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A shot of the Mount’s 2013 intramural volleyball team, which won the independent league volleyball championship held at UCLA. This year, Mount St. Mary's volleyball and soccer programs are expanding to club-level status.

New coaches lead MSMC soccer and volleyball teams into club competition

2011 was a good year for the two women now tasked with jump-starting Mount St. Mary’s first club sports teams in soccer and volleyball.

That year, Jessica Gerski and Hershey Canta each won collegiate national championships in their respective sports. This summer, the Mount announced that Gerski would become the Mount’s first soccer club coach, while Canta assumes the same role for the Athenians’ volleyball squad.

“We are very excited and proud to introduce club sports at the Mount,” says Mari Wadsworth, PhD, associate vice president for student affairs. “Our students will have amazing opportunities to compete with athletes throughout Southern California in soccer and volleyball weekend tournaments without compromising their commitment to academics.”

In Gerski and Canta, Mount St. Mary’s has a pair of coaches who can relate with their student-athletes. A native of Harbor City, Calif., Gerski spent three years as the starting goalkeeper for New York’s College of Saint Rose. In 2011, she was named to the NCAA Championship All-Tournament Team en route to helping her school claim its first-ever national championship.

Gerski graduated from the College of Saint Rose in 2013 with a bachelor’s degree in communications. Now back in California, she’s in charge of advancing the Mount’s nascent soccer program. Fall 2014 will mark a new beginning for the Athenian team, which will participate in local tournaments and compete in official club play with the West Coast Soccer Association.

“This is a great chance for our students,” Gerski says, “and I’m excited to help develop this program.”

In the gym, the same prospect presents itself to Canta, the Mount’s new volleyball coach. A native of the Philippines, she already has experience as an assistant coach for both the women’s and men’s volleyball teams at Southern Vermont College, where Canta graduated in 2013 with a bachelor’s degree in radiologic sciences. She also previously served as an assistant coach at Glendale (Calif.) Community College in 2009-2010.

As a player at Southern Vermont, Canta captained her squad, and was named her team’s Most Valuable Player. In 2011, she was chosen as her school’s Female Athlete of the Year and Scholar-Athlete of the Year, and Southern Vermont won the New England Collegiate Conference (NECC) Women’s Volleyball Championship. Canta was named to the conference’s All-Academic Team, and earned first-team All-NECC playing honors.

“Now I have a new challenge,” Canta says. “I am so thrilled with this great opportunity to build and grow a club team for Mount St. Mary’s.”

She inherits a team that has already begun to establish itself in Los Angeles. Last year, the Mount’s intramural volleyball team won the independent league volleyball championship held at UCLA. This fall, the team will defend its title in the UCLA program, and will also move up to compete in the National Collegiate Volleyball Federation’s Southern California Volleyball League.

“Athletic competition allows students to learn so much about life,” Wadsworth says, “about compromise, about teamwork, about prioritization, about negotiation. We believe that with the introduction of club sports, Mount St. Mary’s is providing a unique opportunity to our students that will serve them for the rest of their lives.”

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