California Hosts 1st DII All Star Camp
California Hosts 1st DII All Star Camp
California (and UN Reno) hosted its first-ever all-star assembly, giving women from DII Southern California and West Coast conference the opportunity to train and play at a higher level. Former Humboldt coach Evi Ashenbrucker, who is currently en route to Notre Dame College for her new post, was the organizing voice in this venture, and she hands the torch to several young, dedicated coaches firmly rooted in the region.
“We wanted to provide an opportunity for these athletes to train in an environment that could simulate an elite camp, albeit a condensed one, and we were able to do that,” Ashenbrucker affirmed. “The athletes provided positive feedback on the structure and quality of instruction at the camp, and for many, it was their first time addressing aspects of the game off the field such as goal-setting and accelerating team development in the classroom using mental toughness strategies. We are incredibly pleased to have established the program this year and look to build on its success in the future.”
An all-female coaching staff, ranging from NorCal High School All Star coach (and Humboldt alum) Bean Cline, to WPL San Diego Surfers’ Vivian Hansen led 37 women from 11 DII programs (except for DI Chico State, which filled for some last-minute cancellations). The players ran through a morning skills assessment and fitness test, then were divided into two squads – Kalemoney and BoomSquad – for the remainder of camp. In advance of Sunday’s match, Humboldt flyhalf Kiana Hargreaves and CSU Northridge prop Ciarra Waters-Mullen were named Kalemoney captain and vice captain, respectively; while UN Reno’s Karla Navarette and Humboldt’s Meredith Conrad-Forrest were named Boomsquad’s skipper and vice captain.
“It was important to get girls collaborating who are typically playing against each other all season long; for example, Krista Miller and Ciarra Waters-Mullen, who have faced off against each at playoffs for their entire collegiate careers,” Ashenbrucker said of the Northridge and Humboldt props. “Those two were able to run the Kalemoney front row together, and it was a force. Another example is Karla Navarette, who is a fierce and boisterous leader. Seeing her working with Meredith as her vice captain was great. The two have very different yet incredibly complementary leadership styles, and it came together very well to balance the BoomSquad throughout the match.”
A nice showdown evolved between the teams’ fullbacks, both of which were playing #15 for the first time in their careers. Kalemoney MVP SK Amaro opened up the second half with back-to-back tries, while her opposite, Kaydee Valliere, “showcased her speed and drive, as she tracked and chased every other line-break, and executed near-perfect tracking to stop the scores,” Ashenbrucker reported.
Other memorable performances came from BoomSquad MVP Jenna Balestra, who helped lead her team to a 48-17 win with three tries – one of which was an intercept try. The Fresno State outside center was a monster on defense as well. Melissa Valdez was an absolute workhorse, as well, and really pushed the pace throughout the match.
“It was great to see some players coming from the less experienced programs in our league and watching them thrive on the field when surrounded by other standout athletes,” Ashenbrucker said.
A positive experience all around, California hopes to make the all-star assembly a regular fixture on the dense collegiate schedule. Although Ashenbrucker is relocating to Euclid, Ohio, for the next few seasons, there are plenty of invested California natives ready to keep the all-star program alive and well.
View more photos from the DII all-star camp here.
|1||Ciarra||Waters-Mullin (vc)||CSU Northridge|
|6||Ashley||Von Bargen||Chico State|
|15||SK||Amaro||CSU Northridge - MVP|
|4||Jessica||Lew Munoz||Santa Clara|
|13||Jenna||Balestra||Fresno State - MVP|
|17||Anastasia||Berger||UC Santa Cruz|