ORANGE — Sonora High School volleyball coach Kim Evans admits her team has gone through the entire season flying under the radar.
In fact, the Wildcats apparently are so far under the radar, no one really knows where they’re from. During opening introductions for the Division 4 CIF State Volleyball Championships title match against Alta Loma, they were introduced as hailing from “Sonoma.”
The Wildcats were also said to be from Sonoma during the live streaming broadcast.
If people don’t know now, they soon will as the unheralded squad fought past top-seed Alta Loma 3-2 (25-19, 25-19, 17-25, 22-25, 15-8) on Saturday at Santiago Canyon College in south Orange County.
The Wildcats (37-5) won the first two games, lost the third and fourth, then regained the momentum and dominated the decisive fifth set.
“They said we’re from Sonoma, that’s wine country and I said, ‘No we’re not,’ “ said Evans with a chuckle. “We’re just a little school in a little town. It was big vs. small. We definitely have flown under the radar. But that’s OK. We like it that way.”
For the full story, and more photographs, see Monday's sports section of the Union Democrat.
Sonora Wildcat two-way starter Serge Kiriluk was voted by Mother Lode League coaches as the top football player in 2014.
Kiriluk, a fullback and inside linebacker, earned the league’s Most Valuable Player award after an outstanding season. The bone-jarring and punishing playmaker helped Sonora to an undefeated 6-0 record in MLL play in its first year in the conference and also carried the Wildcats to the Division IV Sac-Joaquin Section Championship game.
“He did everything we asked of him,” Sonora head coach Bryan Craig said of Kiriluk. “Whatever we asked Serge to do, he would and he did it well. He did it with passion and everything that he had.”
STOCKTON — Sonora senior co-captain Bryce Sanguinetti emotionally declared his feelings for his Wildcat football family on Friday night.
Sonora senior fullback Serge Kiriluk (3) carries the football during the Division IV Sac-Joaquin Section Championship game against Central Catholic on Friday at Lincoln High School in Stockton. Kiriluk ran for a team-high 113 yards and three touchdowns. Jesse Jones / Union Democrat
“I don’t think I’ve loved anybody more. They’re my family. I would do anything for them.”
Fellow Wildcat, senior co-captain Serge Kiriluk, expressed the same view.
“This is the best team I’ve ever played for in my entire life. I love every single one of these kids to death. I would do anything for them.”
Queens of the Court are back again fighting for Northern California dominance.
Jesse Jones / Union Democrat Sonora Wildcat Kiana Pisula (5) swiftly sets the ball on Saturday at Bud Castle Gym.
After losing the opening set (25-23) Saturday night, Sonora roared back to thrash the Harker Eagles in three straight games (25-13, 25-18, 25-16) in front of a nearly-packed Bud Castle Gymnasium to advance to the NorCal final of the CIF State Volleyball Championships for the second straight season.
“They were a really good team,” said Wildcat senior Angela Gardella, who ended the match with a powerful kill. “We came out kinda weak, but we knew what we had to do and who we had to defend, and things turned out our way.”
The Sonora Wildcats beat Harker, of San Jose, 3-1 (23-25, 25-13, 25-18, 25-16) on Saturday in front of a packed Bud Castle Gym to reach the NorCal final of the Division IV CIF State Volleyball Championships for the second year in a row.
Sonora, the No. 2 seed in the NorCal bracket, will travel to face top ranked Notre Dame, of Belmont, on Tuesday at 7 p.m. The winner will play for the state championship.
The Sonora Wildcats football team lost 42-35 on Friday to Central Catholic in the final of the Division IV Sac-Joaquin Section Championships at Lincoln High School in Stockton.
For full story, interviews and photographs, see Monday's Union Democrat.
Rob Hoyt’s Columbia College men’s basketball team may be one of the top squads in the state.
Well, at least according to the latest California Community Colleges Men’s Basketball Coaches Association State Poll that was released on Tuesday.
Columbia (4-1) is ranked 10th in the entire state and fifth in Northern California after two weeks of play.
“Well, it’s good for the guys and the community,” Hoyt said. “It’s still a little early to really get a good grasp of all the teams, but it’s the coaches poll, and they felt we’re deserving of it. But it’s (the ranking) good. It was part of the plan going in. Getting that respect was part of turning this program around and getting that recognition to help get the community back supporting us again. It’s a step in the right direction.”
After falling in the semifinals of the 2013 CIF State Girls’ Volleyball Championships, all Sonora head coach Kim Evans and the Wildcats wanted was another shot at California glory.
Jesse Jones / Union Democrat Sonora senior Leah Dambacher keeps the play alive during the Wildcats first-round victory against Healdsburg in the CIF State Girls’ Volleyball Championships on Tuesday night at Bud Castle Gym.
Sonora gave itself that opportunity when the Wildcats coasted through Mother Lode League play with a perfect 12-0 record without yielding a single set to advance to the Division IV Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs.
In the postseason, Sonora cruised with complete and dominating 3-0 sweeps of Hughson, Ripon Christian, Escalon and Hilmar to capture the section crown.
And then on one of the biggest stages, in the first round of the State playoffs on Tuesday behind a balanced offensive attack, No. 2 Sonora topped No. 7 Healdsburg 3-0 (25-12, 26-24, 25-21) in front of a near-packed house at Bud Castle Gym.
The Wildcats will now move on to the quarterfinals and host No. 3 Harker this Saturday.
“It’s almost kind of an incredible feeling,” Evans said of earning a State playoff victory. “You know going in that it’s gonna be tough, and then once you get here, you see the size of them, the pace of them, the way they play defense, and it’s just kind of a reminder that we need to play our best if we want to keep moving forward.”
Sonora used its extreme brand of mountain football on Friday to pound Los Banos into submission and earn a shot a section superiority.
Jesse Jones/ Union Democrat Sonora fullback Serge Kiriluk (above, 3) attempts to break Los Banos defender Loggan Pimentel’s tackle during Friday’s semifinal game at Dunlavy Field.
Fullback Serge Kiriluk rushed for 191 yards and three touchdowns to lead the No. 2 seed Wildcats over the No. 3 Tigers 28-14 in the semifinals of the Division IV Sac-Joaquin Section Championships at Dunlavy Field.
Sonora will play top-ranked, and two-time defending state champion, Central Catholic, and its head coach Roger Canepa, in what will be blood vs. blood for the crown this coming Friday at 7 p.m. at Lincoln High School in Stockton.
“I finally get a shot at my uncle Roger and that’s all I’ve wanted in my life,” said Kiriluk when asked what was going through his mind right after the Cats claimed victory. “Every year we play them in summer camp and we play them probably tougher than any team they’ve ever faced. And we’ve never gotten to play a full game against them and I think a lot of these guys are excited and ready to go.”
“I mean he’s my uncle and everything, but I wanna kick his you know what right now,” said Wildcat sophomore linebacker Bradley Canepa.
By GUY DOSSI
For The Union Democrat
DAVIS — At 10:23 p.m. late Friday night, Sonora senior Angela Gardella hit a powerful spike that nailed the hardwood on the UC Davis gym floor.
With that final point, the Sonora Wildcats became back-to-back Division IV Sac-Joaquin Section Volleyball Champions. The top-ranked Wildcats swept the No. 2 Hilmar Yellowjackets in a 3-set victory (25-14, 25-8, 25-7). The win marks the second consecutive year that Sonora defeated Hilmar to become section champions.
The Wildcats advance to the 2014 CIF State Girls Volleyball Championships and will host No. 7 Healdsburg on Tuesday at Bud Castle Gym as the No. 2 seed in Northern California.
Sonora started out slow against the Trans Valley League champions, finding themselves down 4-2 early in the first set.
After a strong kill by Gardella, Sonora freshman Riley Patterson helped wake up the Cats as she blocked everything that came her way, and had a devastating spike for the sixth Sonora point.
“I was really nervous before the game,” Patterson said. “But after the first few points in the first set, my nerves calmed and I was just into the game.”
“Riley has just been a fantastic addition to our team,” Sonora head coach Kim Evans said. “I know that people thought we were crazy bringing a freshman up with seven seniors and nine returning players to a venue like this. We knew that she could play to the level that is out there.”