Yosemite volleyball team prepares for winning season

Returning Yosemite volleyball players include, from left, Savanah Bohna, Siena Oswald, Sayda Taylor, and Karee Smith.
Returning Yosemite volleyball players include, from left, Savanah Bohna, Siena Oswald, Sayda Taylor, and Karee Smith. Sierra Star

The Yosemite High School volleyball program, under the direction of Michele Chenowith, is looking forward to a big season this year, with eight juniors returning who played varsity as sophomores, and at least one impact player from last season’s NSL 10-0 JV team.

The team looks to improve over its impressive 30-11 record last year and second place finish in the North Sequoia League at 8-2, behind rival Sierra (31-3, 9-1 NSL). The team beat Reedley after getting a first round bye in the CIF Central Section D-III championship tournament before losing in the semifinal round to Mission Oak High School of Tulare.

Sierra went on to beat Minarets for the Central Section Championship.

Eight players are returning from last year’s team as juniors, including six who were starters.

“We are all very excited about the upcoming season,” Chenowith said. “I have the most amazing group of talented young ladies ... good sports who are all competitive and dedicated to the game. They all come to practice with the mindset to grow and improve every day ... that makes it easy for a coach.”

Chenowith said whatever the team’s win/loss record is at the end of the season, it’s the experience the players will have together this year that will last a lifetime.

The majority of this year’s team played on Vista, a travel team that played in two tournaments a month between January and June. Most recently, Vista went 6-6 against much larger schools in a four-day tournament in Anaheim.

Volleyball camp

Chenowith recently held a three-day volleyball camp that concentrated on individual and team offense and defense skills, and position-specific tutoring in setting, serving, blocking and attacking the ball.

The camp was run by former Brigham Young University coach Shay Goulding Meurer, who is currently working with the team at Pepperdine University. Prior to Pepperdine, she was at the helm of the BYU team for three years, and was a four-time NJCAA District 1 coach of the year. In 2012, she spent time volunteering with the USA National Team.

At the end of the last day of camp, Goulding Meurer told Chenowith she had some very talented girls and “you’re going to have a good season.”

All-League Bohna returns

Junior Savanah Bohna was the only Badger last season to be named NSL first team all-league as a sophomore. The 5-foot-10 outside hitter finished the season last year ranked No. 3 in the NSL in offensive kill shots (161), No. 13 in blocked shots (21), No. 15 in point saving digs (129), and recorded 72 assists, and 11 ace serves. In a game against Liberty, she had 26 kills.

Bohna said she has been focused on becoming a better all-around player, working on her passing and improving her technique on defense.

“We want to start off strong this year and keep building our momentum throughout the season leading to the playoffs,” Bohna said.

Outside hitter Siena Oswald, a 5-foot-10 junior who is a strong all-around player, returns for her third year of varsity play. She was forced to sit out the entire preseason last year with a broken bone in her right foot. She returned in time for league play and had a good season.

“If this team plays to the best of its ability all season long, the wins will come,” Oswald said. “We hope to win league and go deep into the playoffs. My foot is perfect and I’m ready to play the game we all love.”

Another junior returning to the team is 5-foot-7 middle blocker Karee Smith.

“This team jells well together ... we communicate well on the court and we are all very close both on and off the court,” Smith said. “This season I hope to be a better passer, and more accurate and consistent with my serves. I’m excited to get this season started.”

Sayda Taylor returns to the volleyball court after her outstanding track season last spring that saw the 5-foot-10 freshman run in the finals of the 200 yard dash at the State Championship Meet.

The middle hitter was on the NSL championship JV team last season and is excited to play varsity this season.

“I’m confident to play varsity after doing well with Vista during the off-season,” Taylor said. “I’ve worked on my consistency and accuracy of my kill shots.”

Chenowith called Taylor one of the biggest jumpers Yosemite has had in many years.

“Most of us put in a lot of hard work while playing travel club ball this past off-season, and if we play to our potential, we will do well in league and in the playoffs,” Taylor said.

Yosemite players who received all-league honorable mention recognition last year as sophomores were Tiffany Cacy, Rachel Loveland, Karee Smith, and Hannah Hurtado.

Last year’s team MVP award went to Cacy. She finished the season No. 2 in the NSL in assists (423), No. 6 in digs (256), No. 5 in blocks (40), and recorded 14 kills and 11 aces.

With Sierra coming off its 31-3 season and D-III Central Section title, Yosemite will be challenged by them along with Liberty, who returns with three all-league players from last year. All three teams are expected to be three of the top small school teams in the Central Section.

No player or coach will say it, but this Yosemite team has the potential of finding itself in the Central Section D-III championship game at the end of the season.

JV team hopes to repeat as NSL champs

Former Badger player Tricia Ruiz (class of ‘95) returns for her second year at the helm of the JV team and even if she loses players to varsity, she has confidence her team will have the talent to repeat as NSL champions after going 10-0 last year.

“I’m excited for a great season,” Ruiz said. “We’ll have many returners from last season so I am predicting we will do well.”

Varsity tryouts will be held 9 a.m. - 10:30 a.m. July 22, 25, 27 and 29. After that, Ruiz will finalize her JV team.

“We’ll have a number of players from last year still playing on the JV team this season, and I look for them to step-up to the challenge even more,” Ruiz said. “The sophomores playing JV this year will help bring the incoming freshman to the next level of play.”

YHS 2016 volleyball schedule

8-23: at Reedley

8-25: at Mariposa

8-27: YHS JV Tourney

8-30: Madera South at YHS

9-1: Kingsburg at YHS

9-3: at Carmichael Tourney (Sacramento)

9-6: Minarets at YHS

9-9 & 10: Mammoth Tourney

9-13: at Immanuel

9-16 & 17: Visalia tournament

9-20: Dos Palos at YHS

9-22: San Joaquin Memorial at YHS

9-24: Madera Frosh/Soph Tournament

* 9-27: at Kerman

* 9-29: Liberty at YHS

* 10-4: Washington Union at YHS

* 10-6: at Chowchilla

* 10-11: at Sierra

* 10-13: Kerman at YHS

* 10-18: at Liberty

* 10-20: at Washington Union

* 10-25: Chowchilla at YHS

* 10-27: Sierra at YHS

* Denotes North Sequoia League game: JV 5 p.m., varsity 6 p.m.