Saturday, July 13, 2024

Women’s Pro Volleyball Coming to San Diego: Impressions from the Island

What better city to launch women’s professional volleyball than San Diego? After all, the city shows up to cheer on great athletes who are women. Case in point: The San Diego Wave FC has drawn record-setting crowds, topping the National Women’s Soccer League in 2023 with average attendance of almost 21,000. And, with over 4,000 female high school volleyball athletes in San Diego, the excitement for the sport is high. San Diego is one of only seven cities in the country and the only one in California to host a team in the newly created Pro Volleyball Federation.

The team recently revealed its name, the San Diego Mojo. “When I thought of how I was at my best when I was trying to win gold medals . . . . The mojo that I shared with my team is what separated us, so we are the San Diego Mojo,” three-time Olympic Gold Medalist and co-owner Kerri Walsh Jennings said. The Mojo logo features an osprey in blue, gold, and white. According to the Pro Volleyball Federation website, the osprey’s  survival “mirrors the determination, grace, and courage that will be exhibited by the women of the San Diego Mojo.”

San Diego Mojo Head Coach Tayyiba Haneef-Park expresses her confidence in the team (photo courtesy of the San Diego Mojo).

Three-time Olympian Tayyiba Haneef-Park will lead the team as head coach. Haneef-Park played her college volleyball at Long Beach State, where she earned All-American honors. She recognizes that the time is right for professional volleyball in the United States and has her sights set high. “We are looking for great athletes, we want to win a championship,” Haneef-Park said.

Popularity of Women’s Volleyball

Across the nation, women’s volleyball is experiencing a surge in popularity. In September, the University of Nebraska at Lincoln Women’s Volleyball Team set a world record for attendance at a women’s sporting event with 92,003 filling the stands. And, this year, ESPN announced greater coverage than ever for women’s volleyball.

The Mojo start the season Feb 1 away at the Atlanta Vibe. They play three away matches before a five-game homestand on Feb 23, Feb 29, Mar 2, Mar 4, and Mar 11. San Diego will play its home games at San Diego State University’s Viejas Arena, what some are calling the Mojo Dojo Casa House in a nod to Ken of Barbie-movie fame (“Mojo Dojo” for short). The start time is 7:00 pm on Feb 23 versus the Grand Rapids Rise. The season runs through May 12, with the championship weekend scheduled for May 16-19.

Impressions From the Island

Coronadans are thrilled at the prospect of having a hometown professional volleyball team. The seven Villagers highlighted in the next sections have a connection to Coronado and volleyball as either a player, coach, or fan. They share why they are looking forward to watching the San Diego Mojo play.

Roberta Gehlke Lenert is the Coronado Robotics Coordinator and the Head Coach for Coronado Middle School (CMS) and High School (CHS). She is also a three-time Division 1 All-American Volleyball player and Hall-of-Famer at UC Santa Barbara. “The Women’s volleyball scene is about to reach new heights with the arrival of the professional women’s team Mojo,” Lenert said. “Get ready for power, grace, and excitement of these incredible athletes as they dominate the court and inspire us all. It is astounding that San Diego is about to receive the coaching and mentorship of two women (Walsh and Haneek-Park) that have dominated volleyball worldwide for the last two decades!”

Dominic DeNardi is a recent two-time graduate of the University of San Diego, played volleyball for CHS, and has coached the CMS boys volleyball team for years. DeNardi knows that women’s professional volleyball has had success internationally. “I think it’s great for the sport that [pro volleyball] is expanding in the US,” he said.

The San Diego Mojo women’s professional volleyball team recently revealed its team logo (photo courtesy of the San Diego Mojo).

Adeile Ahmu is the CHS Girls’ Volleyball Coach and a club volleyball coach. “I am so excited to see this pro team here in San Diego. I was super shocked when I first saw this on Instagram,” she said. “To have a professional team to cheer for and to aspire to play for means a great deal to the volleyball community here in San Diego. To say I’m excited is an understatement!!”

Retired Navy Captain Clint Coneway and spouse Greta are longtime Coronado residents who discovered volleyball as fans by watching their grandchildren play. “We have followed our grandkids who played volleyball in high school and are fans of women’s college volleyball,” they said. “We haven’t seen a professional women’s volleyball game. It might be a great sport for San Diego.”

Jessica Cunningham was born in Coronado, played CHS volleyball through 2001, competed at Alliant International University, and now coaches girls volleyball at CMS. Jessica and her husband Joe are raising their three girls in Coronado. “This is so exciting to have another women’s professional sports team join San Diego,” she said. “We are here for it (the first home match) and ready to don the blue and yellow colors again – RIP San Diego Chargers. Can’t wait to go watch some matches and take my girls to share my passion for this exhilarating sport – the teamwork, support, encouragement at such a top-notch level. Go Mojo!”

Emily Page is a CHS junior who completed her 3rd year as a setter for the varsity volleyball team this fall and has verbally committed to play volleyball at Biola University. “I’m really excited that San Diego is going to have a women’s professional indoor volleyball team,” she said. “It’s great for volleyball fans in our city to witness high-level play. I’m hoping to attend the team’s home opener. It would be an amazing opportunity to see great players and be part of their first event. I’m excited to see … the impact it has on the sport I love.”

Three-time beach volleyball gold medalist and co-owner of the San Diego Mojo Kerri Walsh Jennings answers questions from a fan (photo courtesy of the San Diego Mojo).

Tickets and More San Diego Mojo Information

Season-ticket deposits begin at $50 per seat and are available beginning December 1. For the team’s schedule and more, see https://sandiegomojovb.com/ or follow @Sandiegomojovb on Instagram, TikTok, Threads, and Facebook. Joining San Diego in the Pro Volleyball Federation are Atlanta, Columbus, Grand Rapids, Las Vegas, Omaha, and Orlando.



Lisa Lamb
Lisa Lamb
Lisa’s passion for sports journalism stems from her experiences playing high school sports and reading great sports journalists, especially those who write about her favorite basketball team, the San Diego State Aztecs. As a professor of mathematics education, she enjoys analyzing data to highlight the statistics that help bring the story to life. Lisa has lived in Coronado for almost 20 years with her husband and son. She loves the friendly neighborhood community and the walkable access to wonderful restaurants and parks.Have news to share? Send tips, story ideas or letters to the editor to: [email protected]

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