Yosemite High School varsity volleyball coach Sonja Mazaira likes what she sees when she looks across the court during a recent practice.
"I have eight returning players from last year, six seniors, and six players who were starters on the team.
The only player lost to graduation was Dahlia Lopez, now playing at Reedley Community College.
The six seniors are Page Peterson, Lauren Ecklund, Jensen Eames, Katie Sikora, Stephanie Pardue, and Sarah McKissack.
The team also has five juniors Taylor Burrall, Breeaunna Lewis, Farrah Allsup, Barbara Gonzales, and Andie Ellis, and sophomore Kailie Gould.
"Page (Peterson) has really developed as a setter from a year ago and is emerging as a team leader on the court," Mazaira said. "Taylor (Burrall) is a strong force out of the middle. She has developed more strength this year and I am excited to have an opportunity to run more options with her."
Mazaira said Eames will be starting on the right side of the line-up.
"She (Eames) has a strong block and has good knowledge of the game she knows when to help out the setters. Lauren (Ecklund) brings strength on the outside and back row."
Team co-captains are Peterson and Ecklund.
"I have full confidence in their ability to lead the team on the court and they have the respect of the other players on the team," Mazaira said.
Mazaira, in her second year as head coach, had just one senior last season on the team that finished last season with a 13-7 overall record and a third place finish in the North Sequoia League (6-4).
"The difference between last year's team and this year's team is the level of maturity of the players," Mazaira said. "This team is confident and they want to fight back for the title they lost last year to Sierra. We are trying new things this year and the players are willing to learn. I am confident in their ability to play volleyball and I know that by the time league play is here we will be ready to give our opponents a tough match."
Ecklund is expecting some intense competition from league opponents Sierra and Chowchilla this year.
"Both Sierra and Chowchilla beat us twice in close games last year and we want revenge," Ecklund said.
"Our team is building trust with each other and by the time league play starts, we should be a strong team," Peterson said.
Sikora said the team is excited about the new season.
"The seniors have played together since we were freshman and we have all improved quite a bit since then," Sikora said. "We hope to end our high school careers with a league title."
The team participated last week in a round robin scrimmage with Clovis North, Buchanan, Sanger, Clovis West, Mt. Whitney, Central Valley Christian, and Bullard.
"We played each team for 20 minutes and it was a great opportunity to try different line-ups and to see strengths and weaknesses of out team."
The Badgers open the season with a non-league contest at home against Mariposa on Wednesday, Sept 4, and will participate in a tournament in Mammoth Sept. 13 and 14. League play opens at Yosemite at 6 p.m. on Oct. 8 against Kerman.