Cooks named MVP of Cuesta volleyball team

Brian WilkinsonJanuary 23, 2013 

Riley Cooks, arguably one of the most talented female multi-sport athletes to come out of Yosemite High School, has continued her exploits as a freshman at Cuesta Community College in San Luis Obispo.

Cooks was named the Most Valuable Player of the school's volleyball team and was named to the All-Western State Conference first team along with teammate Kylie Gacad, a graduate of Morro Bay High School.

Cooks, A 5-foot-8 freshman, led the Cougars with 227 kill shots, 23 service aces and ranked second on the team for digs with 177.

At the start of the season, coach Roche (Rocky) Nystrom moved Cooks from her 'setter' position to 'outside hitter.' Nystrom's two best athletes on the team were Cooks and Gacad, who were both vying for the starting setter spot, a position Cooks played for four years at Yosemite. The coach gave a slight edge to Gacad since she had been a club player for her and already knew the system.

"Riley blossomed as an outside hitter," Nystrom said.

Cooks finished the season ranked No. 7 in kills and No. 22 in both service aces and digs in the 13-team conference.

"Riley impressed conference coaches this season and her play was key to our success," said coach Roche Nystrom.

"It was fun to play on a new team and play a new position," Cooks said. "Our record did not reflect the skill we had on the team. We were a good team but didn't always show it against some of our opponents."

Despite a 6-16 overall record, the team finished tied for third in the conference north division (4-6) with Los Angeles Mission Community College. The conference title went to Santa Barbara Community College (16-7, 10-0).

Other teams making up the north division of the conference are Moorpark, Ventura and Allan Hancock of Santa Maria. There are an additional seven teams in the south division of the conference including Bakersfield, Santa Monica, Glendale and West Los Angeles.

Established in 1950, the Western State Conference is the oldest community college conference in the state.

Cooks ended her senior year at Yosemite as the North Sequoia League's Most Valuable Player in both volleyball and soccer.

She was the only YHS athlete to be named to the Fresno Bee all-star teams in two sports and had a 4.1 GPA.

In volleyball at Yosemite, Cooks helped lead the Badgers to a 24-7 record overall and 9-1 in the NSL where YHS tied Chowchilla for the league title. She had 57 assists, 75 kill shots and 38 service aces during the season along with 47 blocked shots and 168 digs. Cooks was named to the first team All-NSL and second team All Valley by the Fresno Bee.

YHS volleyball coach Sonja Mazaira called Cooks an amazing athlete.

In soccer, Cooks was coached by her sister-in-law Natalie Cooks and led the Badgers with 26 goals on her way to being named the NSL's MVP and earned another Fresno Bee second-team All-Valley award.

In her four-year varsity soccer career, she had 87 goals and 28 assists and was the most dominant player in the NSL.

Cooks was the Yosemite High and Sierra Star's female Athlete of the Year at the end of her senior year.

Cooks, who ran varsity track at YHS as a freshman and sophomore, has decided to go out for the Cuesta track team this spring, participating in the 100 and 400 meter sprints and long jump. She holds the Yosemite school record in the girls 100 meters with a time she posted in 2010 as a sophomore -- 12.65.

"I'm excited to get back into track after not participating in it the past two years," Cooks said. "Running track will help me stay in shape and I think I can compete at a high level and hopefully set personal best times in the sprints while helping our team." I

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