Watsonville High senior Camila Cardenas (20) was named the PCAL Santa Lucia division's Most Valuable Player for the 2019 season. (Juan Reyes — The Pajaronian)

WATSONVILLE — It’s been two years since Camila Cardenas set a goal for the Watsonville High girls’ volleyball team to capture its first league title in nearly a decade.

Cardenas, a senior outside hitter, was able to let out a sigh of relief after the Wildcatz beat Rancho San Juan High in three sets, 25-16, 25-8, 25-8, on Tuesday in Pacific Coast Athletic League Santa Lucia play.  

“I’m kind of shocked,” Cardenas said. “I can’t believe it because we haven’t done it before and possibly our year is going to be up there (on the banner) now.”

With the win, Watsonville ended a seven year title drought and clinched its first league championship since 2011. 

Cardenas finished with nine aces and eight kills for the Wildcatz, who improved to 12-1 in league play.

“I’m glad that I got to see these girls grow and be passionate about (volleyball),” Cardenas said. 

Cardenas said she believes the success won’t end this season and the younger players should continue the legacy moving forward.

“They love the sport, as well,” Cardenas said. “So, I think that’s what made us a great team and to get where we’re at right now.” 

Watsonville now has a 2 1/2 game lead over Trinity (9-5, 9-3), which plays Gonzales tonight in league action. 

Even if the Warriors win, the Wildcatz still have the advantage with the tiebreaker after winning the season series, 2-1. 

Winning the title does not guarantee a spot in the upcoming Central Coast Section playoffs. They have to play in a CCS play-in match against the second-place finisher in the PCAL Cypress division. 

Being a league champ, however, does help their hopes of clinching an at-large bid if they don’t win the play-in match. They’ve also played teams from tougher leagues such as Mt. Madonna of the Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League, which gives them more points in the playoff race.

Watsonville coach Tina Pendleton said she wasn’t going to tell the Wildcatz about clinching the league title. She said she wanted them to stay focused on the final two games of the regular season. 

“Tonight I told them they control their own destiny and I want to finish strong no matter what the outcome is,” Pendleton said. 

Pendleton said she was proud of them for getting that monkey off their back and having a chance to put this year’s team on the banner.

“I feel like they’re really my team and I’m really excited,” Pendleton said.

Cardenas said this year’s group has built a special bond and they’ve learned how to trust each other throughout the season. The Wildcatz began the season with two freshmen in the starting lineup—Nora Cole and Kaylani Trout-Lacy.

Cardenas said her job was to make them feel like they were part of the team from the get-go.

“And they’re at our level,” Cardenas said. “We brought in all these girls and we created a bond. I think that’s what keeps us communicating and keeps us being able to flow on the court.”

Trout-Lacy contributed 10 kills for the Wildcatz. She said winning a league title in her first year on the team was important to her.

“Plus, we haven’t won a league title in a pretty long time,” Trout-Lacy said. “So, just to be apart of that is amazing.”

Trout-Lacy said it was hard for her to get used to the speed of the game. She also thought there was no chance of her making the team.

“At first I thought I was going to quit but then the team really helped me get through it and they taught me really good lessons,” Trout-Lacy said.

Pendleton said she’s also proud of how the bench players have played their rolls behind the starters.

“They’ve been here cheering and supporting the whole time,” Pendleton said. “To have a bench that cheers when they’re not playing, it helps the starters.”

Cardenas said she knows there’s still some work to do and that the season is far from over. She mentioned that practice will stay the same and, hopefully, they can keep the same attitude they had from the start of the season.

“Just not letting it go behind because as much as the season keeps going, school keeps going as well,” Cardenas said. “If you gotta do school work, do your school work, but make sure you make time for volleyball.”


Editor’s Note: This article will be published in the Oct. 25 edition of The Pajaronian.

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A Watsonville native who has a passion for local sports and loves his community. A Watsonville High, Cabrillo College, San Jose State University and UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism alumnus, he primarily covers high school athletics, Cabrillo College athletics, various youth sports in the Pajaro Valley and the Santa Cruz Warriors. Juan is also a video game enthusiast, part-time chef (at home), explorer and a sports junkie. Coaches and athletic directors are encouraged to report scores HERE.


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