Coach Highlight

Alicia Borges

Alicia Borges ’16

By Lindsey Munar ’16 | April 28, 2021

The student has now become the master, but it did not happen overnight. In fact, for 2016 alumna, Alicia Borges, the journey from high school athlete to aspiring collegiate head coach has been nothing short of a process. Freshly graduated with a degree in Psychology with a minor in Theology, Borges is on the path to use her knowledge of sports psychology and deep roots in volleyball to pursue a career as a head coach at the collegiate level. The Borges name may ring a bell, as current PE teacher and volleyball coach, Mrs. Borges is Alicia’s mom and former high school coach. Alicia Borges was a part of the 2013, 2014, and 2015 volleyball section winning teams. As a four year varsity player, she received countless accolades like multiple All League honors, 2015 Sierra Delta League MVP, and 2015 Sac Joaquin Section Championship Player of the Game. Riding high off of high school achievements, Borges went on to play volleyball at William Jessup University in Rocklin, California. 

Alicia Borges
Vacaville Christian’s outside hitter Alicia Borges spikes the ball past the defense of Bradshaw Christian’s Olivia Laroa (left) and Justis Bowers during the first game. Borges finished the championship match with 17 kills, her final one ending the match. Joel Rosenbaum — The Reporter

Unknowingly, Borges encountered an enduring test of character and resiliency for the majority of her collegiate volleyball career. Significant challenges began to present themselves through multiple avenues. Not only was Borges plagued with injuries, she was recruited as an incoming setter, however, that did not come to fruition.  In response to unfulfilled agreements and uncertainty in the future of her volleyball career, Borges questioned her own abilities. “Once I made it to my senior year of college I finally realized the immense struggle that I had endured during my first three years with my first coach.” 

“Over the years I was continuously asking if I wasn’t good enough because I wasn’t playing as much as I thought I would be. But then senior year came around with a more experienced coach, and I was starting. I couldn’t wrap my head around it because I was telling myself that it was me – that I wasn’t good enough, but then everything changed.” Borges expressed that she realized it was never about her skills.

Rather, she had to focus on working to the best of her ability for her own satisfaction. As the circumstances were beyond her control, Borges tirelessly worked for her spot and dealt with recurring disappointment. Finally, she received the court time she deserved.  “I just wanted to play volleyball and have fun winning, and my new coach finally gave me the chance to fairly win my spot.”

By senior year, Borges was starting. Quickly, that starting spot morphed into a six rotation spot. “I was able to show my abilities and leadership on the court, and that sparked the questions in my head about the past years.” Borges coined these trials and tribulations as something she was meant to face. It was tempting for her to think of other paths she could have followed to avoid the hardships, however she trusts that God led her to Jessup because it was where she was meant to be.  

2015 Sac-Joaquin Section Division V Finals – Photo courtesy of The Daily Republic

In fact, the difficulties Borges faced directly inspired her passion of becoming a coach. “I think the biggest lesson I have learned after graduating high school would be how I want to be as a coach. I had a coach who was demeaning and would suppress our voices and ideas. I came out of that season with determination to be open minded and to always listen to my players. I learned firsthand that a player will never be able to give their all for a coach that they do not respect. “ The graduate shared she hopes to be a leader that provides guidance with grace for errors; one who encourages and builds her players up. Borges confessed her experiences at Jessup have made her realize the type of character she has always wanted to hold as a coach. 

As Borges moves forward into the professional world, she anticipates volleyball forever being a part of her life. After all, volleyball is in her blood. “It has always been a part of me, and with my family being who they are, I probably will never lose touch.” Borges looks forward to helping her mom coach in the upcoming school year as well as jumping into the club scene. “I want to connect with athletes and give them a place to get out frustrations and just let loose in a sport that they love. Volleyball was always my outlet and I am just hoping that I can create a team environment where we all can become a unit and look to each other for support and guidance. “

Borges champions aspiring student-athletes to believe in themselves, even in the face of those who doubt their abilities.

“Take negative energy and create a drive within yourself to prove that you are not only good enough but that you belong there.” She urges athletes to stay positive in the face of struggle and push through whatever comes their way. “You are in charge of how you handle difficult times, and how you handle them speaks volumes to your character. Skills will carry you through sports for some ways but your character will push you into real life and will make a mark wherever you go.”

Coach Alicia Borges

From Alicia Borges to her Vacaville Christian Community: My motto for my college career was, “God gives you what you can handle,” so if you are going through a lot then God thinks you are pretty strong, and that is all the reassurance that you need to keep going. Don’t stop in a struggle, keep going and get to where you feel proud of and once you get there keep going, because only God knows what you are capable of and it will shock you, believe me.

Kai Nunley '23

Vacaville Christian morphs into contender under Tarango

Kai Nunley and Vacaville Christian played in the section semifinals in 2019. Chris Jackson / Staff PhotoAugust 25, 2020/Chris Jackson/No Comments

Manny Tarango was hired in April of 2018, and there was not much time for him and his staff to get acclimated to their new setting.

Tarango, formerly the defensive coordinator at nearby Vanden High School, brought his entire defensive staff over with him. Hired later in the process, Vacaville CHristian was in pads just three months later in July.

At that point, it was to go in and get the players familiar with what they do. Get them focused on offense and defense. They needed to be ready to go.

It all amounted to a 1-9 season in the debut year of the Tarango era, but the roots were planted immediately. 

“And then in year two we focused on getting bigger, faster, stronger,” Tarango said. “What we learned in that first year was the physicality of the Sierra Delta League really crushed us in that freshmen season for our coaching staff. We had to get bigger, stronger, faster. And we did.”

Vacaville Christian – a small Sac-Joaquin Section school with just 250 students on its high school campus – saw those results pay off in big ways in the second season.

Things were turned around in a big way during year No. 2. The Falcons improved from one win to seven. They averaged more than 36 points per game. They held three teams to single-digit scoring totals.

To top it all off, the Falcons found themselves in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division VII semifinals, falling to the eventual section champion in Mariposa County.

“We completely turned the program around in that second year and made it one game away from the Division VII Section Playoff, the title game, and so I think we kind of shocked a lot of people by getting there really, really quick,” Tarango said.

Quarterback Gabe Helmer shined all year and accounted for 3,087 total yards of offense and 44 touchdowns. Tamani Williams became Vacaville Christian’s first football player under Tarango to ink a college scholarship by signing with Valley City State University in North Dakota.

Even more talent returns, as multiple college-level players are sprinkled up and down the roster – including senior athlete Jaron Leaks, who recently announced an offer to UC Davis on his Instagram page, and junior Kendall Allen, who is not only on college radars on the gridiron but is also rated as one of the top basketball players on the west coast in addition to being a Junior Olympian.

So, how do they continue building the Falcons brand? 

It’s all about culture.

VCS lives by three core values, and the staff finds a way to teach those values and implement them into their programs each and every day. 

“We live by another motto,” Tarango said. “We tell the kids that we have to focus on being above the line. We have these red line painted stripes out on the football field to kind of give a visual representation of when we’re stepping onto the field it’s more than just playing football. It’s time to compete for our brother and to be intentional and deliberate and not make excuses.”

“I can’t say enough,” said Vacaville Christian junior defensive lineman Zack Mercado. “Coach T and the staff just, they’re great all around. They really push us to do great all the time, and they keep us focused in the classroom and everything. They’re just a great staff.”

It’s all about putting in the maximum effort and finishing what you started. You have to give 100% effort on the football field, during those drills, in the classroom and when you’re working on homework on the laptop.

Additionally, the Falcons have a big brother program. They are not invested in themselves, but they are rather invested in the team as a whole and becoming one family filled with love.

The big brother program features assigning every newcomer to someone who has been around the program. They sit down and interview with each other, then they have to type up a one page report about their teammate and speak about them in front of the entire squad.

“Everybody gets to listen about who’s your favorite player on the team, who motivates you the most, what kind of family life do they have, why are they here, what kind of stuff do they want to study in college and those kinds of things,” Tarango said. “And since that’s happened it’s brought in another level of accountability because I always talk to them about when your brother hits the wall, who’s going to pick him up and pull him through that? My leaders have really bought into what now you hear them saying, ‘Hey, we can love our brother but still hold them to a high standard.’”

Heading into what is now the 2021 campaign, Vacaville Christian is eager to watch its program grow even more.

Colleges are flocking from across the country to reach out and inquire about the Falcons. UTEP, right in Tarango’s hometown of El Paso, is coming out. There are Ivy league schools like Harvard and Yale. Southern Oregon. Pac-12 programs like Arizona State and UCLA.

They all see something special happening at the small private school with just over 200 students at the high school level, and they want these players part of their program. They see their character and they see how they win on and off the field.

Vacaville Christian believes even more is in store, and the Falcons are working to take that next step and win some rings.

“Me, Jaron, Austin (Dydo) – we’ve been working out three times a day, four times a day trying to put in that work. We want to win a title. I’m trying to bring a section championship and a state championship to this school.”

Kendall Allen ’22

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