Two student-athletes who were instrumental in their teams drive to win CCCAA state titles--Fresno City College women's volleyball outside hitter Lexi Pagani and Mt. San Antonio men's soccer forward Edward Castro--are December's California Community College Sports Information Association (CCCSIA) State Athletes of the Month.
In both cases, Pagani and Castro celebrated their teams' championship victories at their home campuses as Fresno hosted the state volleyball tourney while Mt. SAC served as host of the soccer tournament.
Pagani was named state MVP after totaling tourney highs with 44 kills and eight aces to go with 26 digs and six blocks in the Rams' victories over San Diego Mesa, Feather River, and West Valley. She hit .308 and averaged 4 kills and 2.4 digs per set. In FCC's 4-set championship final win over West Valley, Pagani powered 19 kills and served five aces. Many of her kills were set up by her twin sister and Fresno setter Julia Pagani.
In the regular season, Pagani (#9 below) was selected AVCA Third Team All-American as well as All-State. She helped Fresno to a 33-3 overall record and an undefeated Central Valley Conference championship.
Castro, named USCA Second Team All-American and Second Team All-West Region, was Mr. Clutch in the postseason for Mt. SAC. He scored the state title winning goal on a header shot in stoppage time to lift the Mounties to a 2-1 finals victory over Hartnell. Castro also scored what proved to be the game-winning goal in a 2-1 state semifinals win over American River. His score with six minutes left gave Mt. SAC a 2-0 lead as the Mounties held off a late Beavers rally.
In the SoCal Regional finals, Castro scored the game winner and assisted on an insurance goal in a 2-0 triumph over Golden West. Castro tallied a remarkable four game-winning goals in the playoffs in five Mt. SAC victories. He finished with 14 goals in 21 games and led the state in game winner scores with eight. Castro helped propel Mt. SAC to the South Coast Conference North Division crown and a 19-2-2 season record.
Castro (action shot below) is the 16th Mt. SAC athlete to ever win the state AOTM award (started in 2005), but the first men's soccer player selected from the college. Pagani is the 13th selection from Fresno and the second women's volleyball player--Jenna Goldsberry won the November, 2016 award, also leading FCC to a state championship that season.
Release by Robert Lewis, Executive Board Member of CCCSIA