said.

Jeter recounted the student-athletes’ academic achievements including their high grade point averages and impressive 100 percent graduation rate. He highlighted their accomplishments on the court as well. 

“The basketball team goes to championships almost every year. The volleyball team was seeded number one going into the national tournament,” he said pointing to previous seasons.

“These teams get results,” Jeter concluded. “The College needs to get results for them.”


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