Last year the Central California Conference was a grind for local girls as Turlock and Pitman High School varsity water polo squads each finished in the top three spots at year’s end.
Turlock ended their season with a third place result at 6-4, barely missing the postseason, while the Pitman Pride paved their way into the Division I Sac-Joaquin Section tournament before being eliminated in the first round.
After each amassing a successful campaign last season, both squads can only hope to build off the prosperous year with Turlock returning a ton of great talent for head coach Sonja Raynes while the Pride welcome back Anne Cornell as the head coach with Erica Crain as the assistant head coach.
“We came on strong at the last part of the year, we beat the teams we lost to earlier in the year so I saw that as success,” said Raynes. “We would like to get a little better in one or two positions but I still believe we will be competitive because I think the JV players from last year moving up will help us.”
Crain, who won three straight Central California Conference titles during her years at Pitman, also brings collegiate experience to a team that is looking to build off last season’s accomplishment.
“Anne asked me if I wanted to come out and help her since she had been out of the game for some time and now here I am,” said Crain.
“The girls would like to take league this year, although I have warned them it’s not easy, and we should just take it one day at a time,” said Crain of her talented and experienced team. “If that's what they would like to achieve then we will strive for it.”
With speed on their side, Crain is confident that this team could potentially reach newer heights from the get-go.
“In general the team looks good. For me I think we look confident, really strong and passionate, that’s what I like. I believe our season should hopefully turn out good but we will soon find out,” said Crain. “My goals are to place top two in CCC, that’s my goal. I would love that and also I want to have fun.”
With such a tight race at the end of last year and many of those student-athletes returning with that drive and fire, the Bulldogs of Turlock had an unmatchable offseason during the summer.
Coach Raynes had the majority of her team consistently training all year, competing and practicing on their own time. Raynes also hosted a six-week summer program that involved many of the players on her 2015 roster.
“With the summer training a lot of our girls got some new skills and enthusiasm and I am looking forward to that,” said Raynes.
Assistant Lauren Bettencourt is back to help Raynes in a year that looks promising for the 'Dogs.
“She is my coaching partner and I think we got a core group of players that played four years and I can't wait to see how the synergy will be,” Raynes said.
Of those difference makers, Sarah Phillips, Hannah Groteguth, Karissa Roof and Allison Serratos look to be some of the top players for Raynes.
“I’ve been looking forward to this year because I knew this core group would be together and I am excited to see what they can do given the team working together,” Raynes added. “I am excited to see how they will do. After this year there might be a big hole to fill all over because I will lose lots of seniors.
“If we can get the physical and communication parts together then we will definitely be dangerous,” she added. “I know these girls are competitive, they are athletes and they love the sport and all will help to be dynamic and dangerous.”