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Great expectations for vollyball
Ceres High School's varsity volleyball program hasn't compiled a winning record since 1998. The Bulldogs' last Sac-Joaquin Section playoff appearance came in 2004.

Central Valley High School quadrupled its victory total in 2008 en route to finishing in a tie for fifth place with Ceres High and East Union in the Valley Oak League standings.

The Hawks and Bulldogs should be much improved this season.

"I'm excited about this year's team," Ceres High head coach Stephanie Hamilton said. "We definitely have a good mix of players. They all have good attitudes and are hard workers."

The Bulldogs have plenty of experience as they return eight players from 2008, including seniors Jode Johnson, Leah Rose, Kaela Causey, Rachel Nevarez, Alyssa Eudy, Nichole Fitch and Amy Raymond, and junior Jamie Beck.

Haley Duarte (Jr.), Sherhea Hamilton (Jr.), Meagan Humphres (Jr.) and Sabrina Rinsamout (Jr.) are newcomers.

Beck and Johnson were both named to the Valley Oak League second team last year.

Jamie, who stands 6 feet 2 inches, suited up for the Ripon Rage 16-and-under Red Power Club during the offseason. She played in more than 10 tournaments.

"My hitting and blocking have gotten a lot better," Beck said. "I learned how to set. And I play back row a lot better too. I'm going to be more aggressive now."

"It's exciting having a player like that," Hamilton said. "She's very strong defensively with her blocking. She's like a wall. Everyone's impressed when she spikes the ball. She's become a better player all the way around."

Jode and Leah were elected co-captains.

Alyssa Long, a three-sport standout, totaled 42 kills, 16 aces and 14 blocks in Central Valley's four victories during her sophomore campaign.

"My position on the team is to be a leader," said Alyssa, a VOL second-team honoree who stars in varsity girls basketball and softball as well. "There's people my age and older that look up to me. I have to do my best every time out."

Other Hawk returners include Amanda Lopez (Sr.), Valerie Uti (Sr.) and Gigi Sahota (Sr.).

Vicky Ochoa (Jr.), Alyssa Meshach (Jr.), Jenna Mills (So.), Cheyenne Adney (Jr.), Dalia Aguayo (Jr.), Jessica Berndt (Jr.) and Alicia Yori (Jr.) played frosh-soph volleyball in 2008.

Jennifer Diaz (Jr.) is a first-year member.

The Hawks have great team chemistry.

"We're a family," Long said.

Ceres High, Central Valley and East Union compiled identical 4-10 records in 2008.

"We have the potential to go far this year," Long said.

"I think we're going to do pretty good," Beck said. "We're all working hard. We want to get volleyball talked about more like basketball and softball. We want people to come out and watch us."

"Winners bring fans," Hamilton said. "It's going to take a lot of commitment from the girls. Not just the season."

Hamilton is trying to bring stability to a program that has had eight different head coaches since 1999, including Sue Garcia, Shannon Donnelly, Kassi Baker, Angela Durossette, Jennifer Weiss and Debbie Clemens.

"There's been too many coaches coming in and out," said Stephanie, Ceres High's second-year leader. "We're trying to chance that."