ALUMNI NOTEBOOK: NU grad Nora Pizzella helps Chico to 12th straight CCAA title |

ALUMNI NOTEBOOK: NU grad Nora Pizzella helps Chico to 12th straight CCAA title

Nora Pizzella
Courtesy of Chico State Athletics/

Nora Pizzella, a 2016 Nevada Union graduate, put in a strong showing at the California Collegiate Athletic Association Championships, placing fifth overall and helping the Chico State women’s cross country team win its 12th straight conference title.

Pizzella was one of four Wildcat runners to finish in the top-five. The senior harrier ran the 6K race at Baywood Golf and Country Club in Arcata in a time of 22 minutes, 15.1 seconds.

Making the feat all the more impressive is Pizzella lost a show early on in the race, according to, but overcame the hinderance and claimed a top-five finish.

Pizzella was named the CCAA Freshman of the Year in 2016 and has garnered All-CCAA cross country honors as a sophomore, junior and senior. She has also earned multiple CCAA All-Academic awards during her time at Chico State.

While at Nevada Union, Pizzella was a star on the cross country team, placing sixth at the Sac-Joaquin Section finals, and taking 25th at the state championships with a time of 18:20, which set a school record.

Next up for Pizzella and the Wildcats is the NCAA West Regional Championships, Saturday in Monmouth, Oregon.

Chico State is a NCAA Division II school.


Justin Houlihan, a 2018 Nevada Union graduate, helped the American River College football team earn an important win over Butte College on Saturday.

Houlihan, a 6-foot, 225-pound sophomore linebacker, tallied nine tackles in the Beavers’ 14-7 win over the Roadrunners.

For the season, Houlihan now has a team-high 65 tackles to go with five tackles for a loss and a sack.

The win for American River (6-2, 3-0) is their fourth straight and moves them into sole possession of first place in the California Community College Athletic Association’s National NorCal Conference.

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.

In other National NorCal Conference action, Sierra College rebounded nicely from last week’s conference loss to American River by knocking off Feather River College, 41-21.

Sierra linebacker Austin Baze, a 2018 Bear River grad, tallied three tackles in the win. The 6-2, 240-pound sophomore is second on his team in tackles this season with 53. He also has five tackles for a loss, two sacks and two defensive touchdowns.

Sierra teammate Hayden Fay, a 2018 Nevada Union grad, also saw action in the game. The 6-2, 180-pound freshman receiver didn’t make a catch, but did tally a tackle on special teams.

Fay was a three-year varsity starter for the Miners, earning All-Sierra Foothill League honors as a receiver his junior season and as a defensive back his senior season.

With the win, Sierra improves to 5-3 overall and 2-1 in conference play.


Danica Minard, a 2018 Nevada Union graduate, and the American River women’s volleyball team made it 11 wins in a row after sweeping past Diablo Valley College in straight sets last week.

Minard, a sophomore, notched seven kills and nine digs in the victory.

For the season, Minard is fifth on her team in kills with 104.

While at Nevada Union, Minard was a two-year varsity standout who helped the Lady Miners reach the playoffs in both her junior and senior seasons.

In her freshman season with American River, she helped the Beavers win the California State Championship.

American River (17-6, 9-1) competes in the CCCAA’s Big 8 Conference.

Bekah McGill, a 2019 Nevada Union graduate, and the Sierra Wolverines won both their matches last week, topping Cosumnes River College and Diablo Valley.

McGill, a freshman setter, led the Wolverines in assists in both contests, finishing with 25 against Cosumnes River, and 18 against Diablo Valley. She also tallied 13 digs across the two matches.

For the season, McGill leads the team in assists with 492. She’s also fifth on the team in digs with 131.

While at Nevada Union, McGill was a three-year varsity player and a team-captain in her junior and senior seasons. She helped the Lady Miners reach the playoffs all three years and was a two-time all-league selection.

Sierra (17-7, 10-2) competes in the CCCAA’s Big 8 Conference.

Kaely Rath, a 2016 Bear River graduate, and the Southern Virginia University Knights split a pair of matches last week, beating St. Mary’s College of Maryland and falling to Roanoke College.

Rath, a junior outside hitter, led her team in kills in both games, notching eight in the win over St. Mary’s, and scoring 18 in the loss to Roanoke.

For the season, Rath leads her team in kills with 259.

While at Bear River, Rath was a four-year varsity player. She was a freshman on the Lady Bruins’ 2012 Sac-Joaquin Section championship team, and as a senior led the team to a Pioneer Valley League title. She was named the league MVP in 2015.

Southern Virginia (15-12) 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 split a pair of games at the Bill Holtz Warrior Classic last week, topping Oregon Institute of Technology, 74-58, and falling to Southeastern University, 97-44.

Willis, a junior guard, tallied 11 points in the win over Oregon Tech, and did not score against Southeastern.

Willis transferred to William Jessup after two standout seasons at Sierra College where she was an All-Conference Selection her sophomore season.

William Jessup (2-1) is a NAIA school which competes in the Golden State Athletic Conference.

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

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Grass Valley and Nevada County make The Union’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.


Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User