Tiger Shelton's hiring as Modesto Junior College volleyball coach wasn't verified until last month. Putting a team together was a challenge.
"I found one player in a coffee shop," Shelton said. "I have no idea what to expect. We will fight and do what we can."
So far so good. Modesto, winner of only one Big 8 Conference game and only five total games last season, has won four of its first five. Porterville beat the Pirates 3-1 Friday in the finals of MJC's six-team tournament.
The feeling is that Shelton, the third MJC volleyball coach in as many seasons, could be the man to reverse the program's fortunes. He enters the community college ranks after a highly successful nine-year run at Ripon Christian High, during which the Knights won four straight titles in the Sac-Joaquin Section (2007-'11).
"It will be a culture shock," Shelton said. "One of my goals is to put people back in that gym again and make our games an event."
Here's a quick look at MJC volleyball and the rest of the fall sports scene:
Coach: Tiger Shelton (1st)
2012: 1-12 in Big 8 (7th), 5-19 overall
Key Losses: Jamie Beck, Morgan Jensen. Key Returners: Rylee McCown, Destini Soto. Key Newcomers: Sierrah Miller, Shania Williams, Annabelle Perez, Kristy Van Diver, Sierra Daggett
Outlook: Shelton worked fast to retool the roster which lost Beck, the state leader in blocks-per-set, to graduation. Immediate help has come from captain and setter Perez (63 assists in three games Friday), Van Diver (one of Shelton's stars at RC), Miller (who played club volleyball for Shelton) and Williams.
Coach: Steve Aristotelous (1st)
2012: 4-1-3 (2nd in Big 8), 11-5-5
Key Losses: Alonso Lara, Quinn Selby.Key Returners: Pedro Gomez, Alex Moscaira, Francisco Chavez. Key Newcomers: Christian Carranza, Edgar Martinez.
Outlook: Aristotelous was forced into double-duty with both the MJC men and women after Joe Michelena stepped down as men's coach. Michelena, who led the Pirates to the 2011 Big 8 title and four straight playoff berths, didn't leave the cupboard bare. Chavez, one of the stars of 2011, comes back this fall. He scored two goals during season-opening 5-0 win over Butte. More power is expected from Carranza, a transfer from Oregon, and Martinez should replace a good goalkeeper in Lara.
Coach: Steve Aristotelous (13th)
2012: 2-8-4 (7th in Big 8), 5-9-8
Key Losses: Yajahira Valdivia, Anita Nava. Key Returners: Selena Da Silva. Key Newcomers: Marissa Rouse, Keshia Watson, Evelyn Blue.
Outlook: The Pirates stumbled last year after winning the 2011 Big 8 title with star Sara Latham. Aristotelous will coach all the women's games while assistants Sebastian Gutierrez and Hugo Valadez will run the men's games. The Pirates figure to improve with assistance from older players along with freshmen Da Silva, a playmaking midfielder, Rouse, Watson (Grace Davis) and Blue (Summerville). Blue had three goals during the season-opening 4-2 win over Las Positas.
MEN'S CROSS COUNTRY
Coach: Demitrius Snaer (10th)
2012: 2nd in Big 8
Key Losses: Alejandro Garcia, Flavio Castro. Key Returners: Romero Valtierra, Ralph McCullar. Key Newcomers: Isaias Contreras, Isaiah Cruz.
Outlook: The Pirates can't replace Garcia (Humboldt State) who, in 2010, became first MJC runner in 23 years to win the NorCal title. Contreras, from Livingston, hopes to excel as a freshman to assist Valtierra and McCullar. One tall hurdle: Big 8 power American River, the two-time reigning state champion.
WOMEN'S CROSS COUNTRY
Coach: Mary Shea (13th)
2012: 2nd in Big 8, 3rd in NorCal, 10th in State.
Key Losses: Adriana Mendez. Key Returners: Becky Hobby, Kaylee Sedler. Key Newcomers: Ceslie Cooksey, Cecilia Carretero.
Outlook: Hobby (Hughson), who had the top time among non-Division 1 runners in San Francisco on Saturday, has been recruited by Big 10 schools after her fifth at State and third at NorCals last fall. Sedler (Bret Harte) and Hobby will anchor what could be another strong MJC team if Cooksey and Carretero progress. The MJC women and men will welcome other teams for the MJC Invitational on Sept. 13.
Coach: Milan Motroni (6th)
2012: 3rd in Big 8, 3rd in NorCal
Key Losses: Spencer Downey, Jennifer Ketner. Key Returners: Arleen Xayasone, Jordan Garcia. Key Newcomers: Angela Nuccio, Ariel Walsh, Kelsi Valenzuela.
Outlook: Downey and Ketner both reached State last year, and Ketner elected not to play as a sophomore. Filling the void were 14 prospects, the largest turnout in Motroni's tenure. Nuccio, a former Beyer star who spent her freshman year at UC Irvine (did not play on the golf team), will start the season No. 1 in the lineup. Modesto should be steady 1-through-6.
MEN'S WATER POLO
Coach: Eric Fischer (16th)
2012: 2-3, 4th in Big 8, 16-8
Key Losses: Tim Richard, Manny Bettencourt. Key Returners: Tyler Bolton, Tyler Jamieson, Jeremy Day, Chris Brazil, Matt Watling. Key Newcomers: Will McCormick, Kody Kamstra, Geoff Risting.
Outlook: Richard, a JC water polo All-American and swimming state champion, leaves a void. Bolton, a Pirate in 2010, returns from a church mission and becomes the major weapon. Also back from a mission is Day. Practices have been challenging with MJC boasting two strong goalkeepers in Day and Risting. MJC again will be more than competitive. All three losses in conference last year were close.
WOMEN'S WATER POLO
Coach: Eric Fischer (4th)
2012: 3-4, 5th in Big 8, 8-18
Key Losses: Hailey Shelby, Alexis Wheeler, Priscilla Acosta. Key Returners: Ellisa Williams, Kristine Groteguth, Kendall Reilly, Lenicia Lopez. Key Newcomers: Kamarin Waite, Paisley Grigsby, Madeline Kelley, Natasha Smith.
Outlook: The team captain is Williams, the goalkeeper, who made the All Big-8 tournament team last year along with Groteguth. Those two and Waite will carry the bulk of the load. Local help comes from Grigsby, Kelley (both Enochs) and Smith (Johansen).
Coach: Jesse Vazquez (4th)
2012: 4th in Coast
Key Losses: Erick Gomez. Key Returners: Ryan Mackey, Travis Smith, Carson Homuth, Alex Grijalva. Key Newcomers: David Ferry, Tyler Noon, Dean Duivenvoorden, Luke Brewer, Giovanni Murillo, Amrit Singh, Luis Quintero.
Outlook: Mackey and Smith, both Coast Conference champions who medaled at State, alone would have anchored the Pirates. But a surprisingly strong crop of newcomers featuring David Ferry, the 2010 state high school champion makes for potentially the best team in Vazquez's tenure. Ferry spent last year coaching local talent. More optimism sprouts from six other former state prep qualifiers.
Bee staff writer Ron Agostini can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2302. Follow Ron via Twitter, @modbeesports.