LANCASTER - New sport. High expectations.
The Marauder men's volleyball team opens its first-ever season when it travels to Fullerton College, another school entering its first year in the sport.
The Marauders are led by head coach Mark Cruz, who isn't in his first season of collegiate coaching. Cruz also coaches the women's volleyball team and the women's beach volleyball team.
"I'm honored to be part of history in the Antelope Valley. With the first year of men's volleyball, it's exciting to see the sport grow in our own backyard," Cruz said. "For years local guys had to commute to junior colleges to continue playing their sport. I'm looking forward to seeing how we do this inaugural season."
AVC will sport several new faces and will rely on Cruz' experience to help potentially guide them to the school's first-ever conference championship in the sport.
But it won't be easy.
Of its 12 rostered players, only one has any type of collegiate experience, which is Santa Monica transfer Timothy Porter. The rest are all new freshmen, many straight out of high school.
Porter played in all the Corsairs' matches in 2014 before redshirting in 2015, but now is back and ready to be the leader of the Marauders. He finished the season with 57 blocks, ranking him No. 14 in the state and 38 kills.
"It's different from my past when I was the new guy. It's a different role. It's new for everyone. It's a fresh start and I'm enjoying taking the leadership role," Porter said. "Hopefully I can help lead a fresh, new team to something that no one is expecting. We're raw, but we're improving."
AVC will be part of the Western State-North Division, including Pierce College, Moorpark College and Santa Barbara City College. That bodes well for teh Marauders as the other side of the conference in the South Division are defending state champions, Long Beach City College, Santa Monica and El Camino College.
Last season when the conference had only one division, Long Beach, Santa Monica and El Camino, finished 1-2-3. However, the Marauders will be tested this season when they face Long Beach, in addition to San Diego Mesa College, which ended the season as another ranked team.
"I think we have a good start to the program with all the hard working guys we have in the gym," Cruz said. "I know we will take some lumps, but I know that we will learn from them and it will get us one step closer to becoming successful."
It's not as though AVC won't sport any talent.
In addition to Porter, newcomers include Gerardo Villarreal, Jonathan Atianzar, Devon Carr and Austin Borja. Villarreal and Atianzar were All-Golden League performers in 2016 as was Borja in 2015. Carr was a first teamer in the Gold Coast League last season.
"We have the talent, we just have to develop it," Porter said. The guys a super excited to start the season. Hopefully we will bring volleyball back to the valley. I know the first game is going to give us goose bumps."