Big challenge awaits in the Big West


JJ Reed/The Runner

Senior Beach Volleyball players Brianna Mariner (10) and Mattison DeGarmo (15) in action in their match against Westcliff University on March 19, 2019.

By Chris Burdick, Assistant Sports Editor

Bump, set, spike! The recipe for success for numerous volleyball teams.

And whether it be on the sand or on the court, the CSU Bakersfield women’s volleyball team is looking to compete with the best in the Big West.

The Roadrunners beach volleyball team is lead by head coach Cesar Benatti.

Benatti has been with the CSUB volleyball program for the past five years, serving as an assistant coach for the indoor volleyball team and was given the head coaching position of the beach volleyball team in June 2016.

Benatti has had a successful career in professional volleyball in Brazil as a player until he retired in 2000 and began his coaching career as an assistant for the Esporte Clube Pinheiros. While there, Benatti was apart of a coaching staff that won two state and two metropolitan area championships in 2006 and 2007.

This season, CSUB’s beach volleyball team is a young team with a lot of promise. With a roster of nine underclassmen and only three juniors and three seniors, coach Benatti claims that the youth of the players has come with a lot of positives to this program’s overall future.

“I’d say we have a better group of people,” Benatti said. “They are more committed and more identified with the program and our values and our mission. They understand what we are and what we are trying to do.”

This season, the Roadrunners have a new number one pairing with seniors Brianna Mariner and Mattison DeGarmo.

Pairing together for the first time, Mariner and DeGarmo both said their goal for this beach volleyball season is to focus on making each other better, making memories with the team and leading the young team by example.

“It’s a big thing for us to lead by example,” Mariner said. “Our coaches do a really good job at holding us accountable of our values and what our program has to offer so it’s up to us to try to follow through and set the example for our younger teammates.”

Last season, Mariner bounced around the rankings quite a bit but played in every match and ended her beach season with a record of 9-16. Mariner paired mainly with former teammate, Aleksandra Djordjevic, as the team had a record of 8-13 together, including big wins in last years Big West Challenge against Sacramento State University and against rival California State University Northridge.

DeGarmo had a very successful beach season in 2018 with her partner Emily Lopes. DeGarmo and Lopes were ranked as the number three pairing and ended the season with a record of 11-15, sitting at 10th in school history in wins in a single season. The pair were able to also beat team rival CSUN four times last year, including beating them in the Big West Challenge last season in two sets 21-14, 21-17.

“I feel like something happens every day,” DeGarmo said. “With so many girls out here it’s just fun to be outside. You develop petty rivalries between each other and I think that the memories we make playing each other last just as long as the ones where we are playing teams like Northridge.”

The team has an overall record of 5-6 coming into the 2019 Big West Challenge, including a tough 4-1 win against rival CSUN on March 2.

The Roadrunners are looking forward to facing rival CSUN again for the third time this year, as well as some unfamiliar opponents like University of California, Davis.

“This tournament is really good for us.” Benatti said. “It’s right in the middle of the season and it gives us a good look at where we are. That way we can do future evaluations on how we want to end the season. This year I think we are in a better position going into the Big West Challenge to compete with these teams and get better.”

“I’m excited,” Mariner said. “It’s really fun seeing everyone again. Everyone is at a different level than they were before and it’s just a super competitive tournament.”

The Big West Challenge starts this Friday, March 29 in Pismo Beach, California. The Roadrunners will have a chance to face every team in the Big West conference, with their first match scheduled for 11 a.m. against the Cal Poly University Mustangs.