ALUMNI NOTEBOOK: NU grad Justin Houlihan leads defensive effort as American River routs Sierra |

ALUMNI NOTEBOOK: NU grad Justin Houlihan leads defensive effort as American River routs Sierra

In a clash between surging Sacramento-area community college football squads it was the Beavers from American River powering past the Sierra Wolverines, 45-14, Saturday.

Suiting up and making an impact in the game were several local alumni.

Leading the Beavers’ defensive effort was 2018 Nevada Union graduate Justin Houlihan. The 6-foot, 225-pound sophomore linebacker led American River in tackles with six, including one for a loss.

Houlihan has made his presence known all season and leads the Beavers in tackles (56) and tackles for a loss (5).

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While at Nevada Union, Houlihan was a three-year varsity starter at middle linebacker, racking up 340 tackles across 33 games. He was an All-League selection three times.

For Sierra, linebacker Austin Baze, a 2018 Bear River grad, did all he could to slow American River’s onslaught and finished with a game-high eight tackles.

Baze, a 6-foot, 2-inch, 240-pound sophomore, is second on his team in tackles this season with 50. He also has two sacks, an interception, a fumble recovery and two touchdowns on defense.

Sierra teammate Hayden Fay, a 2018 Nevada Union grad, also saw action in the game. The 6-foot, 2-inch, 180-pound freshman receiver returned a pair of kickoffs in the game.

For the season, Fay has caught seven passes for 210 yards and a touchdown. He’s also returned 12 kickoffs with a long of 34 yards.

Fay was a three-year varsity starter during his time at Nevada Union, earning All-Sierra Foothill League honors as a receiver his junior season and as a defensive back his senior season. During his three varsity seasons, Fay pulled down 87 catches for 1,501 yards and 10 touchdowns.

During Baze’s time with the Bear River Bruins, he played at the varsity level all four seasons, notching 183 tackles and 11 sacks along the way. He helped the Bruins win two Section titles (2014, 2017) and was a force on both sides of the ball. As a fullback with the Bruins, Baze ran for 1,544 yards and 30 touchdowns on 251 carries.

The loss for the Wolverines drops them to 4-3 overall and 1-1 in the conference play. Next up for Sierra is a contest against conference foe Feather River College (0-7, 0-2).

American River (5-2, 2-0) will look for their fourth straight victory when they host Butte College (5-2, 2-0) Saturday.

Both American River and Sierra compete in the California Community College Athletic Association’s National-NorCal Conference.


Danica Minard, a 2018 Nevada Union graduate, and the American River women’s volleyball team pushed their win streak to 10 with victories over Folsom Lake College and Cosumnes River College last week.

Minard, a sophomore, notched five kills in the win over Folsom Lake. Stats for the match with Cosumnes River were not available as of press time.

American River (16-6, 8-1) competes in the CCCAA’s Big 8 Conference.

Bekah McGill, a 2019 Nevada Union graduate, and the Sierra Wolverines won all three of their matches last week, topping Santa Rosa Junior College, Modesto Junior College and Folsom Lake College.

McGill, a freshman setter, led the Wolverines in assists in all three matches, finishing with a total of 77 across the trio of contests. She also tallied 23 digs for the week.

For the season, McGill leads the team in assists with 448. She’s also fifth on the team in digs with 118.

Sierra (15-7, 8-2) competes in the CCCAA’s Big 8 Conference.

Kaely Rath, a 2016 Bear River graduate, and the Southern Virginia University Knights dropped both of their matches last week, falling to University of Mary Washington and Salisbury University.

Rath, a junior outside hitter, tallied 15 kills across the two matches.

For the season, Rath leads the team in kills with 233.

Southern Virginia (14-9) is a Division III school that competes in the Capital Athletic Conference.


Aycee Willis, a 2017 Nevada Union graduate, and the William Jessup Warriors Women’s hoops team opened the season strong with a, 79-59, victory over Pacific Union College last Thursday.

Willis, a junior guard, got the start and scored 17 points, grabbed four rebounds and nabbed two steals in the win.

Willis transferred to William Jessup after two standout seasons at Sierra College where she was an all-conference selection after her sophomore campaign.

Have we missed anyone? If you know of a college or professional athlete with local ties, email or call 530-477-4232.

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