Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
Madera South’s Sebastian Moreno rises up for a kill against Clovis North in the only home match the Stallions were able to play this season.
Madera South’s Sebastian Moreno became the second member of this year’s Stallions boys volleyball team to sign to a four-year university after committing to Westcliff University, an NAIA school in Irvine.
“It was really exciting,” he said. “It was something I never thought I would have had the chance to experience. To actually be in that moment and sign is mind blowing. It was a rush of excitement.”
Teammate Jared Guglielmana signed with UC Merced. Moreno had thoughts about joining him in Merced and even had thoughts about going to Simpson University, who have three Stallions on the men’s soccer team.
“Everybody said I would have been with the soccer guys,” he said. “There was also Judson University in Chicago. A little part of me wanted to get up and get out of here. I’m happy to be able to stay in the same state.
“I made my final decision on June 1. It was debating on what would be the best offer and what would benefit me more financially. UC Merced was the close second, as well as Judson.”
However, Moreno was sold on Westcliff and its new head coach.
“Before our season came to an end, we were barely starting, I knew I wanted to play at the next level,” he said. “That was the goal for me. I put myself out there. The coaches aren’t going to contact you unless you were the top guys in the country. I did my research on the colleges I would be interested in from NAIA to Div. III to Div. II. I found Westcliff. I sent him an email. They got a new coach this year and he was cool about it. He asked for film and he really liked how I played. He liked how I played on the court and I provided a rush of emotion. His program focused on building character. That was another thing that attracted me. That’s what we do at Madera South, which is to build us to be young men. To be around a similar environment made my choice to contact them.”
Moreno, who played virtually every position with the Stallions, was recruited to be the setter for Westcliff.
“They said I have good vision and see the court well,” Moreno said. “It’s not set. He asked if I was open to any more positions. Of course, I said yes. He said he might put me in libero, middle blocker, but it will be mostly setter and libero.”
In addition to playing volleyball indoors, Moreno will also receive some scholarship money to play beach volleyball for the Warriors.
“I was even more stoked about it because they want me to play beach volleyball so I am able to get more scholarship money,” he said.
When Moreno began his Stallion volleyball career four years ago, playing in college wasn’t even something on his radar.
“Considering my size and looking at the guys on the varsity with their skill level, I thought this would have never happened,” he said. “It was going to take a lot of hard work and maybe some growth pills.”
The growth pills didn’t work for Moreno, but hard work paid off.
“All the work at sand courts was worth it,” he said. “In each rep, you want to go home because the sand was burning and too hot. Seeing the big picture, I was thankful for it.”
Moreno got some help through the recruiting process from his sister, Cynthia, a Madera South Stallions girls soccer player and 2011 graduate.
“She gave me an overview of her experience,” he said. “It helped me out a lot and guided me in the right direction.”
“He was hesitant, at first,” Cynthia said. “He didn’t really want to go to college to play. He was inclined to go to Fresno State. I told him to seek more opportunities.His whole mentality was he didn’t want to take out a loan. I told him he was investing in his future, in his education. There’s only one way to know if you like it or not. You have to try it. I was encouraging him. I want to get him out of my house. I experienced it, I took it for granted at his age.”
In addition to playing volleyball, Moreno decided to look at the game from a different angle. In the fall, he became a line judge, refereeing high school volleyball matches.
“That experience was very good,” he said. “All the other referees were really cool and I got along with them. It’s something you never realized as a player. To be able to get the referee perspective, to see what goes on through their heads, that changed the way how I played. It allowed me to see different sides to it.”
Moreno, a self-proclaimed complainer, took what he learned to the court and saw the game from a whole new side.
“It helped me as a player,” he said. “I remember after each play, I would argue with every ref. Even in the Valley Championship match, I got a yellow card. I thought I always had to be right. Getting behind the referee’s standpoint really changed it up. The referees would make fun of me about giving me a yellow card.”
Although Moreno is four hours away, it’s still close enough to his family.
“It’s the perfect medium to be in Irvine,” he said. “I don’t have to worry about my mom going crazy.”
However, by signing that letter and committing to Westcliff, Moreno has taken a huge weight off his shoulders and is happy to know where he will be in the fall.
“It feels really good,” he said. “I just think back all the time we went out to play volleyball. Every single rep and set has added up to this point and where I’m going to be playing next. Also, the thought of my senior season getting canceled, I have a lot bigger future to look forward to.”