PLEASANT HILL -- At the halfway point in the Diablo Valley Athletic League's volleyball season, four teams have three wins or more and five of them still feel that they have a shot at winning the league crown.
A league that has been dominated by Northgate in recent years now has several teams looking to dethrone the champs.
One of those teams is College Park, which is searching for its first league title since 1995. Heading into this week, the Falcons were 13-10 overall and 3-3 in league play, 21/2 games back of DVAL-leading Northgate. College Park plays Northgate on Oct. 10.
"The league is pretty wide open this year and I think Northgate is beatable," College Park coach Na Vo said. "It's an open race and it could come down to who can grind it out and who has energy left in the last match or two."
Challenging for a league title is a huge step in the right direction for a Falcons program that, before last year, had gone a decade between playoff appearances. And after 24 wins a season ago, they are certainly in a great position to make the playoffs once again.
It's an impressive feat when you realize that the team only has three returning players from a year ago, though all three play a major role.
Sierra Stratton, a junior outside hitter, leads the team in kills and is the go-to girl when the team needs a side-out, while fellow junior Rachel Henry leads the team in assists from the setter position, and also hits from the outside.
Senior libero Anika Anderson leads the defense and is one of only two seniors on the team.
"We're a pretty young team and inexperienced," Vo said. "But we're very athletic. I have never had a team as athletic as this team."
A big part of the transition from a losing program to a winning program for College Park is having the team believe that it can win when it takes the court and that it can compete for league titles, and in the North Coast Section playoffs.
"It's huge for us because they've never experienced it," Vo said. "We have a chance to get back to being a consistent program."