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Looking to make history
Veronica Giddens and Margo Arzola will share coaching responsibilities for Central Valley's varsity softball program this year.

Giddens and Arzola were rivals in high school.

They suited up for the same slow-pitch, adult-softball team in recent years.

Veronica and Margo both work at Central Valley.

"We've known each other for a while," said Arzola, a 1996 Modesto High grad and Spanish instructor.

"We played against each other in volleyball, basketball and softball," said Giddens, a 1997 Beyer grad and special education teacher.

The Hawks improved each season under Giddens' direction from 2007-09. Central Valley totaled 15 wins, including a program-record 10 victories in 2009. The Hawks won just one game during Veronica's first year.

Giddens took last season off to raise her newborn son Cade.

"It's hard to come back because I have to spend more time away from him," Giddens said. "I hope the girls make it worth it."

Alyssa Meshach (UTL, Sr.) and Vicky Ochoa (P/UTL, Sr.), two key members on Central Valley High School's 2009 varsity softball team, will provide a major boost this year. They played soccer last spring.

Vicky was the Hawks' best all-round player as a sophomore. Ochoa earned first-team all-VOL honors. She accumulated nine wins with 137 strikeouts while pitching. She also hit .300 (27-for-90), one homer, one triple, four doubles, five stolen bases, 11 runs and 10 RBIs for the fourth-place Hawks (6-8).

Alyssa batted .284 (27-for-95) with one homer, two triples, four doubles, seven stolen bases, 22 runs and 12 RBIs her sophomore year.

"They (Vicky and Alyssa) both work hard," Giddens said.

Added Arzola: "They're good examples for the younger players."

Central Valley's top returners are Jessica Berndt (1B, Sr.), Molly Littmann (UTL, Sr.) and Malynda Lomeli (UTL, So.).

Berndt earned second-team, all-league honors as a junior. She batted .276 with four RBIs.

Newcomers Lexy Cordova (P/UTL, Fr.), Sara McElroy (P/UTL, Fr.) and Mia Lorenzo (C, Fr.) will also contribute.

The Hawks lost one key player to graduation and another to a private school.

Amandah Fleming pitched and played in the outfield during her senior year. She made the VOL first team. Fleming posted a .276 batting average and drove in five runs.

Breonna Bejaran transferred to Modesto Christian. She was named to the conference's all-defensive team as a freshman. Bejaran batted .429 and collected four RBIs.

Ochoa will replace Fleming.

Cordova and McElroy might also log playing time at pitcher.

Central Valley posted a 4-20 overall record and finished in eighth place in the Valley Oak League (2-14) a season ago.

The Hawks will compete in the Western Athletic Conference this year.

Central Valley's opponents are Ceres High, Los Banos, Patterson, Central Catholic and Livingston.

Ceres High failed to make the playoffs for the first time in 24 years in 2010. The Bulldogs tied for third place in the VOL (13-5).

Los Banos claimed the Central California Conference crown (12-0) and qualified for the postseason last year.

Patterson (13-2), Central Catholic (8-6) and Livingston (4-11) finished first, third and fifth, respectively, in the WAC. Patterson and Central Catholic both participated in the playoffs.

Central Valley will be vying for its first-ever trip to the postseason. The top three teams in league advance.

"We'll be competitive if the girls play hard and believe in themselves," Giddens said.

Said Arzola: "They want to win."