High School Sports

Party still rages on for Sonora High volleyball team


Joe Cortez


The Sonora High School volleyball team is pictured on Wednesday morning (12-10-14) with their state trophy at the school in Sonora, CA.
The Sonora High School volleyball team is pictured on Wednesday morning (12-10-14) with their state trophy at the school in Sonora, CA. jlee@modbee.com

Central Catholic High School’s football team will host undefeated Capital Christian (Sacramento) on Friday night at 7:30 in the CIF Division IV Northern California regional bowl game.

Twenty-four hours later, Oakdale High will take on Clayton Valley in Concord for the D-II NorCal championship

Of the more than 1,000 high schools in the Golden State, only 18 (five from the Sac-Joaquin Section) have yet to turn in their equipment.

It’s all anybody wants to talk about … unless, of course, you’re from Sonora.

Earlier this week, I drove over to Central Catholic to watch a few minutes of the Raiders’ football practice. Afterward, I met with head coach Roger Canepa and defensive coordinator Billy Hylla (also the school’s athletic director), both of whom are Sonora natives and graduates of Sonora High School.

We didn’t talk much football. The conversation quickly turned to Sonora High’s Division IV state volleyball championship.

Quite naturally, the Wildcats are the toast of the Mother Lode.

That much was evident Saturday. Minutes before the start of Sonora’s match against Alta Loma at Santiago Canyon College in Orange, I tweeted a couple of pictures showing the rooting sections for each school. They were about even. But remember that Sonora is about a six-hour drive from Santiago Canyon College; Alta Loma is about 45 minutes away.

That says a lot about how folks in the foothills feel about their Wildcats.

And give the school extra credit for sending the Golden Regiment Band. Sonora was the lone high school to show up with a band in tow … and it really added something to the atmosphere in the gymnasium.

After winning the state title Saturday – the school’s first in more than 100 years of existence – an army of fans, all equipped with smart phones, greeted and took pictures with the players, adorned with their state-championship medals, on the lawn outside the gymnasium. The party continued at the Happiest Place on Earth as the Wildcats spent the rest of their day in Disneyland.

And the party just keeps on going.

“It’s been fantastic,” said Sonora coach Kim Walsh, whose team soon will be featured in the Modesto Bee “Twelve Days of Christmas” video. “As we were getting ready to do the Christmas ditty, the girls said, ‘Wow! This just keeps going!’”

And going, and going, and going …

The Sonora City Council is working on a proclamation to honor the team and will consider Monday temporarily closing down a portion of Highway 49/Washigton Street for a parade honoring the team Dec. 19 at 1:30 p.m. On Tuesday, the Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors will honor the team at its 9 a.m. meeting.

“We just keep getting phone calls,” Evans said. “‘You need to be here. You need to be here.’

“But it’s fantastic. I love it.”

I hope the city of Turlock considers something similar for Pitman High’s volleyball team, which also advanced to the CIF State Championships, but fell to Redondo Union (Redondo Beach) in the D-I final.

The Pride, coached by Kristen Pontes-Christian, finished the season 44-2 with the lone losses coming to D-I champ Redondo Union (ranked No. 2 in the nation by PrepVolleyball.com) and D-II champ Archbishop Mitty of San Jose (ranked No. 1 nationally by MaxPreps.com when it beat Pitman).

Two losses to two state champs, ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the nation. Nothing to be ashamed of. On the way, the Pride won the school’s first Sac-Joaquin Section and Northern California championships. Both worth celebrating.

The CIF has released its ballot for the winter sports All-Century Team and only two players from the Stanislaus District were on the ballot. Twenty-three local players were on the fall sports ballot. It should be pointed out that there are more sports contested in the fall than in winter.

Hughson High wrestler Billy Murphy (2006) and Sonora basketball player David Knudsen (1976) were the lone nominees.

Of the 23 players nominated in the fall, nine were named to the final All-Century team.

And all of them are water polo players: Beyer’s Terri Hollmann (1979) and Leigh Shupp (1986); Davis’ Christie Quigley (1989) and Andrea Mazza (1992); Johansen’s Christine Zador (1998) and Wendy Watkins (2000); and Turlock’s Debbie Bettencourt (1985), Shelly Wilson (1988) and Shannon Tate (1990).

Bee staff writer Joe Cortez can be reached at jcortez@modbee.com or (209) 578-2380. Follow him on Twitter @ModBeePreps.