Coaches Jennifer Osterhout and Amy Wahlbrink know the intensity of the Bears/’Cats volleyball rivalry.

They’ve played in it.

Osterhout graduated in 2000 from Sonora High School, where she was a three-year varsity player. She continued her standout career at Columbia College.

Wahlbrink graduated from Summerville in 1999 and played volleyball at Cuesta College and UC Riverside.

The irony? Wahlbrink is now the head varsity volleyball coach at Sonora. Osterhout is the head coach at Summerville.

Their teams meet Thursday night at 6 p.m. in the Sonora High School Bud Castlegym, continuing a decades-long volleyball rivalry.

Summerville comes into the game with a 5-1 overall record. They’re 1-0 in Mother Lode League play.

Sonora is 9-4 overall, including games played last weekend at the Central California Classic, and 2-0 in league play.

The Wildcats were off to a fiery start, going 4-0 in preseason play.

Aside from a few minor injuries, Wahlbrink said the Sonora team is maturing quickly. That’s thanks in part to the trip to the Central California Classic.

Because of their success last year – they went 12-0 in league play – they were placed in the elite category. That meant they faced a lot of Division 1 schools, said Wahlbrink.

While they didn’t get as many wins as they had hoped, three wins and four losses, they held their own, she said.

And it’s that experience Wahlbrink says will help them in the Summerville game and into the playoffs.

The Bears have had tournament success this year, said Osterhout.

The team traveled to Orestimba and placed first in the platinum division.

Osterhout said the experience of seven seniors has helped the team.

“They were all really skilled coming in(to the season),” she said. “The feeling is just really positive.”

And that energy is coming from the bench, too.

“Everyone is a key part to the team,” she said. “Our bench is amazing. They’re super supportive.”

The Wildcats have been working through a few roster changes after some key players graduated.

They used last weekend’s tournament play to tweak some line ups and strengthen their offensive play.

But Wahlbrink said it’s been encouraging to see the level of determination displayed by the players, including those looking to fill the gap left by star setter Makenna Poole.

“I feel like our team is prepared,” said Wahlbrink. “They have worked so hard over the summer. They’ve worked to become disciplined.”

The Bears have been working on their mental toughness. Osterhout knows they’ll need it for the Wildcat matchup.

“I’m expecting a strong game. They have powerful hitters,” she said.

And Wahlbrink knows the pressure the team is facing.

“We’ve kind of become the team to beat,” she said.

Helping fuel the on-court rivalry will be the fans.

Osterhout said she’s heard Summerville’s student section has something unique planned in the cheering department.

“It’s fun to see the whole community get excited about athletics,” she said. “We have the best fans.”

Sonora fans will no doubt have plenty to say about that.

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