For the first few years, Los Banos volleyball coach Greg Soliz didn’t pay much attention to the number. He was just happy the Tigers had become a main attraction again.
But now that the Tigers’ Western Athletic Conference winning streak has reached 47 matches, Soliz can appreciate the length of the path they’ve blazed.
“When I took over the program here in Los Banos, it wasn’t very strong at all,” he said, “so I was just excited for the girls that they were winning and finally seeing some success. I never really thought about it. It never even crossed my mind.
“I’ve been pretty blessed to have really solid players.”
Today, the four-time defending champions cling to the streak – with claws out – because they’re no longer the favorite in the WAC.
Los Banos will host city rival Pacheco on Tuesday and WAC favorite El Capitan on Thursday. The Gauchos are ranked No. 5 in The Bee’s large-school poll and have given the Tigers their only scare since the start of the streak.
“It’s going to be a big, big week,” Soliz said.
Los Banos survived a thrilling, five-game match at El Capitan last season. The Gauchos return their entire roster, while Los Banos has just one starter back: junior middle blocker Bailey Allen.
Soliz understands that his once unstoppable Tigers will be the underdog against El Capitan, a team playing with seniors for the first time in school history.
“They’re the team to beat this year. They’re the team that’s supposed to win league,” said Soliz, whose team has topped Patterson and Livingston to start conference play. “I think they’re strong, but we’ll give them a battle. The seniors that have been a part of this, they’ll be ready to play. They’re not going to go down easily.”
The streak began on Oct. 13, 2011, with a 3-0 victory over Livingston, two days after a 3-2 loss to Central Catholic, now a member of the Valley Oak League.
Since then, the Tigers have won four Western Athletic Conference titles, including the last three outright.
Soliz has tried to soften the blow of graduation each year by carrying as many as 14 girls on his roster. His hope is that the younger members can gain enough experience through practice and limited minutes in matches that they can impact the team as juniors and seniors.
So far, it’s worked.
“Coaches will always ask, ‘Why do you keep 14 players?’ We probably lose five to six girls to graduation every year. I let them (the younger players) know this is varsity. You have to earn your spot and playing time. They work hard, so the following year as seniors, they’re ready to play. They understand what we expect. It makes things much easier.”