Is this the season the Turlock High girls volleyball team breaks up the title monopoly created by its rival?
Early projections suggest this may, in fact, be the Year of the Bulldog.
But which one?
With reigning All-District player of the year Julia Handy back in the fold, Turlock is No. 2 in the Sac-Joaquin Section and No. 11 in the state, according to MaxPreps’ computer rankings.
Those are the highest rankings among Stanislaus District teams, including Pitman, the three-time defending Sac-Joaquin Section Division I and six-time defending Central California Conference champion.
The Pride is No. 21 in the section and No. 133 in the state.
But there’s another Bulldog with a bone to pick with MaxPreps’ algorithm. Tracy is ranked behind Turlock in both polls despite winning their only meeting this season. Tracy, No. 4 in the section and No. 17 in the state, swept Turlock at the Central California Classic, 2-0.
The two will meet for a second time on Thursday evening at Tracy High. The match begins at 6.
The two have developed quite a rivalry, splitting their two meetings a season ago. Turlock won the match that counted, though, defeating Tracy in the Division I semifinal, 3-1.
Turnover in the MMC: The Modesto Metro Conference welcomes five new varsity coaches.
Riverbank athletic director John Bartlett has taken over the program at Gregori, while Tony Silva is in charge at Beyer.
Davis hired Carolina Sanches, while Melissa Pontes was picked to run the program at Johansen. Tera Vermillion is the new coach at Downey.
Modesto’s Tracy Harris and Enochs’ Jaclyn Hollis are the only returning coaches.
“To have this many new coaches over one season, it is unusual,” Modesto City Schools athletic director Donnie Wallace said. “Usually you get one or two, but to have five new coaches, it’s like we’re at brand new schools, but …
“We’re not. Some of these are winning programs.”
Stat Stars: Olivia Keller’s high school career is off to a fast start. The Beyer freshman tops the section in kills with 171, according to MaxPreps.
Stone Ridge Christian junior Sadi Tucker is second with 151 kills, followed by Hilmar’s Mariah Ahid and Beyer’s Cathryn Starck, both of whom have 136.
Starck is just as potent from behind the service line, where she leads the section in aces with 61. Modesto’s Alyssa Cover isn’t far behind with 57.
Hilmar setter Hannah Pearce leads the section in assists with 365, while Arizona-bound Handy (300 assists) is averaging a section-best 9.4 assists per set.
Defensively, Pitman’s Madison King and Stone Ridge Christian’s Emily Ewing have established their presence.
King is tops in the section in blocks with 53, while Ewing is running away with the digs crown. She has 366 digs. Hilmar’s Julia Gonsalves is a distant second with 236.
Pride on the line: With Tuesday’s victory over Atwater, Pitman kept alive two streaks.
The Pride have now won seven consecutive CCC openers, a streak that began in 2011. It was also the team’s 11th straight victory over the Falcons.
Grace Willming and Cierra Verdone had eight kills apiece, while Emma Hirschkorn dished out 24 assists.
Fallon Evans led the Pride with 12 digs, while Verdone had eight digs and a block, tied for the team lead with King.
Best in the section: Here’s a look at the district teams ranked in the top-50 in the section, according to MaxPreps’ rankings on Wednesday.
2. Turlock (8-3)
9. Hilmar (10-8)
13. Sonora (6-4)
18. Big Valley Christian (9-1)
19. Manteca (9-3)
20. Gregori (12-5)
21. Pitman (7-5)
23. Beyer (10-3)
25. Modesto (8-2)
36. Buhach Colony (4-7)
39. Hughson (9-3)
40. Escalon (6-4)
42. Stone Ridge Christian (12-5)
43. El Capitan (6-7)
50. Sierra (7-1)