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THEPRESS.NET

MARCH 11, 2011

SPORTS

Wolverines look to hoist another banner by Michael Dixon Correspondent

Press file photo

Deer Valley junior outside hitter Noah Labonte spikes a ball against Freedom last season. Labonte and the Wolverines expect to be the aces of the BVAL again this year. dropped in league play. This is head coach Steve Evans’ first year as skipper of the varsity squad, but his time as junior varsity head coach and varsity assistant makes him no stranger to the program or the current roster. Greeting Evans is a quartet of senior leaders: outside hitters Tyler Evans and Dane Crabtree, right-side hitter Nick Sanders and setter D.J. Morales. “This is an experienced group. I’ve been with them for four years.” said Evans. “We’re looking better.” He identifies hitting as the Panthers’ strength, while their passing and blocking are areas in need of improvement. Heritage Janet Hannigan is in her first year as the coach of the boys team. Despite that, she is far from a stranger to Heritage volleyball. In the fall, Hannigan leads the girls team, the reigning league champions. While the Patriots field seven seniors on the roster, only outside hitter Matt Maderos and middle blocker Phillip Benotti logged any time on last season’s varsity team that went 11-12 overall, 9-6 in league. Most of the others

are athletes from other sports who are fans of the girls team and know Hannigan well. “They’re interesting and new,” said Hannigan of her team. As the team features five sophomores, she hopes this year will put Heritage on the map: “We’re expecting a tough go of it. But I wouldn’t put them there if I didn’t think they had skill and maturity to handle it. Last weekend, Heritage played in the Deer Valley Jamboree, facing the Wolverines and 2010 NCS champion Foothill. Hannigan didn’t attend the matches, but her assistants told her the team is far are ahead of where it was last year at this time. Freedom The only players returning from the 2010 team (8-12 overall and 7-7 in league) are senior outside inset Dalton Weger, senior outside hitter Jake Ubrick and junior opposite hitter Behzod Kahn. And yet head coach Kellie Goldberg, who took over early last season, is pleased with the progress her team has made thus far, especially in achieved good chemistry. “Things are looking pretty good. We

MEDA L LD AWARD

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Since the moment the current senior volleyball players at Deer Valley High School stepped onto the campus as freshmen, league championships are all they have known. Still, as the Wolverine boys look to hoist a fifth consecutive league championship banner, head coach Lou Panzella is hesitant to put too much stock in past success. “Last year is meaningless when it comes to what we will do this year,” said Panzella of the 2010 campaign, in which the Wolverines went 27-8 overall, 15-0 in league and made it to the North Coast Section semifinals. “But the kids have a tradition of playing well and winning. Winning can breed winning just like losing can breed losing.” As Deer Valley’s lineup features a player measuring 6 feet 7 inches and another 6-4, the team should be as tall as any in the Bay Valley Athletic League. The taller of those athletes is senior outside hitter Jason Agopian, who recently committed to UC Irvine. But the Wolverines’ impressive altitude will mean nothing if they can’t pass the ball well. The only regular starter from last season’s squad not returning is setter Kurt Kline, who graduated. If Deer Valley does pass well, its height should provide a tremendous advantage both on offense and defense. “We should be as good or better than last year,” Panzella added. “But that’s all speculation until you perform on the court. The other variable is that we anticipate some of the other programs improving. And really, I hope they do.” Antioch Other than Deer Valley, Antioch was the only BVAL team to post an overall winning record in 2010, going 17-13, 10-5 in league play. While the Panthers were 0-3 against Deer Valley, they did manage to steal a game in two of their three matches against the Wolverines – two of the three matches that Deer Valley

have only three returning players, and that’s an obstacle, but I have been really impressed with how quick they’ve adjusted,” Goldberg said. “They all get along really well and do a great job of learning from each other, as well as me.” She also noted that while last year’s team was full of seniors, many with little or no past volleyball experience, this team is younger but ahead of last year’s squad in terms of fundamentals. Pittsburg The bad news for Pittsburg fans is that last year’s Pirates team featured 12 seniors. The good news is that their roster was 17 strong, so a few of those players return to build off last season, when the team went 3-11. Pittsburg beat Liberty in all three of last season’s clashes – but that’s where the Pirates’ league success ended. This year, their rivals are expecting stronger things from Pittsburg. Liberty The Lions failed to win a game in Nicholas Pridmore’s first year as the head coach. This year, Pridmore is expecting his big, senior-laden team to improve. “We have a good number of guys,” said Pridmore. “We’re going to have only a varsity team this year. We have a few returning athletes and quite a few seniors. We’re also expecting a competitive league.” Pridmore said he’s open to see which players step up to leadership roles. Despite that, he’s expecting leadership and strong play from senior setter Dylan Dutra, a big part of last season’s team. He’s also excited to watch the development of junior middle blocker Brock Bronte, who stands well over six feet tall and is still learning the game. Pridmore identified Bronte as a player with a good attitude and a lot of potential. Liberty recently played a scrimmage in Cupertino that gave the Lions their first taste of league play. To comment, visit www.thepress.net.

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