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SAL volleyball: Delhi looks strong; Denair headed by new coach
Delhi volley
Bianca Escobedo of Delhi is one of the Hawks' juniors who played volleyball all year long in club and should provide some stability. - photo by CANDY PADILLA / The Journal

Denair and Delhi high schools have been waiting for the start of the 2015 volleyball season and an opportunity to compete for a Southern Athletic League title.

Despite a down year, both squads are ambitious and hungry for a second chance.

Delhi's Lauren Ruell gets set for her second year as the head coach, after winning just one game last season, finishing 1-13 in the SAL, but the return of her experienced players has the team optimistic.

“What I told my girls is I had high expectations after the first year and should not have done that, but I never doubted their talent and I felt they were talented enough to win,” said Ruell. “The difference from last year to this is we have a strong base, the season was rough but at the end we ended with a fantastic base.”

Commitment was a big task for coach Ruell when she first stepped into the Delhi volleyball program.

A program that never had a foundation or identity was quickly turned around by coach Ruell, who managed to boast 16 girls on this year's roster.

“This year everyone is on the same page because 16 of them were committed. The committed level is the same, every one of the girls are in it,” said Ruell. “I could not cut one or two it would not be fair because they are all very important to the team in their own ways.”

The two juniors in Bianca Escobedo and Solenia Barahona should provide coach Ruell's a powerful tandem with senior Veronica Garcia adding a boost.

Finally with a competitive SAL at hand, and a possible title up for grabs, the Hawks of Delhi will do all they can to compete with their new team.

“The girls made a team motto, it’s pretty much every single game and practice they are all in it,” Ruell said. “I want them to hold themselves accountable and to be competitive as a team, and with expectations to be competitive all the time, not in a negative way but to push each other to get better.”

Denair welcomes first year head coach David Lewellen, who takes over a team that also finished 1-13 in the SAL, winning their final game of the season to end the year on a high note.

“Everything is about teamwork, everything is about the team,” said Lewellen. “I am pretty hardcore in my approach, but I like to have fun at the same time.”

Since 2011, the Denair Coyotes have only won a total of 11 games.

Through listening and talking to the team, Lewellen's presence has already drastically improved the Coyotes' morale.

“The girls said they are a bit more motivated because I don't necessarily yell at them,” he said with a minor laugh. “When they need direction and need to be pointed into that direction I do that, but when we do stuff right and play volleyball we have fun, I think that is my approach.”

Leading the Coyotes this year will be the combo of Cheyenne Rutherford and Katie Oliver, who provide plenty of varsity experience.

“My team this year is mostly girls that I have been coaching since they were freshmen. We will make a huge dent in the season with the talent that I know we have,” Lewellen added. “Some play club in the offseason, which is huge help to me. I think we will be solid. You are only as strong as your weakest link.”

Delhi's first game will be against Downey at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 3.

Denair's first game will be against Turlock Christian in the foundation game at the Calvary Baptist Church at 7 p.m. Aug. 31.