It’s no secret Oakdale and Sonora are the teams to beat on the Valley Oak League’s volleyball landscape.
East Union has looked solid approaching the 2013-14 season, though.
Second-year head coach Rich Posz realizes he has talent on the roster. Now the Lancers are aiming toward making a Sac-Joaquin Section playoff appearance after finishing fifth in 2012.
“(Sonora and Oakdale) are always the powers and the teams to try to beat,” Posz said. “Kimball was pretty good last year and caught a lot of people off guard, and Weston Ranch really improved. We split with them, and they finished one game ahead of us in the VOL.”
East Union went 5-9 in the VOL, 9-15 overall a season ago. They lost five out of their last six games, but capped the campaign with a 3-1 victory over cross-town rival Sierra to end the year.
The Lancers graduated three senior captains in Alex Scopas, Alexis Steele and Mariah Burrola, but they still they have more than a handful of talent coming back.
Gina Diaz is returning from an ACL injury and missed her entire junior year. Diaz is healthy and Posz expects her to be a major contributor this season.
EU is also returning seniors Monica King and Leslie Cuevas (middle blocker). East Union also has returning varsity players Courtney Posz, Carolina Gutierrez, Lauren Terry and Madison Hoffman coming back for another run.
“Obviously we set our goals to compete with the top teams,” coach Posz added. “We’re shooting after Oakdale and Sonora. Last year we didn’t make the playoffs. Only the top three teams go, so we were one or two games out.
“We are not very tall this year. We just have to be a scrappy, passing team that’s willing to play defense. I think we’re going to try and play a little more of an aggressive style. We lost a lot of close games last year. We just couldn’t get ourselves over the hump or get a side-out.”
According to Posz, Sonora has either split or won a VOL title outright in each of the last 10 years. Sonora and Oakdale are once again highly-favored contenders going at a VOL title.
“Everybody wants to go for those two,” Posz stated. “They’re always flip-flopping. Our focuses this year are to return serves and fundamental stuff. Just play fundamental volleyball.”
East Union even attended a summer camp in July at the University of Oregon that most high school squads didn’t even hear about.
“We had a great experience up there,” Posz concluded. “We had a good, early start, so hopefully the team will gel and have good chemistry. I think that’s the key for us. In volleyball you can have a strong one or two players, but if you can’t play as a team and gel, it’s, you know…”
EU will get its first taste of live competition on Sept. 3, on the road in Newman against Orestimba, followed by a home game against Lodi the next day.
The Lancers will open up VOL on the road against Manteca at Winter Gym Sept. 18, at 6 p.m.