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First-year coaches to lead Sierra, Lathrop

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Trinity Johnson, left, will lead the Sierra Timberwolves through a rigorous Valley Oak League schedule in her first season as the Timberwolves' head coach.


POSTED August 20, 2010 12:38 a.m.
The challenges that await first-year Sierra High volleyball coach Trinity Johnson are unimaginable. Taking over the reins after a 15-year run from Tevani Liotard through the Valley Oak League has been task No.1

Johnson will not be the only are volleyball coach making her debut, with new Lathrop High head coach Nicole Unrein guiding the Spartans through their second tour through the VOL.

The Timberwolves are coming off of an 8-6 run through league a season ago, culminating with a first-round Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoff loss to No. 6 seed Del Oro High. The Timberwolves’ core returners are familiar with Johnson, who guided Liotard’s underclassman since the ’08 season.

“So far the girls have really stepped up to the challenge in helping the transition,” Johnson said. “It will be my third year with these seniors and my second year with the juniors, so I know when they can give me more than what  they are giving me.

“I have a good idea of when to push them harder.”

 Sierra will open the VOL schedule by hosting Sonora, followed by a trip to Oakdale to take on the Mustangs. Both clubs made lengthy runs through last year’s postseason, giving Sierra an immediate two-game test that will reveal loads of information as to the VOL shakedown.

“Of course I see our team at the top of the league,” Johnson said. “But that is just because I have such high expectations for them.  The Valley Oak League will be tough, it is every year, but I think we have a good group of girls who are going to compete.”

Lathrop will be able to boast about its commitment as well, getting the team’s best turnout in its brief school history for Unrein’s initial campaign. Unrein, who has graduated from helping guide the Walter Woodward Elementary volleyball program over the past five seasons, embraces her new program and the opportunities it entails.

“My biggest fear in this first season is just letting the girls down,” Unrein said. “I want to keep a positive, healthy relationship with this team, so I am trying my hardest to make sure that we are all on the same page.

“I need us here working together as a family everyday.”

The Spartans will still be starved in the leadership department, even though it will be the programs’ first season with senior players. Starting setter Janel Butler will be one of the club’s prominent leaders, giving her a more substantial role this junior season.

“Last year we only had 10 players come out and play,” Butler said of last season’s 1-18 finish. “So we are already ahead of last season. We have girls that want to play. I am excited to be a leader on this team. It’s important to me because I have been playing volleyball since fifth grade.

“I feel like I should be helping our team and helping girls get better.”

Oakdale and Sonora will likely be the two programs to jump out to guide the VOL standings, with Oakdale returning the services of four-year varsity starter Jackee Lee. Manteca head coach Tim Horning will be leaning on the play of returning starters Dallas Mould, Mariah Navarro and Abigail Rosas, while East Union head coach Eryn Bowers will try and improve on the Lancers’ 4-9 VOL showing a year ago.

Weston Ranch will be back under the full-time leadership of returning head coach Carey Simoni, who had a brief hiatus after the birth of her child.
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