The new school year has recently started and there are numerous local athletes currently competing collegiately in fall sports.

A big chunk of them are women, who are excelling on volleyball courts and soccer fields throughout the country. Here are a few of them.


Breana Runnels, the 2015 BVarsity All-Area Player of the Year, is a dominating force for Colorado State. A redshirt junior, Runnels led the Rams and entire Mountain West Conference in kills last year with 454. That total, which ranked No. 55 in the country, set a CSU single-season, modern scoring record. For her efforts, the 5-foot-10 Independence High School grad was named to the Mountain West All-Conference team.

Elise Ferreira, the 2018 BVarsity All-Area Player of the Year, is a key contributor for nationally ranked Oregon. The Liberty High School product had 2 assists in her college debut, a Ducks sweep of UC Irvine. Ferreira, one of the top recruits in the country coming out of high school, should see plenty of action this year for Oregon.

Lauryn Burt, the 2017 BVarsity All-Area Player of the Year and high school teammate of Ferreira’s, is also making her mark on the college level. Burt, a sophomore at UNLV, is one of the Rebels’ top players. The 5-foot-8 setter was first on the Rebels in aces (nine), second in assists (58) and tied for third in digs (19) through UNLV’s first three matches of 2019 season.

A pair of Kern County products, Lexi McLeod and Hannah Merjil, are both playing at Cal State Northridge. As a true freshman last year, McLeod (Centennial High) appeared in all 28 of CSUN’s matches and ranked second on the team in kills (206) and third in digs (216) and aces (23). Merjil (Garces) played in 17 matches, starting eight for the Matadors last year. The then-redshirt freshman tallied the third most assists (281) of anyone on her team.

Maci Haddad (Stockdale High School) hopes to build off a spectacular debut last year at Cal Lutheran University. As a freshman in 2018, Haddad was named AVCA Freshman of the Year, while also garnering AVCA Honorable Mention All-America, AVCA All-Region First Team and All-SCIAC First Team honors. The 5-foot-11 sophomore middle blocker was second on the Regals in kills (281).

Brooklynn Cheney, the 2016 BVarsity All-Area Player of the Year, is one of Westmont College’s top players. Last year the 5-foot-10 outside hitter/defensive specialist was named Golden State Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Week on three separate occasions. Cheney (Liberty High School) ranked second on the Warriors and sixth in the GSAC in digs with 459.


Former Frontier High standout Kristen Amarkiwa continues to serve as a stellar defender for San Jose State. Anchoring the Spartans’ back line, Amarkiwa, the 2015 and 2016 BVarsity All-Area Player of the Year, helped SJSU tally a school record 11 shutouts last year. The two-time All-Mountain West selection and two-time All-Pacific Region selection was named to the 2018 Mountain West All-Tournament Team. Amarikwa’s outstanding play was a key reason the Spartans won the Mountain West Championship and qualified for the NCAA Tournament.

Three former Kern County high school athletes – Bethany Fitzsimmons (Taft Union High School), Peyton Jo Armijo (Highland High School) and Sadie Armijo (Highland High School) – are currently playing on the Cal State Northridge women’s soccer team. Fitzsimmons, a redshirt junior forward, ranked second on the Matadors in goals (four), points (nine), shots (21) and shots on goal (11) last year. Payton Jo Armijo, a redshirt junior forward/midfielder scored two goals and earned Big West All-Academic Team honors a year ago. Her younger sister Sadie played in 11 games, starting two of them.

Erica Torres (Bakersfield High School) leads a group of five women’s soccer players from Bakersfield currently competing at Metropolitan State University of Denver. The others are Mackayla Duerksen (Liberty High School), Jordan Lewis (Frontier High School), Luna Garcia (East High School) and Mariah Rex (Highland High School). Torres, the Roadrunners’ starting goalkeeper, notched eight shutouts in 18 games last year. She finished the year with a 0.97 goals against average and was accorded 2018 All-RMAC honorable mention status. Duerksen, Lewis and Garcia all started eight or more games and scored at least one goal. 

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