With the season now officially underway, the Sun Herald concludes its county volleyball preview with a look at Maxwell, Princeton and Williams, three teams intent on upping their performance from a year ago.


Maxwell Panthers

Head Coach: Tessa Reynoso (third year).

Last Season: 11-13 overall; 6-4 league; lost to Portola in second round of the Division VI playoffs.

Players to watch: Last year as a young team Maxwell advanced to the second round of the playoffs, however, now with another season under their belt, the Panthers look to be even more competitive in 2019. Leading the way will be one of the county’s best all-round players in junior Laynee Haywood who recorded 134 kills as an outside hitter in addition to making 228 digs and 251 service receptions last year. Another key component is senior Courtney Wycoff, a fixture in the back row after accounting for 207 digs and 225 service receptions in 2018. As the Panthers transition to a 6-2 offense, a pair of sophomore setters, Leah Ferrara and Paige Vierra, will direct the attack and add some height to the front row. Junior Morgan Dennis, the team leader in aces a year ago with 63, will be part of the defensive brigade which also includes senior Rosalyn Wilson and junior Rosa Corona.

Outlook: Although small in number again this season, the Panthers are an athletic group to be sure and as they adjust to their new rotation, should continue to improve as the season progresses. As a result, communication is one thing that coach Tessa Reynoso feels her team needs to work on in order “to maximize their effectiveness on the court.” Yet Reynoso is confident that goal will be achieved and appreciates “how the players take ownership for its successes and failures.  No excuses, just lessons and growth.  Leaders are shining through and the program is benefiting from it.”

While the Panthers could present a challenge for their Mountain Valley League rivals, they still might be a year a way from being able to knock off Division VI powers Paradise Adventist Academy, Redding Christian and Fall River.

Maxwell hosted Princeton last night and travels to Williams on Thursday in two early preseason contests.


Princeton Eagles

Head Coach: Anthony Peters (first year).

Last Season: 8-19 overall, 4-4 league; lost to Paradise Adventist in the first round of the Division VI playoffs.

Players to Watch: After graduating just two players off last year’s squad, the Eagles will take the court relying on a core group of four seniors which includes outside hitters Diana Medina and Jaqui Reynoso, middle Vanessa Chocoteco and setter Karissa Lutz. Medina was the team leader in kills and aces a season ago, while Chocoteco tallied team highs in both digs and service receptions. Lutz will share setting duties with junior Alondra Cervantes, who performed admirably a year ago as a sophomore. Princeton will also look to junior libero Xitlaly Gonzalez, sophomore hitter Rohelia Ellis-Gomez, sophomore opposite Monica Chocoteco along with freshmen Sophia Deniz and Andrea Cervantes to make contributions as well.

Outlook: With Melissa Roach stepping aside after four seasons at the helm of the Eagles, Anthony Peters enters his inaugural season bringing his love of the game and longtime association with the sport to the court with him. While hoping to see his team improve their team defense, Peters says there is strong chemistry, familiarity and experience that should keep his team in the hunt.

The Eagles will see some tough competition in the preseason which should payoff in Pioneer Valley League play and give them a boost into the playoffs.

Princeton hit the road for their season opener facing Maxwell on August 13, but scores were unavailable by the Sun-Herald print deadline.


Williams Yellowjackets

Coach: Kristi Hill (fourth year).

Last season: 6-17 overall; 0-9 league.

Players to watch: While six players return from last year’s roster, there is some stiff competition for most spots on the court as Williams prepares for the upcoming season. However one consistent presence will be senior Estafania Bermudez, second on the team in kills a season ago, who swings with power from the outside and will most likely also play all round. Athletic junior Nayeli Contreras is another outside hitter with the potential to play all around. In the middle, senior Jackie Rivera returns to the court after a year away while Aracely Reyes and Cassie Tortoledo will see time there as well. With the graduation of their setter over the past three seasons, Lizbeth Aceves, Brenda Rivera, Litzie Leos and Crystal Garcia are the candidates to fill the vacancy. In the back row Garcia, Jovanna Hernandez and Paula Orduno should operate as defensive specialists.

Outlook: Lack of gym availability has put the ‘Jackets behind in getting ready for the season but they are athletic, eager to learn and have a strong group dynamic. Improved passing is another of the team’s strengths and will be pivotal given that they suffer from a lack of height. Without question Williams has struggled mightily in the Mid-Valley League so the goal for this season according to coach Kristi Hill is to “improve each game and be competitive in league.”

The ‘Jackets opened their season on Tuesday night playing host to division rival Los Molinos although scores were not available by the Sun Herald print deadline and will welcome Maxwell to town on Thursday.

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