Andrew Mitchell, sports information director at the University of California Merced, reached out about one of his school’s standout volleyball players — Jose Leon Gomez.
Gomez, 6-foot-6, graduated in 2015 from Sanger High. On his signing in May 2015, Scott Okada, Apache volleyball coach, said Gomez “is probably one of the top four players in the Valley, and the competition is a little stiff.”
Gomez is still a contender. “He is now having a career season as a senior,” Mitchell said via email. “He is the first Bobcat this year to eclipse the 100 plus kills mark and has already posted three different career-highs this year. He smacked a career-high 16 kills this past Sunday (Feb. 17) against UC Santa Cruz, one of six double-figure kill matches he has posted in 2019.
“Furthermore, four of his six double-figure kill matches have come while hitting .400 or higher, five at .300 or higher. Leon Gomez is ranked 34th in the country with a .319 hitting percentage and 36th in the country with 105 kills overall.”
Gomez’s Apache teammate Tshu-Fue Xiong joined the Bobcats as a walk-on but left the team in August 2018 to focus on academics, Mitchell said. “He was a good student athlete on and off the court.” Gomez and Xiong had played together since eighth grade.
“I just try my best to improve every day and learn from my mistakes,” Gomez said. Mitchell interviewed him and forwarded his comments to the Herald. “I am 100 percent focused on what I can do for my team in order to accomplish our goals. We have a team that has a lot of chemistry, competition, positive energy and that plays a role in helping us grow each and every practice. Every single player on our team can be a starter. I work hard off the court as well to become stronger, healthier and more athletic.
“I have a lot of trust from my team, especially my coaches Ai Prachumsri and Victoria Rouse as well as my setters Ryan Steele and Joey Medina.
“I actually did not know that I led the team in kills until my high school coach Scott Okada texted me the other day and said, ‘I saw you are leading the team in kills! Good job!’ Now knowing that I rank in the country’s Top 40 in kills and hitting percentage is even crazier. As good as it feels to get the kills, at the end of the day the only thing that I am focused on is doing whatever I need to do on and off the court to help my team accomplish our goals.
“My personal goal is to not leave UC Merced without knowing that I left my heart out on the court and make an impact on this program. We all have a day where we do bad and make mistakes, but what really matters is that we bounce back bigger and stronger.”
On March 4, Gomez notched a pair of double-double’s against two NCAA opponents.
He had 13 kills and 10 digs against UC Santa Cruz. The double-double was the first of his career, and the win over UC Santa Cruz was the Bobcats first in eight tries all-time.
Gomez shared match-high with 14 kills and tied his career-high with 11 digs against the seventh ranked team in the NCAA Division III, Dominican University. Mitchell said Gomez is now at 170 kills and is just the fourth player in program history to tally that mark in a single-season. That mark is good for 14th in the NAIA, he said.
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