Over the past half-decade there has been no better or more consistent varsity volleyball program at the Division-IV level in the Sac-Joaquin Section than the Hilmar High Yellowjackets.
They have reached the SJS D-IV title game the last six seasons; an incredible and extremely difficult feat to accomplish, while winning the last two, including the program’s first ever SJS crown in 2017.
A major reason has been head coach Patti Harris, who has time and again the ability to create a winning group.
“Super excited this year, the girls are bigger and stronger,” said Harris. “Our goal is to be the best we can be and just let that take us with the team I have.”
That group of girls includes a herd of standout players that return this year.
From last year’s D-IV SJS champions, Hilmar brings back the staple of the team that includes standout outside hitter Mikela Labno, among a total of nine returners.
“Six seniors total on the team, pretty seasoned, this team is really seasoned, and I have five other girls coming in,” said Harris.
Returning alongside Labno are standouts Olivia Peterson, Julia Gonsalves and Kayley Souza, while setter Emma Martin continues to rehab after her ACL tear she sustained during basketball season.
It will take a full team effort for success to continue and also a tough preseason schedule, something the ‘Jackets and Harris know a thing or two about.
“Preseason, we always have a tough schedule. We’re going to Reno and we have a scrimmage with six teams next Saturday, I mean just a bunch of really good Division-I schools,” said Harris. “Orestimba tournament, then we go to Reno, always a really good tournament, and then we have Pitman, Turlock, Beyer, among other teams. I am really trying to push the girls so they can find themselves as a team. We always have a really tough preseason schedule. We are also going to the Phoenix Tournament and there will be about 100 teams from around the country; it is exciting and we are really looking forward to that.”
The team looks ready said Harris.
In the Trans-Valley League, Hilmar has amassed a record of 68-2 over the past six seasons, winning five league titles during that span.
“Really, these girls are ready to go, they are already focused, they just want to get going, the short practices we had so far… they are just fired up, and be the best we can be and play the best we can,” said Harris.
Hilmar will open up the season at home against Beyer High at 6 p.m. Aug. 28.
“Every coaches dream is to pick up where we left off, but it is always a different team, always a different mixture, this team has to find its sweet spot and it takes a while,” Harris added.