Emily Myers didn't realize it at the time, but she was considered a project during her freshman season at Johansen High, a program that was searching for a setter to lead the program the next three years.
"When Emily arrived, (then-varsity coach) Keith Herring was looking down the road and knew he'd need a setter," coach Spencer Thiel said. "We left her at the lower level as a freshman so she could work as a setter, and when she was a sophomore, she was ready for the varsity."
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Myers delivered last year, making The Bee's All-Stanislaus District Team as a junior, and continues to excel this season. The 5-foot-10 Myers had 71 assists, 15 blocks, 14 aces and 12 kills while leading the Vikings to victories over city rivals Davis and Beyer.
"Emily's not one of those kids that will go around yelling at people when something goes wrong," Thiel said. "We've got a couple foreign exchange students this year, and she's helping then out on the court."
Coach Matt Mendes knew Victor Serrano was capable of playing a larger role last fall, but a work commitment forced Serrano to miss a practice each week. So he played forward, which doesn't require as much interaction with teammates. This year, after adjusting his schedule so he could make all the workouts, he moved to center midfield.
"It gives him a lot more responsibility, both in leadership and distributing the ball," Mendes said. "He asked me about changing, because he wanted to help the team. He still finds a way to put the ball in the net, but it's not his priority."
Serrano helped the Panthers go to 3-0 in conference, with three goals in victories over Davis and Enochs.
He's a role model off the field, too, taking part in the Avid program -- which targets students whose families don't have a history of attending college. He hopes to study architecture or engineering, and prod his brothers, 14-year-old Jose and 5-year-old Aldo, to attend college.
When Orestimba committed to the Central California Classic, a 32-team tournament featuring many of the Stanislaus District's top large schools, the Warriors realized what they were getting themselves into.
"Our goal was to play the best competition we could find," said John Labno, whose team was Western Athletic Conference runners-up last fall. "It gave us the chance to play quite a few matches in a short amount of time."
They played nine matches in two days, going 7-2 and finishing second in the Bronze division. Led by 5-foot, 10-inch junior outside hitter Ryan Ramos, the Warriors stunned Oakdale and Beyer before losing 15-13 to Bret Harte in the title match. Ramos had 66 kills and 16 aces last week for the Warriors (14-5).
"I've seen a lot of change from last year," said Labno, whose club trails only Hilmar in the WAC. "She has learned there is a lot more to attacking then pure power. Sometimes finesse is as important at the power game."
There was never any question Sergio Hinojosa could put the ball in the net. But could he maintain his aggressiveness while also directing the offense? That's no longer an issue after Hinojosa had eight goals and five assists as the Tigers went 6-0 last week and finished third at the Foothill Classic.
"He is doing exactly what the team thought he would be doing ... being our main scorer," coach Greg Hartsell said. "What I really am happy to see is the assists. He's a team captain, a leader and keeps everyone motivated."
The Tigers (11-2) have five come-from-behind wins and play in the Sac-Joaquin Section's top Division V league -- the Western Athletic Conference had three of the four semifinalists in the section playoffs last fall.
"Every time we face Hilmar and Livingston it seems like a playoff atmosphere," Hartsell said. "If you beat them, you feel you can compete with just about anyone in the section."