Julia Handy of Turlock and Hilmar High's Hannah Pearce are not your average setters—they are the 2016 Turlock Journal co-Volleyball Players of the Year—and they have quite a few things in common.
Both are setters and have roots in Hilmar. They have accomplished 1,000-plus assists in a single season; and each have started at the varsity level since their freshman years and both have been selected as All-League players for three straight years heading into their senior year.
Both were also key contributors in their respective team’s historical runs in the 2016 season.
They are just juniors, but one of them committed verbally to University of Arizona (Handy) while the other has collegiate offers swarming her way after she concluded her third year for the 'Jackets (Pearce).
“To top off my third year with Co-Player of the Year in our volleyball area is a great honor,” said Pearce.
These were just a few reasons why the two were chosen among their peers and nominated by the area coaches to be considered for the award.
“Being selected as the Co-Player of the Year is a humbling honor for me,” said Handy. “But it truly wouldn't have been possible without my team. I am so thankful that I get to play with girls who work hard at every practice and have a strong drive to win.”
The two were the most versatile and key components to their team’s success, most importantly Turlock, which made a successful run in the powerful Division I bracket of the Sac-Joaquin Section tournament, ousting the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds, respectively, before falling to Pitman in the final.
It was the first time in school history that Turlock made the final and a deep run into the Nor-Cal State tournament, stamping their season as the most successful Bulldog team to-date and Handy was a big reason why.
“It's been an exciting and humbling experience to be part of the program's turnaround,” said Handy. “As for making history, it was surreal. Our team played so well and we believed in each other. This last season was definitely one I will never forget, but we still have a chip on our shoulder going into next year.”
Handy (Arizona) is arguably the best volleyball player to come out of Turlock to-date. Her accolades and accomplishments before her senior year speak volumes. She was the Setter of the Year for the Central California Conference in 2016.
She led Turlock with a 28-12 overall record in 2016 and 10-2 in the CCC while also making a run into the Division I Nor-Cal State Regional semifinal game.
“Winning the CCC is always a goal of ours and next year we want to get that title back,” said Handy.
Handy finished the 2016 season with a staggering 1,104 assists in 120 sets, averaging 9.2 per set.
“Going into next year, my last year, I want to leave my mark on the Turlock high volleyball program and do something that has never been done, winning Sections,” said Handy. “We came so close this past year and every returning player will want redemption. And if we get to that point next season, I know we will be more than ready.”
Pearce has been one of the staples for the 'Jackets since the 2014 season, when she made the varsity squad as a freshman. Since then she has flourished in all aspects and has become one of the premier setters in the area and arguably the best in school history next with sister Haylee.
With Pearce, Hilmar has won two of the last three Trans-Valley League titles, including three straight Division-IV Sac-Joaquin Section Championship appearances.
“The past three years have definitely had its battles, but having experienced it all with going to Sections three years in a row has been a great experience winning or losing it,” said Pearce. “It was an accomplishment as a team to make it that far.”
Hilmar has also gone 32-2 in TVL play over the last three seasons.
Pearce led the 'Jackets as a freshman (2014) in digs with 722, averaging 5.8 per set. As a sophomore the following year, Pearce yielded 1,036 assists in 115 sets played, averaging nine per set.
This past year, Pearce led the team with 830 assists in 102 sets and added 192 digs
“Going into my final year of high school, I would say unfinished business at Sections would have to be on the top of my list,” said Pearce. “It is a crazy experience to be considered one of the best volleyball players to come out of Hilmar, but it is an accomplishment that I have always challenged myself to become.”
All-Area/All-Journal Volleyball Team
Co Players of the Year: Julia Handy (Turlock) and Hannah Pearce (Hilmar)
Kristen Pontes-Christian, Coach of the Year
Jadyn Tubbs, outside hitter
Jazzmyn Tubbs, outside hitter
Marlowe Embry, libero
Yisel Perez, opposite hitter
Kaylin Randhawa, middle hitter
Erika Rodriguez, middle hitter
Brett Hanson, libero
Sophie Bigler, middle blocker
Erin Benning, middle blocker
Kiyanna Torres, setter
Mariah Ahid, outside hitter
Soobin Hwang, middle hitter
Senior, Turlock Christian
Bianca Escobedo, setter
Whitney Barnes, outside hitter