EDITOR’S NOTE — Three students from Professor John Kerezy’s MJS 2070 sports reporting class have written profiles on members of Cuyahoga Community College’s Triceratops volleyball team. The team will travel to compete in the National Junior College Athletic Association’s Region XII tournament, beginning Thursday at St. Clair County Community College in Port Huron, Mich.
Anthony Cipollone, Executive Director of Athletics at Cuyahoga Community College, is happy for the volleyball program’s success.
“I am very excited about Coach (Tionne) El-Amin and the progress she has made this season,” Cipollone says. “She has a great future in coaching and with a full recruiting season this year, I look for this team to be competing at the top of the OCCAC. The team, with a good off-season of getting bigger and stronger, has the makings of a solid contender.”
Here are the students’ stories.
Future traveling nurse traveling to playoffs
By GREG SPITZ
Jynx Bretz is a freshman at Cuyahoga Community College and one of the captains for the Triceratops Women’s volleyball team.
The 5-foot-10-inch right-sider and defensive specialist from Crestwood High School, she has been playing volleyball since her middle school days, including six years for JO (club) volleyball and four years for her high school. Most college teams have concluded their seasons, but Bretz will continue her journey on a very good Tri-C team that is heading to the NJCAA Region XII tournament — starting from scratch this season after not playing for two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Our team is going to show grit and determination, play as one unit and advance in the playoffs.” Bretz said. “We are like a well oiled machine.”
Bretz, who wears No. 7, enjoys traveling with the team and coaches. She also appreciates the opportunity to meet girls with the same interests.
She almost didn’t go to college as she had been preparing to work for the Red Cross as a certified phlebotomist right out of high school. Her best friend and teammate Mackenzie Langford was determined to go to school at Tri-C, so Bretz thought it would be a good opportunity to do something they both love to do. The volleyball team is glad she did.
Bretz is one of the team’s top front-line performers in kills with 3.22 kills per set. She also has 58 total attacks to go along with her 1.44 digs per set, among squad leaders in both categories.
“Jynx is a great leader. With her being self motivated she often spreads that to the team pushing them to be better as well.” Head Coach Tionne El-Amin says. “She is very vocal and dedicated, working both on and off the court to improve her game.”
Bretz plans on becoming a traveling nurse, but first she will look to help Tri-C do well in the tournament that will be held at St. Clair Community College, which is located in Port Huron, Michigan November 3-5.
Spitz, married and the father of two boys, lives in Lakewood. Sports is his passion, and he’s squeezing the sport reporting class into his busy schedule. He’s lived in Cleveland and been a sports fan siince he was five years old.
Former Rockets DS now a Triceratops stopper
By RYAN BERNSTEIN
A key aspect to Cuyahoga Community College’s phenomenal volleyball comeback season in 2022-23 after a two-year layoff due to Covid-19 is the team’s excellent defense. And that starts on the court with Mallory Rice.
The team’s libero or defensive specialist (the player in the other colored jersey), Rice is frequently the focal point as she reacts to the opponent’s hits. She’s unafraid to end her digs flat on the ground if it leads to a good pass that sets up a spike for her front-line teammates.
Rice started playing volleyball in fifth grade at Streetsboro Middle School. In seventh grade, she decided to join the school team and play more competitively. She has loved it ever since.
After her middle school years, she continued playing at for the Rockets’ team at Streetsboro High School. Rice realized that volleyball was her calling and she chose to continue her game in college. On the court, she’s averaging 2.88 digs, 3 points, and .38 service aces per set for the Triceratops.
“Tri-C is a mix of everything that I wanted,” Rice says. “I wanted to stay close to home. I wanted to be on a competitive team. I didn’t want to travel far, and I get to stay home. We have a lot of workouts, but we’re not overdoing it.”
Like Rice, everyone on the Triceratops volleyball team is a newcomer to the program. That means there needed to be a significant investment of time in the players getting to know each other. That’s been a secret to the squad’s success, she adds.
“We all get along well because we have the same mindset of us wanting to study hard and compete athletically while we living at home,” she explains. “The schooling here is nice, and I just couldn’t ask for a better group of teammates.”
Tionne El-Amin, also a newcomer as Tri-C’s head volleyball coach, speaks highly of Rice.
“Mal is one of my top recruits and has lived up to my expectations for her,” El-Amin says. “She has a very high IQ, she’s dedicated and hard worker, which keeps her on top of her game and is helping to be one of the best defensive players on the team.”
For Rice, the sentiment towards her coaching staff is mutual.
“I think she’s terrific,” she says. “Coach T is a great person, a great player, and a great coach. She’s new and she’s working well with all of us. And we love her and Coach Shanyla (assistant) also.”
Cuyahoga Community College’s Triceratops have a record of 7-12 going into the National Junior College Athletic Association’s Region XII playoffs. Mallory Rice has great expectations for the team in the playoffs.
“I think we’ll do great. We’ve been building up to be a great team and we just haven’t gotten to that point just yet. But I think we’re going to leave it all out on the court, and I believe we can go far (in the tournament).”
What advice might Rice have for younger players going into volleyball?
“Just keep a level head, if you begin to think negatively, you’ll play worse,” she says. “Volleyball is a game where confidence and attitude will make a great difference in the outcome.”
Bernstein, a second-year student at Tri-C from Independence, is taking courses in news writing, social media, and sports reporting this semester.
Former Titan now “sets” up the Triceratops
By JOHNNY KILROY
Olivia Meany is a setter and a captain for the Cuyahoga Community College Triceratops. She is in her sophomore year, but due to Covid-19 wiping out the college’s athletics program for two seasons, like everyone else on the squad she’s in her first year playing volleyball at Tri-C. No stranger to the game, she’s competed in volleyball from middle school until graduation from Berea-Midpark High School in 2021.
Meany is averaging 3.75 assists per set to go with 1.63 digs, and has added in 0.38 kills per set this year. At Berea-Midpark High School, Meany recorded 205 assists and 141 digs in 62 sets.
Her best game this season came away against Clark State College, where Meany recorded 30 assists and 13 digs in a 3-2 loss.
But her last name applies only to Olivia with respect to Tri-C’s opponents at game time.
“She is sweet and kind, sometimes shy, but very effective on the court,” says Triceratops Volleyball Coach Tionne El-Amin about her captain. “Seeing that Livy is my only setter, she has a lot of responsibility and handles it very well. She has been the key to this season, and has led us to playoffs.”
Meany’s impact on Tri-C volleyball has not gone unnoticed. She considers it part of her job to be there for her teammates and help out whenever there is a problem.
“I am kind of friends with everybody on the team,” Meany explained. “I’m kind of there whenever they need someone to talk to, whenever there’s a problem, and I try to set a good example. I think we have bonded really well on this team”
As a setter, Meany usually isn’t the player in the spotlight scoring all the points. She says that she doesn’t get credit too often, but she is always going to be in her teammates’ ears hyping them up and offering words of encouragement.
“I think I stay really focused when I’m playing, and I never get too mad at myself or other players,” she added.
Coming from a high school team that was 1-19 her senior season (fall 2020), Meany is excited about the prospects of the Triceratops competing in the National Junior College Athletic Association Region XII Tournament.
“Being able to make it to the playoffs is awesome,” she said. “I’m really excited, and I think our team has gotten a lot better. We’ve really gotten our groove going in the last part of the season.”
As a second-year student, Meany hopes to graduate from Tri-C with her associate of science degree and transfer to a four-year school. “After not playing last year, this season has really brought back my love for volleyball,” she said, “I want to keep playing wherever I go next, even if it’s just club or intramurals.”
Kilroy is a hard working and open-minded first-year Tri-C student. He’s alsoo the field announcer for the Westlake varsity football, basketball and soccer.
Here is the link with some details about the NCJAA Region XII tournament, beginning on Thursday (11/3) http://www.njcaaregion12.org/tournaments/wvballA/2022-23/index
The Triceratops’ first game will be at 6 p.m. against St. Clair County Community College. Here’s a link if you cannot travel to Michigan but want to watch the team’s game live: http://www.njcaaregion12.org/tournaments/wvballA/2022-23/index#tournament-central