Two Colton Volleyball players named to the All-Skyline League Team

Seniors Marissa Herrera and Elena Torrero talk about their successful senior seasons and reflect on how they got here

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J. Dollins

Seniors Elena Torrero (libero) and Marissa Herrera (setter) were both named to the 2021 All-Skyline League Volleyball team.

At the Colton High Volleyball banquet on December 7, seniors Marissa Herrera and Elena Torrero were given news they had been named to the All-Skyline League team for their play during the 2021 season. Elena was named to the 1st team All-League, and Marissa was named as an honorable mention.

“It felt exciting,” the calm and composed Marissa said, “All of our hard work finally paid off.” She led the team this year as their captain, and finished the season with a team high 33 aces and 98 assists.

Elena, a spark plug of a character, added, “It’s a big award to us that we worked hard since our Freshman year and it paid off now in our Senior year.” She ended the season with 222 digs and 20 aces.

The two girls have grown up together over the past four years on the volleyball team. Both started playing with the Freshman squad during the 2018 season.

Elena Torrero digs deep to keep the volley alive. (J. Dollins)

Marissa saw a flyer recruiting players for the team and on a whim decided it was worth it to go to tryouts. She earned a spot as a setter on the Freshman team, even though she had no idea what that even meant. Elena wanted to get active in high school activities and sports. “I didn’t really know what volleyball was,” she said.

They both learned quickly.

Marissa’s big moment happened during her freshman year against Murrieta Mesa, when she was pulled up from the Freshman team to play for JV. “I didn’t talk to anyone on JV like that, so I was pretty quiet,” she noted.

Everything at Murrieta Mesa was overwhelming. Even for JV, the National Anthem was sung for the crowd, and the announcer introduced all the players pre-game. “These girls were like six-foot, and I was a little freshman,” Marissa said. “It was so scary.”

She freaked out. “That was like my worst game ever, but it taught me that like ‘oh shoot, this is a competition that I need to get used to.’”

Four years later, and the two look like they’ve been playing volleyball their entire lives. They love the sport. Marissa is drawn to the adrenaline of the game, of setting up teammates and covering them as they go in for the kill. For Elena, the love comes from being a competitive firecracker.

Senior setter Marissa Herrera serves up an ace. (J. Dollins)

On the court, both are fierce players, sacrificing their bodies for the team. As a setter, Marissa is always in the right place to ensure her hitters get the best opportunities to attack. Elena, the team’s libero, is a whirling dervish, playing all the gaps to save points with timely digs. Both have strong serves that keep the opposition on their heels.

Getting to this point, however, did not come without struggle.

For Marissa, the biggest struggle was balancing school, home, and work. Coming back to in-person school after a year of distance learning was a huge adjustment. “I got used to doing school from my bed,” she said.

The bigger adjustment, however, was with her work schedule. Marissa got a job working at Stater Bros. in Colton. The hours made it challenging to balance a high school sports schedule, and an inflexible manager made it even harder. Marissa had to request a transfer, and was moved to another store location.

Things got much better at the different store, but since she was brand new to that location, it made it harder for her to be assertive. Still, they were more flexible with her schedule, and the only game she missed during the season was the alumni game.

It’s a big award to us that we worked hard since our Freshman year and it paid off now in our Senior year.”

— Elena Torrero, grade 12

While Elena didn’t work, her family was hit hard by COVID-19. Her mother, father, and older brother—mere weeks before going to college on a football scholarship—all contracted the virus. They were all quarantined, and thankfully no one was hospitalized, but the presence of sickness certainly added pressure in the midst of isolation. Elena, normally outgoing, kept to herself in her bedroom. As a result, she never tested positive, even as the rest of her family did.

Volleyball made all the struggle worth it, and being around their coaches and teammates brought incredible fulfillment. Both girls have fond memories of their senior seasons.

Elena shared an on court memory from the match against Arroyo Valley on September 14. “I got hit in the face with the ball,” she said, cackling. “And then I got poked in the eyeball by one of my teammates—that stuck in my head.”

Marissa recalled the inspirational notes she and her teammates would leave in each others’ lockers. “Coach Sarah had sticky notes and pens for us to write motivational notes to each other,” she said. “I found a note in my locker . . . and it had said ‘I’m so proud of you, keep going. I’m proud of your sets.’ It was Leslie Venegas. That just meant a lot to me, because while I set to her, it meant she was able to hit them so I knew that I did something right.”

I found a note in my locker . . . and it had said ‘I’m so proud of you, keep going. I’m proud of your sets.’ It was Leslie Venegas. That just meant a lot to me.”

— Marissa Herrera, grade 12

She didn’t only receive those notes, though. Elena remembered one that Marissa wrote for her. “I had a really bad game one time,” she shared. “I came in late, and she wrote a letter saying ‘Everything is going to be okay. Just pick it up.’ She was saying that she really likes my passes and stuff.”

It is those moments, the little ones, that build a team and push athletes to improve their games as they find the will to win. Having played together for four years, Elena and Marissa know how to encourage each other, how to bring out their best. Now, they both finish their high school volleyball careers as the best in their league.

This, however, is not the end. Elena intends on going to community college, and will continue playing volleyball there, following a similar path to her coach and mentor, Sarah Sanchez.

Marissa has already been accepted to Cal State San Marcos, which she admits is pretty far away and that her mother “says will give her separation anxiety.” She has applied to other schools, and is awaiting word. No matter where she goes, she intends to play volleyball and major in kinesiology.

This sport has clearly captured their hearts, and while their senior season may be over, the passion for game still burns.