The Hilmar High varsity volleyball team placed second last year in the Trans Valley League with a 10-2 record; but this year they return with a vengeance with one goal in mind — dethroning Escalon. The Cougars were last year's conference champions, finishing with an undefeated record of 12-0.
“This team is going to be consistent this year and they are very powerful. Volleyball is such a team sport and so tight that these girls have finally found their mojo. This combination is better this year,” Hilmar head coach Patti Harris said. “They are at the level where they really mesh well.”
Hilmar’s overall record last year of 25-7, including a playoff win, will be difficult to repeat but coach Harris is confident that her team can repeat the success and win a league title despite a much smaller group of players this year — nine players compared to last season’s total of 13.
“We are a much smaller group this year but it doesn’t matter because we are so talented,” Harris said. “The girls get along and there will be no problems outside of volleyball because they are all friends.”
The Yellowjackets lost four seniors from last season, leaving only two veteran starters for a team that is extremely young.
“I have a really small team this year of only nine and I have four all leaguers from last year and that should help,” Harris said. “These girls are good. My middles are more powerful this year and these girls have been playing together for over a year and are all extremely smart.”
The only sophomore on the squad is Emily Baptista, who returns after a stellar first year, winning All-League honors as a freshman, placing first in hitting, and topping at second in kills for the league.
“Emily is a real beast. She is pushing 6-2 and she will hit anything and is just an awesome player. She is absolutely unbelievable. She has gotten bigger and stronger this year,” Harris said.
The co-captains will consist of senior Val Ewing and junior Haylee Pearce. Senior Lexie Victoria will be the outside hitter, as she led the team in serving aces the previous season.
“When Lexie serves she is so consistent. She got us a ton of points last season,” Harris said. “Haylee is the libero and is a great setter as well. Val led the league in digs and touched nearly every ball last season.”
Cailey Soares will be playing defense along with her great passing ability to help this small team.
“Soares is a beast as well; I am hoping to make her my libero next year, she is working on it,” Harris said.
The Yellowjackets begin their season at 7 p.m. Sept. 3 against Pitman High at Pitman.