EL DORADO — A new era is underway for Union Mine High volleyball, beginning with new head coach Marti Howton.
Howton takes over for Mike Yates who guided the Lady Diamondbacks to a CIF State Division IV championship as well as the Nor Cal, Sac-Joaquin Section D-IV and Sierra Valley Conference titles. They finished the season with a 32-5 record, including an 11-1 mark in conference play.
Also gone are the seven seniors who led the Lady Diamondbacks’ dream season of 2011. But three players return to help this year’s team continue its winning ways.
“When I took the job at Union Mine last spring, I wanted to help build the program,” Howton said.
The three returners are two seniors (Sarah Phillis, Jordan Buxton) and a junior (Andrea Barnes) who started as a sophomore last season.
“I think all of our returning players will play a key role,” Howton said.
New to the team from last year’s junior varsity team that also finished atop of the Sierra Valley Conference are Taylor Thomas, Macallen Smith, Brooke Howton, McKaela Vonasek, Kayla Heikes and Tiffany Nesterenko.
Two others are Kaitlyn Console, a senior who didn’t play on last year’s team, and sophomore Gabrielle Fredericks.
“I coached a lot of those girls when they were 13 (through club volleyball),” said Howton of this group.
One of the team strengths are the three players returning who display leadership on and off the court.
“They give 110 percent,” she said. “We have plenty of confidence. I chose Jordan and Sarah to be team captains because they are real positive with the team and they are good students. They get along very well; they are good kids to coach.”
Another plus for the D’backs is continuing to run their 5-1 offense.
“I really think our strengths will be net blocking and hitting,” Howton said. “I’ve been really impressed with the defense we’ve been working on. Without the defense we can’t run our offense.”
Although Union Mine has a new look, Howton knows that the team will have a target on its back in defending its Sierra Valley Conference title.
“We will set goals that will challenge us,” she said. ”I look at the team and it’s similar to last year’s team but they are less experienced than last year.”
Contact Mike Bush at 530-344-5079 or email@example.com. Follow @MBushMtDemo on Twitter.