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Long before the Sonora High School varsity girls volleyball team scored their first point of the 2017 season they had set their sights on a lofty goal.
Win every Mother Lode League game.
Heading into Thursday night's game at Argonaut High School, they’ve done exactly that, playing their way to a 10-0 league record. After tonight’s game, they have one more league game to play.
That record is the result of a team that’s committed to carrying on a rich history of winning, said head coach Amy Wahlbrink.
“They want to be as successful as they were before,” she said. “They feel this huge amount of pressure to succeed to do well to get to playoffs.”
Sonora High’s volleyball team has been a dominant force for decades.
They won seven straight Valley Oak League titles (2007-2013) before moving to the Mother Lode League in 2014.
The ‘Cats have kept their league crown streak going, going 12-0 in MLL play last year.
For Wahlbrink the coaching pressure doesn’t necessarily come from wanting to add another felt emblem to the green and gold banner hanging in Bud Castle Gym.
“The pressure for me is helping them succeed,” said Wahlbrink. “I want to see them reach their goals, see them succeed.”
Wahlbrink said this year’s team has impressed her with their drive and determination.
Whether it’s been putting in extra time ahead of big matches or putting on their game face and earning decisive wins.
Wahlbrink believes part of the reason for the team’s success has been the fact the team members just really enjoy one another’s company.
“Every day it’s lots of laughter, lots of giggles. They really enjoy each other, which makes it easy to coach them,” she said. “They’ve learned when it’s time to have fun and when it’s time to get down to business.”
Emma Collett has stepped up this year as a defensive leader, Wahlbrink said.
And her consistent service game has proven key in clutch situations.
Having Bella Patterson back and healthy has been another boon for the team.
She spent a majority of last year injured and came back toward the end of the season and fought for a position, Wahlbrink said. But she was never healed enough to become a regular player.
That’s not the case this year.
Patterson is second on digs and serve/receives and second on set attempts.
One challenge for the Wildcats is their height, said Wahlbrink.
“We’re always one of the shorter teams,” she said. “We struggle some in the height department.”
For Sonora it’s always been a challenge accepted situation.
That includes finding connections between setters and hitters and compensating for a shorter block on defense, said Wahlbrink.
“I feel like we have finally gotten into a good flow with setters and hitters,” said Wahlbrink.
Thursday night they’ll play a 0-9 Argonaut team before facing Bret Harte at home Oct. 24. The Bullfrogs are 7-3 heading into their league game against Amador tonight.
Then it’s on to the playoffs.
And Wahlbrink and her team are hoping for a bit of revenge after last year’s loss to Christian Brothers. The Sacramento team is a potential opponent again. They’re 7-1 in their league ahead of their next in-conference game tonight.
Wahlbrink calls that loss her team’s worst game of the year.
“We just didn’t show up,” she said. “We would love a rematch with Christian Brothers in the section championships.”