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Parity threatens EU’s title reign

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Sierra High will lean on post-presence Jaslynn Liotard during a Valley Oak League season that will be wide-open for the taking.

Bulletin file photo/

POSTED January 3, 2010 11:04 p.m.

Entering a season with at least a portion of the past three Valley Oak League championships, and four of the past five, would usually make the defending champs the odds-on-favorite to close the season with another one. But the dominance the East Union Lancers have held over their VOL counterparts will hold little merit as the league season gets underway Tuesday for the nine VOL girls basketball programs.

The race for the league title will be wide open this season, with East Union, Manteca, Weston Ranch, Sonora, Oakdale and Ceres high schools all having legitimate chances at closing the season as the VOL’s best.

The Lancers open the 2010 campaign after a solid 8-3 run through their non-league schedule. East Union has not deviated from its game plan, pressuring teams without cease and relying on multiple proven scorers to handle the offensive output.

Sophomore Shalane Jackson will be the key complement to junior Lexy Posz and senior Krystal Young, all of which have posted 20-point outings at one point during the preseason.

Manteca High has proven it will be in the mix, handing the Lancers a 52-47 loss in the Tom Hawkins/Tracy Breakfast Lions Tournament last Tuesday. The Buffaloes will look to junior Sharon Washington to guide them into contention. Washington played a key role in Manteca’s statement win over the Lancers, leading all scorers with a 23-point performance and is currently averaging just over 18 points per game.

Weston Ranch’s 7-3 preseason run has showed off the consistent play of guard Timnesha Wilson and sophomore Jazmin Strane. The pair’s play was instrumental in the Cougars’ Stagg Tournament championship. Both players go into VOL play averaging double-digits in scoring.

Oakdale has raised some eyes with its impressive 9-1 preseason record, with its only blemish coming at the hands of a talented Dublin (10-2) squad. The Mustangs closed out the non-league schedule with a Ripon Christian Lady Knights Classic tournament championship.

If there is one common thread amongst all the contenders vying for the league title is their pressure. East Union, Manteca, Weston Ranch and Oakdale all boast stifling defensive full-court pressure, making each team’s depth of extreme importance.

“Pressure is going to be a big part of all of our game plans,” Weston Ranch head coach Chris Bauer said. “I think it is going to come down to who is going to handle it the best. Who will be able at the end of a game, remember their game plan, execute and stick to it.

“It is a pretty evenly matched league; it’s going to be about who makes the most shots at the end of the day.”

Sierra High closed out the preseason with back-to-back wins to reach the .500 mark. The Timberwolves are under the guidance of first-year head coach Steve Unterholzner. Sierra will get an opportunity to make an immediate impact on the league shake-up when they travel to Sonora to open league against the Wildcats.

Sonora, Central Valley and Lathrop High are the only programs entering league with sub .500 records, making their climb to the league’s forefront a more challenging journey.

Every league contest throughout the season will hold great value to one of the top programs shooting for the VOL title. No team will be a clear-cut favorite, giving each of the VOL teams something worth playing for.

“When you look at everybody, East Union is not as dominant as they have been but they’re still consistently turning out quality games,” Bauer said. “Manteca is much improved with the addition of the freshman point guard (Mikayla Hasal); I mean it really is going to be a crapshoot this year. We could come out and play great games against Central Valley and Manteca and be 2-0 and then lose our next four.

“That’s just how competitive it’s going to be.”

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