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Manteca starts anew after losing 10 seniors from VOL championship team
Manteca girls volleyball
Michaela Singh listens intently as coach Robin Chandler gives pointers to her team during an intrasquad scrimmage. - photo by JONAMAR JACINTO/The Bulletin

Robin Chandler coached her previous core group of players at Manteca for several years and at different levels.

The Buffaloes are coming off one of their best seasons in program history, going 26-8 while earning a piece of the Valley Oak League championship, advancing to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III Semifinals and qualifying for the NorCal tournament.

Ten seniors have graduated from that team, including libero Abbey Kadillak and middle blocker Karlie Spohn, fourth-year varsity starters who are now teammates at Sac State. Kadillak was named All-Valley Oak League MVP last year, while setter Arielle Chandler (Cal State L.A.) and Spohn were first-team selections.

Manteca also lost Delta-bound Adriana Powell and Camrenne Genilla, two all-around contributors who made All-VOL second team and honorable mention, respectively.

Coach Chandler, Arielle’s mom, has coached most of them since they were in middle school.

“It does feel a little bit like a rebuilding,” Chandler said. “I didn’t know a lot of these girls as well, but they’re already improving. We have a lot of good, natural athletes on the team, you just want to see how they are in a match.”

Five players return, and if fully healthy they’re all expected to take on heavier responsibilities.

Anchoring the club is 6-foot senior middle Courtney Washburn, who gained plenty of varsity experience as a junior. Next to her is 5-10 junior outside hitter Michaela Singh, who is primed for a breakout season. Chandler said Singh would have played a bigger role her sophomore year if not for the depth of talented upperclassmen.

“It was a little rocky in the beginning, but once we started working together it turned out better than we thought,” Washburn said. “Everyone is really underestimating us, but right now we’re looking really good.”

Another key returner is 6-1 right-side hitter/middle Izabella Sanchez, a basketball standout whose availability is uncertain because of a knee injury. Softball standout Jessica Almeida takes over at setter along with Ava Negranza, as the Buffs switch to the 6-2 formation.

Chandler likes the depth in the back row, which is led by senior Jillian Santos and sophomore Nicole Ayala.

Manteca is trying to stay competitive while developing for the future with lower-level call-ups. The freshman and JV teams were a combined 22-8 last year.

 “We lost 10 seniors and gained a lot of new girls,” Washburn said. “We’re trying to jell together so that we can defend our title that we share with Central Catholic. We’re super excited and working to get farther.”

Chandler is putting her youthful squad to the test early in the early in the season. The Buffaloes are facing small-school juggernauts Escalon (Aug. 25, away) and Ripon Christian (Aug. 31, home), and they’ll play in the Stockton Classic on Aug. 27. The VOL schedule begins Sept. 15 with a home match against Kimball.

“We have some tough ones coming up, for sure,” Chandler said. “I think they will be able to see faster action. Last year, we were able to run a lot of different plays and a faster offense. We’ll get there, and those matches will help show us what we need to work on.”