State

Modesto Christian girls head a talented list of area teams

Size, speed, strength and skill -- Modesto Christian High has it all this season.

Four starters, including all-Stanislaus District selections Taryn Garza and Brandi Henton, return from a squad that went 28-5 and reached the regional Division V semifinals.

Regardless of the returning cast, it's unlikely the Crusaders will top last year's record, not with the schedule coach Robb Spencer has put in place.

Not only has Spencer lined up another difficult lineup of foes, he's arranged a Jan. 30 showdown at St. Mary's of Stockton -- No. 1 in ESPN's national preseason rankings.

The late-season test will remind MC of its strengths and alert it to any weaknesses prior to the start of the playoffs.

While the Crusaders are expected to be the Stanilaus District's top team, there is plenty of other talent to be seen:

Guard Rachel Finnegan, The Bee's Player of the Year as a junior, leads Turlock as it defends its Central California Conference crown.

Two-time all-district pick Jennifer Hansen has Le Grand ready to continue its rule of the Southern League.

Enochs, led by junior center Shanika Blunt and a team of underclassmen, is among the contenders in the Modesto Metro Conference race.

Sonora has lost its top player (Brittany Malone) to a torn ACL, but the Wildcats' talented backcourt will keep it in the hunt for a Valley Oak League crown.

Hilmar is counting on defense and point guard Lindsey Mendes in its pursuit of a Western Athletic Conference title -- though that requires dethroning two-time defending champion Livingston.

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