With a strong core of returnees and some new faces, the Sobrato High girls volleyball team has its sights set high in 2023.
So far, this year’s Bulldogs squad has produced some great early results and is still jelling following big-time wins over Soquel and Christopher, showing plenty of promise on the court.
“The season has gone pretty well,” Sobrato senior captain Kaylee Clayton said. “Though we lost a couple we thought we could win, we are excited to compete in the Mount Hamilton and prove we can do better than last year.”
In 2022, the Bulldogs placed third in the Blossom Valley Athletic League Mount Hamilton Division with a 4-6 record in league play and finished with a 20-13 overall record in 2022.
Clayton said one of their goals is to beat defending league champion Branham High and she’s already looking forward to facing them on Senior Night on Oct. 17.
First things first, though. Sobrato opened BVAL Mount Hamilton play with a decisive sweep over Prospect High in three sets (25-12, 25-12, 25-11) and a 5-set road loss to a strong Westmont High team.
Against Prospect, Clayton let the way with 15 kills and a .636 attack percentage.
Teammate Brianna Bouton had 13 kills and a .409 attack percentage for the Bulldogs.
“We expect everyone to be competitive in the league,” Clayton said.
Clayton last year led Sobrato with 285 kills and is atop of the stat board this season with 100, as of Sept. 9.
Partners in the front line offense include Brianna Bouton on the outside along with middles Juliana Tindall and Ashley Keith. Evann Durling is on the right side.
The quartet of Bulldogs have similar kill stats, a bit less than Clayton, yet all sizable and the combination of weapons makes Sobrato hard to shut down.
Setter Jordan Bouton was part of a 6-2 deployment last year with Hannah Pieters but is the sole distributor this year in a 5-1. Junior Amelia Penrod and freshman Ashley Nguyen lead the defense at the libero position and at defensive specialist.
“Our key is communication,” Sobrato head coach Daniel Clifton said. “We graduated a huge senior class (of eight seniors) and are working on team cohesiveness. My goals are to continue to develop our players’ skills. And of course, we want to make CCS.”
Sobrato advanced to the 2022 Central Coast Section Division II playoffs where they fell in the first round in five sets at San Mateo.
A challenging pre-season schedule has toughened up the Bulldogs, who currently own a 4-8 overall record.
Sobrato topped Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League power Soquel High in three sets in a tournament match.
The Bulldogs gave perennial powerhouse Los Gatos High a tight battle with a 25-19, 25-22 tourney loss, and fought off feisty rival Christopher in five sets (25-22, 14-25, 25-21, 22-25, 15-10) for a big non-league victory.
“I think we played really well,” said Clifton, after the victory over Christopher. “We got our butts handed to us in the second set and we battled back. We showed resilience. We got to see what we are capable of.”
Clifton shifted players into different positions. Brianna Bouton moved between middle and outside hitter, while Olivia Davis went from opposite to middle.
Clifton also deployed Jordyn McCarthy Scettrini at setter during parts of the match, while Erielle Lustina helped bolster the defense.
“We showed flexibility,” Clifton said.
Lustina and Penrod along with freshman libero Nguyen, provided the important passing that allowed the Bulldogs to stay in system and arm their attackers. They showed grit and tenacity coming through in the decisive final stretch in the fifth set.
Sobrato was tied with Christopher at 21-all in the fourth set but could not close out the match.
In the fifth and deciding set, the Bulldogs fell behind twice at 7-4 and 9-7 but they buckled down with a huge 5-point surge to take control.
In that burst, Clayton smashed a kill down the line, Durling added a kill, Clayton delivered another kill and Jordan Bouton served an ace.
“We did really well,” Clayton said. “We were really scrappy on our defense. We are slowly getting back into tempo.”
Solid defense and passing enables the Bulldogs to run their potent offense, which will be crucial in the upcoming league matches.
BVAL Mount Hamilton Division competition ramps up with Leigh High on Thursday, and Evergreen Valley and Branham next week.