By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
In a record-setting Sonoma State volleyball season, no player was more dominant than Caylie Seitz, a strong and true scorer.
A second-year player for the Seawolves, the former All-Empire player of the year had a breakout season capped Wednesday with Seitz’s earning NCAA Division II All-America honors — a first for Sonoma State. Earlier she was named California Collegiate Athletic Association Most Valuable Player.
“It’s pretty exciting. The hard work was worth it,” Seitz said. “The season was very rewarding.”
Playing with greater confidence coming off an all-conference freshman season, Seitz helped lead Sonoma State to the most wins in program history and a second-round appearance in the NCAA tournament.
Making the most of her opportunities, Seitz led all outside hitters in the West and was eighth in the nation with a .330 hitting percentage. She ranked among the top five in the CCAA for kills (443) and points per set (4.3). Already with 791 career kills, Seitz is on pace to break the career Sonoma State record.
“I believe that Caylie is the most formidable outside hitter in the history of Sonoma State volleyball,” Sonoma State coach Bear Grassl said. “She had the best season of any CCAA outside hitter has had in quite some time. Teams would prepare for her all season, but when she got that arm going, no one could stop her.”
Making the short list of the nation’s best small-college volleyball players has been a steady ascent for Seitz.
One hurdle was a college detour. Out of Maria Carrillo, she had a scholarship to play at Cal State Bakersfield. But the coach who recruited Seitz then left the program. After looking at a handful of schools across the nation, Seitz stayed home.
Sonoma State soon proved a good fit for Seitz. As a freshman, she earned a spot in the regular rotation, finishing second on the Seawolves in kills.
“I was a little nervous at first. I was really surprised at how well our season went,” Seitz said.
Playing alongside all-American and fellow Maria Carrillo great Ally Sather helped Seitz grow her first season in the college game.
“She played with a lot of confidence. She just had a great ability to place balls all around the court,” Seitz said of Sather.
Filling those shoes this season, Seitz prepared better for the rigors of a demanding schedule and playing in one of the nation’s toughest conferences. Weight training helped build strength in her shoulder to take more swings. Fitness routines improved her stamina.
“I wanted to step my game up,” Seitz said. “I was ready. This was my chance.”
Measured by the stat sheet, Seitz was dominant both in kills and needing fewer hits to put up points.
“She puts points on the board,” Grassl said. “She’s extremely explosive, has a very heavy arm, and she gets a lot of opportunities to do things well.”
Both player and coach were quick to credit Sonoma State’s deep and talented team for consistently setting up Seitz.
“We did a really good job of putting her in position where she could be successful,” Grassl said. “We had tremendous team play.”
Playing a bigger role this season, Seitz also grew as a team leader. Staying mentally resilient was an area of focus.
“I try to go out there and give everyone as much support as I can,” Seitz said. “You can’t worry about mistakes. You just have to let things go that you can’t change.”
Next season will present even more challenges. Sonoma State must replace several starters, including setter Hayley Ross, an all-American out of Petaluma High.
Defenses will aim to keep Seitz in check with double teams. But she could get some help from sister Calan Seitz, who will be a first-year setter.
“The honors add a little bit of pressure,” Seitz said. “I need to keep getting better.”