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TC volleyball leads the way ; Delhi, Denair rebuilding
SAL vb pic1
Captain Sarah Amaral returns for her senior season after leading the Eagles to the D-VI CIF Sac-Joaquin Section title. - photo by EDDIE RUIZ / The Journal

Fresh off a Division VI Sac-Joaquin Section championship run last season, the Turlock Christian volleyball team is hoping to capture the one title that was out of reach — a Southern League banner.

Ripon Christian swept the Southern Athletic League last season, going a perfect 15-0 in league play. But with a new season, the Eagles feel they can compete with Ripon for a SAL title.

“We had a tough time beating the tougher teams in league last season, considering the SAL is so tough with Ripon Christian up there all the time,” Turlock Christian head coach Ken Wynne said. “We have a great foundation to start off with.”

With an 18-15 record last season in coach Wynne’s first season as head coach, TC was able to snag a playoff berth despite finishing fourth in league, and that’s all it took as they cruised along to win the CIF Division VI Sac-Joaquin Section championship, outscoring opponents 9-2.

“The girls looked stronger and stronger through the playoffs. We didn’t change a thing in the postseason and it worked out,” Wynne said.

After losing three seniors, the Eagles return seven players from last year’s banner team, five seniors and two juniors made up of captain Sarah Amaral, one of the team’s biggest impact players, Tiffany Franco, a tremendous returning setter, and outside hitter Anna Larson, who looks stronger after playing club ball in the offseason.

The back row defense returns a couple of players and new libero sophomore Abbie Morelli.

“We just put this team together and they all seemed to click and we haven’t changed it. We are further along this year at this time than maybe a quarter into the season last year,” Wynne said. “Varsity is all about winning a championship, and I always try to get everybody out there when we’re playing.”

While the Eagles are setting their sights on a league title and beyond, Denair and Delhi volleyball teams are rebuilding this year.

Denair High ended last season with a 3-14-2 record, along with a 2-12 league record, and failed to make the postseason. But that was last year. A new season brings with it more opportunities to improve.

“I would like to see more team camaraderie because the team started to fall apart last season due to some off the field issues; the girls were not having fun and it was a rough season, but it looks like this team will be different from last,” head coach Courtney Nutcher said. “We will play harder and have fun despite our size, which we are a little smaller.”

The Coyotes lost three seniors, and will return leaders such as Alex Knapp, at setter and middle, along with Aliah Ibarra setter, defensive specialist and outside hitter can also play anywhere on the court, Nutcher said. Katy Oliver will be the tallest player on the team as only a sophomore and will be playing middle blocker.

“Moving quickly is a big thing this year; we're doing a lot of conditioning to get them in shape, reading the ball, moving quickly there, because we’re a defensive team,” Nutcher said. “We’re not tall or big and we're not very powerful yet, still working on it, but we move quickly through drills and each consists of defensive techniques to react quicker to the ball.”

The Delhi High Hawks concluded their 2012-2013 season with a 2-15 overall record and 2-10 in league play, after struggling to put up points offensively as they were outscored 8-47.

Despite the extremely competitive SAL, fourth year head coach Adriana Nunez remains optimistic that her team will not only improve, but be successful.

The Hawks lost only two seniors last year, but remain one of the youngest teams in the Valley with a roster of one senior, a handful of juniors, two sophomores and one freshman.

 “We are a very young team,” Nunez said. “We need to play as a team and play committed."