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September 12
Coaches Talk Off the Field Academics
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The Giants football coaching staff kicked off last Saturday what they anticipate will be a challenging but winning year on the field for the team, what with a conference shake-up and some talented opponents ahead. Sitting down before the season’s start, Head coach Irv Pankey and assistant coach Joe D’Agostino opened up about the academic commitments made to the student-athletes off the field.

The coaches recognize that the majority of students, including their players, come to College of the Sequoias to build a foundation that they will use to advance to four-year schools. Therefore, they are dedicated to propelling student-athletes onward and hopefully with some scholarship money, too.

The Giants coaching staff ensures their student-athletes have access to extra programs and resources such as math and English skills labs, study halls, academic counselors, priority registration and the Disabilities Resource Center (DRC), which was created in 1975 with the goal of supporting students with physical, communication, psychological and learning disabilities.

Beaming like a proud team patriarch, Pankey said that COS has, “always done a great job getting kids out,” in reference to last school year’s placement of 20 out of 21 sophomores in four-year schools across the country. D’Agostino, barely able to contain his own pride, named a number of colleges and universities hosting COS alumni this school year including those in Kansas, Missouri, the Carolinas and California. The coaches said at least 75 percent of those student-athletes left with scholarships in-hand. That rate jumps to roughly 90 percent (placement of sophomores with scholarships) when tracking back as far as 2007.

Retention of freshmen players benefits because of COS’ reputation for placing sophomores. The coaches explained that placing student-athletes after two years at COS, instead of one, is a much easier task.

Losing players after just two years requires the team to rebuild regularly but the coaches see that as an opportunity. Though last year’s team split about fifty-fifty between players from the local region and players from further away, regenerating the team allowed the coaches to focus on recruiting an even bigger community presence. “The community wanted lots of local representation,” said Pankey, and the staff aimed to please. The 2014 team boasts about two-thirds local players recruited between Madera and Bakersfield such as returning player, Jeremy Gomez (Dinuba), pictured above in a 2013 game.

“I’m excited to get going on an exciting season,” Pankey said in closing.

Wish our Giants luck this Saturday, September 13, as they travel to Quincy, CA to battle the Feather River Golden Eagles.

September 07
COS Falls in Overtime

In their first football game of the season the College of the Sequoias fell to Foothill College 27-24 in overtime. COS was down 21-3 at the start of the fourth quarter when they scored 21 unanswered points. Their scoring started with 12:57 left in the fourth quarter when Brandon Hudgins returned a punt for 64 yards to cut the Foothill lead to 21-10. With the COS defense holding Foothill to three and out on their ensuing possession COS received the ball back with 10:22 left in the game. COS started on their own 23 yard line.

Raul Alvarez led the scoring drive completing three of his four pass attempts for 73 yards and running the ball in from one yard out to cut the lead to 21-17. The COS defense held Foothill to another three and out on their ensuing possession. COS started their final scoring drive on the Foothill 47 with 6:59 left in the game. Raul Alvarez went three for three for 46 yards and finished the scoring drive with a one yard rushing touchdown to take the lead 24-21 with 5:42 left in the game.

Foothill came back to tie the game with a field goal from 32 yards by Luke Vereschagin with 1:15 left in the game. COS received the ball first in overtime and drove to the Foothill 8 yard line. Foothill’s defense held COS to no yards on the first two plays and on third down Darrien Hamberry sacked Raul Alvarez for a loss of 15 yards to the Foothill 23. On fourth down Sergio Hernandez’s 40 yard field goal was wide left. On their possession Foothill marched down to the COS 7 yard line where Luke Vereschagin made a 24 yard field goal to give Foothill a 27-24 win. Raul Alvarez finished 26-39 for 331 yard passing.

August 19
Who's Ready for Some Giants Sports Action?

Your favorite Fall sports are working hard to give fans a good showing at the first games, matches and meets of the season. Student-athletes are in class studying for the Fall semester, which started August 11. And they are back on the field practicing; practices started as early as the 1st of August.

Follow COS Athletics on our Facebook page for links to stories about Giants student-athletes on and off the field (featured here on the Blog). 

Checkout the Events tab on our Facebook page for a calendar of upcoming games and Athletics events (also available on each team's page of the COS Athletics website).

For a quick glimpse of what's coming up first this season:

  • The Men's Soccer team plays their inaugural game on the road against Ohlone on Friday, August 29, at 1:30pm.

  • Women's Soccer kicks off (pardon the pun) at the Oxnard Sea Breeze Tournament on Saturday, August 30 and 31.

  • Cross Country men and women open at Woodward Park for the Fresno Invitational, Saturday, September 6, starting at 8:30am.

  • Giants Football goes up against the Foothill College Owls on Saturday, September 6, 7:00pm from the Mineral King Bowl.

  • Women's Volleyball​ rounds up the Saturday, September 6 events against Reedley College in Reedley, time TBD.

Go Giants!

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July 29
Championships and Challenges, Swimming with Josh Avila
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While we retreat to the pool to escape the Central Valley summer heat, let us spend a little time getting to know returning COS swimmer Josh Avila. Avila finished last year’s season at the State Swim & Dive Championships with a personal best of 4:18.07 in the Men’s 400 Yard Individual Medley (IM); the event that combines four different strokes. Going into the meet, he was seeded 12th in the state and placed 11th at the May Championships.

Avila got an early start as a Giant. Home schooled through 12th grade, he doubled-up to finish high school early and start COS during the Fall 2013 semester. He is interested in getting into business and hopes to finish at COS with a business degree and move ahead to a school in the University of California system. His top picks are UC Santa Barbara and UC San Diego; Avila wants to stay in California.

The Visalia-native says, “It all depends,” when it comes to swimming at the UC level. He may focus solely on academics. Right now however, his goal is maintaining a good record in his classes and his swimming. Although he’s not shy about the idea of running for office, at least at COS. He comes by it honestly, inspired by one of his three older sisters to try candidacy in the Student Senate. All of Avila’s sisters are former Giants and all participated in some form or fashion with Associated Student Body (ASB).

Swimming came naturally, too. Avila says he started at about age six. “I just jumped into the pool and started swimming,” he says. “Apparently I just knew how to swim right off the bat.” By 11, he started on the Visalia Waves​ team.

Avila described the Championships at East Los Angeles College as, “a tough challenge,” but speaking with him, it becomes apparent that his “challenge” threshold is significantly higher than most. Avila’s preferred swimming stroke is the breaststroke, but when COS Swimming Head Coach Tracy Myers observed his endurance, she put him on the IM. Swimming competitively for about five or six years, that fortitude built up with year-round club swimming on the local TNT​ competitive team.

To future Aqua Giants, Avila says with hard work and practice, “After awhile you’ll start to be able to swim faster without trying so hard.” 

July 16
COS Celebrates “Grand Reopening” of Tennis Courts
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This week marked the official “grand reopening” and ribbon cutting for the refinished tennis courts at the College of the Sequoias Visalia campus. The project is part of a total 21 projects and over $200,000 in funding spearheaded by the COS Foundation, which is an independent nonprofit organization cultivating and allocating public resources to school interests.

Tuesday’s event was attended by student athletes, community members, and COS staff and supporters including COS Superintendent and President Stan Carrizosa and Foundation Board President Sherrie Bell.

Foundation Director Tim Foster opened the ceremonies, introducing the resurfacing of the nine courts as one of the ways in which the school is, “reinvesting in meaningful ways,” with valuable contributions from the surrounding area.

Athletic Director Brent Davis thanked those who have supported the tennis courts project specifically and the athletic program overall, including among others, the community, the COS Foundation, tennis coach Jay Johnson, and school administrators and staff.

Davis then took the opportunity to brag about the student athletes of Giants tennis who accumulated a series of honors this year. He was most proud to announce the women’s tennis team’s naming as All Academic Team by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA)​. The Giants are one of seven teams honored across the nation for their academic achievements.

Also honored for their academic performance, three of the student athletes were named to the Big 8 Conference Academic All Conference women’s team, five were named as ITA Scholar Athletes, and two were selected as Big 8 Conference All Conference team members for their athletic abilities.

Wrapping up the addresses, Carrizosa offered his, “heartfelt thanks,” for, “the investments the community adds,” on top of state funding. He described this exceptional support as the requirement to take a community college from, “good to great.”

After the ribbon cutting by Davis, Johnson, Carrizosa, Bell, and team members (pictured above, left to right), guests enjoyed a lunch spread as the tennis team volleyed a bit to demonstrate the new courts.

July 04
Happy 4th of July from COS Athletics!

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COS Athletics wishes you all a happy and healthy Independence Day!

June 29
Akeem Alexander Invited to USA Track & Field Team

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COS student athlete Akeem Alexander completed a big week last week and there is more to come. He was invited to be a part of the Under 23 USA Track & Field national team. Alexander has accepted the invite, which was offered due to his performance at the USA Track & Field Outdoor Championships in Sacramento, and presumably, his previous achievements.

Alexander competed in the Championships on Thursday, in the Friday preliminaries, and then Saturday in the finals of the 400-meter race. This schedule is different than that of the usual community college meet and that, Alexander thinks, fatigued his legs causing him to falter in the last turn of the finals race. He suffered a leg cramp and was unable to finish.

The 19-year-old’s record speaks for itself though, despite what happened on Saturday. He is the 2013 and 2014 California Community College champion in the 400-meter race. He placed first in the 2014 California State Championship in the same event.

Alexander, a 2012 graduate of Madera High School, will have a chance to compete for team USA during the North American Central America Caribbean Under 23 track and field championships. At least 25 countries will bring their athletes to the competition, which will be held in Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada this August 8-10.

We look forward to seeing much more from this Giants track star!

June 24
COS Names New Volleyball Head Coach

COS volleyball enjoyed a 15-season run with head coach Pete Rasmussen. In the 2014 season though, Rasmussen is passing the torch to assistant coach, Kimberly Steele Rix, who will now serve as the team’s head coach. Rix, who coached under Rasmussen for nine seasons and played for him for three, is honored to follow in his footsteps; “he was my mentor.”

“I’m really excited,” says Rix of her new position, admitting she hoped COS would choose her to lead the team. She says it’s an added benefit to the players, to have someone who understands Rasmussen’s style and strategy and can offer continuity during this change. Rix is also happy to have her assistant coaches, “two great guys,” Patrick Buyayo and George Ghattas at her side.

The team has done well in previous seasons, Rix says. She is optimistic for this coming season and plans to use it as an opportunity to re-energize the program. A handful of players will return to the team and the rest is composed of a new group of women, mainly from the area and close surrounding towns with one coming south to us from Washington state.

Rix abides by the philosophy of, “work hard and play hard.” She says what really makes the team great is, “the girls I’ve got are there to play volleyball… they want to play,” and they, “want to win.”

The season officially kicks off in the fall, with practice starting in August, but the volleyball team is not idle. Rix says that they are involved in a conditioning class taught by Joe D’Agostino, Giants football assistant coach. The class is part of a new program at COS Athletics. It involves weight and circuit training and other exercise to keep the student athletes ready for their respective seasons.

Congratulations Coach Rix!

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June 24
Giants Volleyball Meets Miss California Pageant

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This week, just minutes away in Fresno, two COS ladies are competing for the 2014 Miss California crown: Miss Central Valley Blaire Bostwick (left) and Miss Tulare County Tara Broderick (right). The Miss California winner will move on to the Miss America competition—and lest we novices find ourselves confused, this is separate from the Miss California USA pageant, which feeds the Miss USA competition.

Giants volleyball fans may recognize Broderick from the 2013 COS team; the freshman held the defensive specialist position under head coach Pete Rasmussen. Alas, Broderick will not be showing off her net skills as her talent, instead she will perform ballet. Her platform is one of anti-bullying, for which she authored a children’s book.

Bostwick is promoting A Heart for Service, an organization she founded to network Central Valley volunteers with non-profits needing their help. She will sing as her talent.

Both ladies say they have grown in confidence through participation in the Miss California organization.

Starting tonight, Broderick and Bostwick join five other San Joaquin Valley women in the competition, which is being held at the Saroyan Theatre. A total of 52 contestants must demonstrate skills in education, leadership, service, and talent through Saturday night’s conclusion.

Good luck lady Giants!

Photos courtesy of Miss California organization Pinterest.

June 18
“Flying Through the Air” with Michael Benedetta

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When last I spoke with COS diver Michael Benedetta, he was off to compete in the State Championships​. Benedetta came away from the meet with All America honors, medaling 6th on the 3 meter and 8th on the 1 meter. That wound up a great season that had a rough start, his first at COS, stuck on land after the first two weeks with a concussion requiring him to sit out a week and relearn what he’d missed.

The El Diamante High School grad started his journey toward the competitive diving board on the hunt for something that would keep him busy, challenge him with variety, and have the added benefit of relaxing a sometimes angry younger self. Living in Orange County prior to transplanting to Visalia with his aunt and uncle at 10 years old, Benedetta was in the Foster Care system. He says sports always seemed like a good outlet for stress, and he competed in football and wrestling as well. Having clearly exorcised any frustrations, he says his favorite part of diving, “is flying through the air,” and the drop time between sky and water; “that’s the best part.”

“Coming from my background,” Benedetta says he wants to help people in his career. He is studying business administration at COS and plans to take a few criminology classes and with his degree, enroll in the COS Police Academy.

Off-campus, Giants fans might run into 18-year-old Benedetta at one of his three jobs: Henry Salazar’s, Black Bear Diner, and coaching at Redwood High School, offered by diving coach Diedra Alves. He commends his uncle for providing him an example of hard work. Benedetta says he hardly saw his uncle when they first moved to Visalia, but that was because his uncle was either hard at work providing for the family or holed up in the office working to get his degree online so he could provide even more. “That’s a good role model for me,” says Benedetta. “Do the hard work that’s necessary no matter how long it takes or how hard it is on you.”

Hard work may not be the way to improve Benedetta’s swimming abilities, however, and he jokes about his sparse stroke skills. “I’ve actually had swimmers try to teach me to swim and they’re like, ‘I give up; you’re hopeless.’ I can swim from wherever I land to the edge of the pool and that’s good enough.”

Benedetta promises to be back on campus and in the pool next year, “assuming no injuries,” he laughs.

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Welcome to the College of the Sequoias Athletics blog. We appreciate all the parents, fans, local and campus community support that make Giant Athletics a major player in community colleges throughout the state.