The 2013 volleyball year was one to remember for the ages after the Hilmar Yellowjackets set a school record with a 38-10 regular season showing after they swept through the Trans Valley League with a perfect 12-0 posting.
After losing six of their nine players from last fall due to graduation, head coach Patti Harris looks ahead to the new season with an inexperienced team and new faces, but she isn’t concerned for the new looking ‘Jackets — she is excited and eager.
“This year we have a group of juniors coming up who took league last year and they are coming up and there is a lot of talent and I really think everybody is going to be pleasantly surprised,” said Harris. “It was so much fun. We were like a machine and they were really good. I had such good support last year with everyone and they were all seasoned and this year the team is so young.”
Last year’s JV squad, which won the JV TVL last year, is coming in and should see many playmakers early on but the fact that the team returns three high quality players in seniors Whitney Williams and Haylee Pearce and also the super star in now-junior Emily Baptista, the team isn’t in too bad a shape.
Pearce comes off an all-league season as the setter for the ‘Jackets and will be in her third year at the varsity level and coach Harris refers to her as the team’s, ‘quarterback.’
Baptista was an absolute monster last season and is the undoubted captain of the team with her 6-foot-2 frame as only a junior. She is a two-time all-leaguer and won the Most Valuable Player honors last season for the TVL in only her second year in high school.
“We still have Emily obviously. Last year was really exciting and I’m going to miss that team a lot, but as a coach you focus on the next one coming up,” said Harris. “These girls are coming off championship JV team, yeah varsity is different but they are very talented and have skill. We should have a great year again. There are people who may doubt us because we only have three returners, we will be ok.”
Only Pearce and Williams will make up the seniors with seven juniors on the squad to tally up 11 with two freshman also on board.
Filling in the gap at libero left by Val Ewing will be tough to fill but hopefully newcomer Hannah Pearce, Haylee’s sister, could perhaps take on the duties as she is one of the freshman on the varsity squad for the 2014 year.
The other freshman will be Mariah Ahid.
Riley Souza returns and should play on the outside or the middle and Danielle Couchman will also be another player to look out for on Harris’ squad.
“I have a good group coming up. They’re just young and need to use preseason to kind of find our mojo spot but I think it will happen,” said Harris. “Repeating last year will be difficult to do, but I don’t think anyone should count us out because Hilmar always has talent coming through.”
The first scrimmage for the ‘Jackets will be from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Aug. 23 at Hilmar High with four other teams present to compete in a five person scrimmage tournament.