Sunshine Westside, Class of 2023
In the fall of 2015, a group of eager and excited young 10 and 11-year-olds dreamed of playing for Sunshine Volleyball. These girls made their way onto the Sunshine 11 Firecrackers coached by Chris and Tillman. They experienced their first real travel season of club volleyball in 2016 by gaining skills and making long-lasting friendships.
The 11 Firecrackers competed in local Anaheim SCVA tournaments, qualifiers in Los Angeles and Dallas, and ended the season playing in their first Junior Nationals in Indianapolis! Next to come was taking on the 12 Westside team coached by Lenka and Katie. During this year, the girls began to jump-serve and master communication on the court. They continued to compete locally and traveled to Las Vegas and Reno, where they took home the bronze medal! The team was coming together.
As the girls grew more dominant on the court, they earned a bid to Junior Nationals and competed in Minneapolis to end the season. The next year came quickly for the new 13 Westside in the fall of 2017! The team saw some new faces and talent and was coached by Robe and Sydney. The team had a solid year and the level of competition was on the rise. Headed into their 14s season on Sunshine 14 Westside, the girls knew they were up for a challenge. Tryouts were more competitive, the girls grew more skilled, and coaches Stephanie and Brandon were ready to transform their game.
The girls took an early 3rd-place victory in their first NIT Kansas City tournament! With a lot of new talent joining the team, the girls flourished on the court but also grew even closer as friends off the court. They headed to Junior Nationals in Indianapolis to finish off the year strong with a winning streak. Now playing at a high level, the team ran straight into their 15s season, coached by Kyle and Tracee. This 15 Westside team started very strong in 2019, but almost 2 months into 2020, practices came to a halt. By March 2020, Covid-19 had shut down all schools, meaning there was nowhere to practice, and everyone needed to stay home and be safe. However, that did not stop the team from staying in shape for when they would return to hopefully play their 16s season the next fall. The coaches held Zoom workouts most days of the week allowing the girls to keep up their cardio and strength for when the gyms would open back up.
At the start of Fall 2020, Sunshine began masked practices at Classic Components in Torrance, California. With some girls leaving the team after the 15s season, some new faces appeared at tryouts. Three girls: Riley Green, Eloise Mcgibben, and Chidera Chuckwumerije, began traveling from Santa Barbara to train and commit to the 16 Westside team. They fell right into place with the team and were adored by everyone for their happy spirit and dedication. After such a difficult way to end the last season, there was a new spirit in the team.
This team only included 2 of the Sunshine 11 Firecrackers but was filled by many who joined as players on the 13, 14, and 15 Westside teams. Coached by Katie and Amanda and with the assistance of Cari, Tuan, and Alex, this team saw a lot of success after some of the hardest work they had ever put in. Practices became much faster paced, and the girls saw their work paying off when they won the Far Western Tournament in Reno, NV. They went 9-0 and brought home gold medals and a bid to Junior Nationals. They continued to play strong through the end of the season, especially in big pressure moments with college coaches surrounding the courts. The girls finished out JOs playing competitively and are ready to continue the next season.
Soon the team became 17 Westside coached by Alex, Nicole, and Drew. Despite whatever hardships or obstacles were thrown at the team, the girls persevered to play together on the court and support each other. The girls began to commit to D1 and D3 schools, helping them see a clear future and gain confidence. The team ended the season feeling very bonded together, but also filled with nostalgia, as many girls decided to leave the team or the sport altogether. Heading into their senior year season, the 17 Westside team saw 5 returners and 10 new and talented additions. Coached by Frankie and Nicole, this new team came together and grew close and strong in their final year, despite not being able to play together before.
The team saw early success with amazing finishes in all their tournaments including a bronze medal from the Salt Lake City Showdown, where they also earned their bid to Junior Nationals. With college right around the corner and the season-ending late April, the team practiced with hustle and intention, savoring every last minute. Last weekend, Sunshine 18 Westside made their final stop in Columbus, Ohio at Junior Nationals. The team played together in tough battles staying true to themselves. Looking back on all of the years of the Westside team starting with the 11 Firecrackers, the appearance of the team did change greatly. Still, only 2 original players remained: Alexa Trapani and Emily Suby, but every new face became a known face and an important one.
The final roster of the Westside team includes Serena Aarniokoski (MB), Natalie Babcock (RS), Katie Caras (DS/OH), Madison Clark (MB), Kendall Derivel (S), Taylor Dunlap (S), Eloise McGibben (MB), Tate Mercer (L/DS), Annelise Rising (OH), Jaida Sione (OH), Brooklyn Stearns (RS), Emily Suby (L/DS), Alexa Trapani (L/DS), Morgan Washington (MB), and Nicole Zake (OH/RS). Thank you to everyone who helped this team grow over the years, cheered them on, and allowed them to flourish into not only fantastic volleyball players but also people. Sunshine will always be in all of their hearts.