After winning three consecutive Blossom Valley Athletic League Santa Teresa South Division championships—culminating in a 10-0 division mark last year—it was only fitting that the Sobrato High girls volleyball team got promoted to the league’s premier Mount Hamilton Division this season.
The Bulldogs competed in the Mount Hamilton from 2012-2014, attaining a fair level of success. They went a solid 8-6 in 2012 before finishing 10-4 in 2013, good for a second-place finish. But the wheels came off in 2014, as Sobrato finished 1-13.
The following year, the Bulldogs were placed in the Santa Teresa Division, where they would stay for seven seasons. Back in the BVAL’s top A division, Sobrato knows the challenges that lie ahead, but is welcoming the fact it’s going to be facing top-notch competition in every match.
“We’re in a league now where we’ll be challenged the entire time, so it will definitely be good for our focus and set us up for success should we get to the postseason,” Bulldogs coach Daniel Clifton said. “I think we can definitely be competitive, and we’re hoping for a top-three finish so we get an automatic bid to CCS. But we’re not completely counting ourselves out for that top spot because I know when these girls want to play, they’re a very talented group. It all comes down to sticking their heads together and putting their nose to the grindstone.”
Sobrato returns one of the top outside hitters in the BVAL in junior Kaylee Clayton, who enters her third season on the varsity and looks as good as ever. With an impressive vertical leap and the ability to hit through the block and angle off it, Clayton has the potential to be unstoppable at times.
Opponents will focus most of their attention on Clayton, which should give sophomore middle blocker Juliana Tindall and junior middle/opposite/right side Brianna Bouton ample opportunities to rack up points.
“Juliana absolutely dominated at times last year and was one of the block leaders in our league (despite playing less games),” Clifton said. “She did everything you can imagine as a freshman, had a good club season and is looking more confident, stronger, and a lot more aggressive all the way around.”
Tindall and Clayton—along with junior outside hitter Evann Durling—play for the same Sunnyvale-based Mountain View Volleyball Club team.
“They all grew a lot during the club season, and that’s going to pay off for us,” Clifton said. “Evann has a hammer of a swing now and got a lot stronger. Last year she was really strong for us, but was hitting behind Jasmine (Mapalad), who at one point was one of the top-ranked players in the state.”
Bouton is a tremendous athlete, having competed at a high level in both volleyball and basketball. She played for Clifton’s club volleyball team, Morgan Hill Volleyball, up until this last season, to focus on basketball.
Bouton’s younger sister, Jordan, is a freshman who is projected to either start or see ample playing time at setter and right side. Like Brianna, Jordan is a versatile athlete.
“Jordan does full-time softball so she’s in the same boat as her older sister in that they do sports 365 days a year,” Clifton said. “I’m really amazed their parents are able to keep up with that. When you look at Brianna and Jordan, both of them battle for everything and have that die-hard, ‘I want to win’ attitude.”
Senior Hannah Pieters was the backup setter a year ago, but has developed into a bona-fide starter. Senior libero Briana Retzer looks to be the anchor in the back row, and defensive specialist Kaitlyn Weigel will play a prominent role on defense as well.
“Kaitlyn has a very good attitude and brings a lot of positivity to the team,” Clifton said. “She’s good at picking people up when they’re struggling, and we’re definitely looking to get her a bunch of playing time in the back row.”
Sports editor Emanuel Lee can be reached at [email protected]