SONORA BEGINS DEFENSE OF TITLE

September 25, 2002 12:00 am

MANTECA — Sonora High School's powerful volleyball team came back strong from a two-week layoff Tuesday night and began defense of its Valley Oak League championship with a 15-6, 15-12, 15-6 victory over East Union.

"It was great to play again," said Sonora coach Darla Mayhew, whose Wildcats hadn't seen match action since Sept. 10 because of a scheduling quirk. "It felt real good to be out on the court."

Not for East Union, which fell before the overwhelming Wildcat attack of Michelle Banks, who hit 16-for-19 with 12 kills, and Jessica Peterson, who hit 15-for-18 with nine kills. Alison Gourley added two kills on 6-for-6 hitting as the Wildcats improved to 6-0 overall.

Other statistics:

Blocks — Peterson nine, Angela Pinocchio and Gourley two each.

Serving — Peterson 11-for-12 with three aces, Pinocchio 10-for-11 with two, Nicki Rodriguez 9-for-10 with two, Jill Thompson 7-for-7 with two, Banks 3-for-6 with two.

Setting — Rodriguez 18 assists, Pinocchio nine.

Digs — Banks four, Peterson and Thompson three apiece.

Sonora has a big match Thursday night at 6:30 at Bud Castle Gym against Buhach Colony of Atwater, which dominated the sophomore division last year and is looking to unseat Sonora in the Thunder's first year of varsity competition.

"We're the the more experienced team, by a long shot, and I really believe we can beat them as long as we put up a solid block against their middle and just play hard they way we've been playing," Mayhew said.

Before Tuesday's varsity match, Sonora's sophomore and freshman teams beat East Union to give Sonora clean sweeps on all six nights the varsity, sophs and frosh have played the same opponent.