Serra is replacing one championship volleyball coach with another.
In the wake of the Serra boys’ volleyball team capturing the program’s first-ever Central Coast Section title in 2019, head coach Heather Anthony has stepped away from the team. Her replacement, Ren Almanzor, is coming off two seasons as the head coach at Sacred Heart Prep, where he led the Gators to their first Santa Clara Valley Athletic League title in the El Camino Division last season.
Almanzor himself personifies the growing boys’ volleyball game. As a 1984 graduate of Vallejo Senior High School — there was no boys’ volleyball program to be found in the varsity ranks at that time — he found himself traveling to a local community center to play co-ed adult volleyball.
“For me, it’s quite a blessing to come full circle,” Almanzor said. “To have this still in the growing stages of the sport, to be here, it’s just a great place to be.”
Almanzor has an extensive resume from the club volleyball circuit, having previously coached at Palo Alto Elite and Academy Volleyball Club. He currently is in his second year at Encore Volleyball Club in Redwood City. He also remains coaching at Sacred Heart Prep as an assistant with the girls’ volleyball program.
In two years with the SHP boys’ program, Almanzor helped turn the team around in a hurry. The Gators had never enjoyed a winning record in SCVAL play, including his first year at the helm in 2018. Last year, SHP finished with an 11-3 league record to earn a co-SCVAL title.
His intention was to return to SHP for a third season, but the school opted to drop its boys’ volleyball program this year. The same day he was notified his Gators team was disbanding, he received a telephone call from Chip Blundell, head of the Serra volleyball program, to request he interview for the Padres’ head coaching position.
Almanzor was hired by Serra earlier this month.
“So, I don’t know if that’s divine intervention, or what?” Almanzor said.
After fielding an SHP team with just eight players on roster last season, Almanzor has walked into spoils of riches with the Padres. Not only does the preliminary Serra varsity roster have 13 players, there are another 10 junior-varsity players in the program.
“We had tryouts,” Almanzor said. “We didn’t have tryouts at Sacred Heart.”
And despite graduating five seniors, the Padres have carried over plenty of talent from last year’s CCS Division II championship squad. Senior hitters Nick Disco and Luke Besse both return, along with libero Kevin Ramos.
“[Disco and Besse] are both seniors, they’re very, very refined players,” Almanzor said. “[Ramos] is just spectacular.”
The Padres dropped their season opener Monday to Campolindo. They return to the court Thursday, traveling to Aragon for a non-league crosstown matchup.
“I think we have a lot of skilled players, a lot of talent and a lot of depth,” Almanzor said. “It’s going to come down to learning to play together effectively.”
Also joining the coaching staff is Maggie McDonald, a former Notre Dame-Belmont standout who graduated from Menlo College in the spring. McDonald rose to third on the Oaks’ all-time career kills list. She has coached at the Mountain View Volleyball Club for the past six years.