No practice was as big as Tuesday’s session for East Union.
It was its one chance to prepare for its greatest challenge, and it comes not long after its most disappointing performance. The Lancers open their Valley Oak League schedule tonight in Tracy where the defending champion awaits. Kimball, 13-0 to start the season, is a heavy favorite to repeat and considered to be one of the top overall teams in the Sac-Joaquin Section.
It’s one of four league openers in the area: Manteca hosts Lathrop, Sierra travels to Oakdale and Weston Ranch welcomes VOL newcomer Central Catholic.
East Union (8-3) has dropped two of its last three after starting out with a six-game winning streak. Its latest defeat was surprising, as 6-6 Enochs rolled to a 61-32 win.
Kimball returns an experienced core of athletes that feature several fourth-year varsity players including reigning VOL MVP Allison Schmidt. The Jaguars also have two impressive 5-foot-10 underclassmen in sophomore post Donwanae Anthony and freshman wing Raziya Potter.
Manteca (8-5) has one of its two prized transfers on the squad with the CIF-imposed sit-out period ending this past Monday. Loretta Kakala, a 6-foot-2 sophomore who was an All-VOL first-team selection with East Union last year, had seven points and five rebounds in her first game for the Buffaloes on Monday. They hope to have Brookside Christian transfer Sydney Fryer (knee) medically cleared for Thursday’s contest at Weston Ranch. Lathrop (5-8) is certain to have its hands full tonight, but the young Spartans have showed some fight under first-year head coach Dwayne Davis.
Sierra takes a 4-8 record to Oakdale, but four of its losses have come by margins of four or less. Oakdale (2-9) has taken its lumps, but like the Timberwolves it has been more competitive than it record indicates.
Weston Ranch (9-2) figures again to be in the mix for one of the three SJS playoff spots. Cal State Stanislaus-bound Elisabeth Alexander is off to a hot start this season and has a solid supporting class around her. The Cougars face a Central Catholic team that was the runner-up in the Western Athletic Conference last year, an SJS Division V semifinalist and CIF NorCal qualifier.
The Raiders (6-7) are a bit down but have their best player back in sophomore Danielle Friedrich. Six of their 10 players are underclassmen and 6-foot Annalicia Johnson is their lone senior.