Olivia Peterson grew up with many of her Hilmar High volleyball teammates. That’s what helped make the Yellowjackets’ season so special.
Hilmar’s journey this season included a perfect 12-0 run to a Trans-Valley League championship, a second consecutive Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV title and an appearance in the CIF State championship match where the Yellowjackets lost in five games to San Luis Obispo.
“It was really cool to do it with friends I grew up with and are in the same grade I’m in,” said Peterson. “To be the first ever team from your school to make it to the state championship is pretty cool. Not many teams make it through a whole season without any drama. We had seven juniors who all grew up together. We know when any of us are in a good mood and we know how to make each other mad. We just try not to do it.”
Peterson was named the TVL Most Valuable Player, averaging almost 12 kills per match during league play. She finished the season with 520 kills.
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Peterson is the Merced Sun-Star Volleyball Player of the Year.
“Everything about her got better this year,” said Hilmar coach Patti Harris. “She’s a strong, smart, strategic hitter. She’s consistent. You know what to expect from her.”
The 6-foot junior middleblocker recorded 99 blocks this season. She’s teamed up with sophomore Mikela Labno to give the Yellowjackets one of the mos formidable front lines in the Southern half of the Sac-Joaquin Section.
As a third-year varsity player, Peterson was asked to move into a leadership role this season and she thrived in that position.
“I made her a captain,” Harris said. “She’s a natural leader on the court and as a person.”
Peterson said her job as a leader was to make sure the team played for each other and not for themselves. It was that approach that led to the success Hilmar had this season, adding another blue banner to their collection and reaching the state championship.
“The run was super exciting,” Peterson said. “Winning another section title was special, but we weren’t satisfied. I knew we wanted to go all the way to state.
“It’s always tough to lose in five and it’s super tough when you lose in five at state. We were so close to winning a state championship. It was heart breaking.”
The Yellowjackets have a shot at making another run next year with almost the entire team coming back.
“I’m super excited,” Peterson said. “We lose two defensive specialists, but we have more coming up from the junior varsity. The rest of us are returning. We have great chemistry, we have our setter (Emma Martin) back, our libero (Julia Gonsalves) and Mikela Labno.”
Kendall Thomas, El Capitan
El Capitan sophomore Kendall Thomas is making high school water polo look easy. In two years, Thomas has led El Capitan to back-to-back Central California Conference championships and has been named the CCC Most Valuable Player in both years.
The scary news for the CCC is she still has two years of high school remaining.
Thomas is the Sun-Star Girls Water Polo Player of the Year for the second straight year.
“I think the thing that was really special was there was just so much growth from last year to this year with our team,” Thomas said. “When we come together, everything clicks and that’s nice to see. It was nice to see everyone thoroughly enjoy the season.”
Everything came together for the Gauchos as they dominated the CCC. El Capitan scored at least 14 goals in all 12 of their CCC contests and outscored their opponents 193 to 54 in conference play.
Thomas led the way, finishing with 137 goals, 63 assists and 106 steals in a season that saw El Capitan finish 22-7.
“I think the big difference for me this year, being my second year in high school, I knew what was going to happen,” Thomas said. “I had a lot more confidence built up. I think I’m able to bring knowledge of the game from playing at very intense levels.”
Quinn Hagerman, Merced
One of the most distinguished cross country careers at Merced High came to an end this season. Quinn Hagerman accomplished a lot during her high school career, helping lead the Bears to back-to-back CCC championships her sophomore and junior seasons.
This year, Hagerman swept the CCC center meets, finished second at the Sac-Joaquin Section sub-section and section championships and qualified for the CIF State Meet for the third time.
The three-time CCC Most Valuable Player is the Sun-Star Girls Cross-Country Athlete of the Year for the third time.
“A lot of the credit goes to my dad and mom for being such great supporters,” Hagerman said. “This is my dad’s sixth year as the coach at Merced. He started when my siblings were in the program and he wanted to coach all of us. It’s been a great father-daughter relationship.
“I think back to all the progression I’ve made from my freshman year to my senior year. My time at Merced High has been great.”
Hagerman was posting some of her best times earlier in the season and felt great during workouts. However, one wrong step while training strained her calf two weeks before the Sac-Joaquin Section championships.
The injury prevented her from training before the section meet and she still managed to finish second in the Division III race with a time of 19 minutes and 6 seconds to qualify for state.
“I went from working out and being at my peak to not running at all for two weeks before sections,” Hagerman said. “At sections, I ran OK. I did what I had to do to qualify for state.”
After finishing ninth at state as a junior, Hagerman finished 35th this year with a time of 19:19.1.
It wasn’t the way she wanted to finish her career, but she’s made plenty of other great memories along the way.
“I love cross country,” said Hagerman, who accepted a scholarship to run at Southern Utah University. “To go to all the meets this year and say, ‘This is my last Highlands, or my last meet in Salinas or last Clovis Invite. Everything was for the last time this year. It made this year special in that aspect.”
Jenasis Yarrell, El Capitan
Since moving to Merced prior to her freshman year at El Capitan, Jenasis Yarrell has dominated girls tennis in the Central California Confernce.
The Gauchos junior captured her third consecutive CCC singles championship this season, going a perfect 15-0 in CCC matches this season.
Yarrell is the Sun-Star Girls Tennis Player of the Year for the third consecutive season.
“This year felt different because I’m older and more experienced,” Yarrell said. “It’s different now because it’s my third year on the team at school. I’ve made some great friends on the team and those bonds make it even more fun.”
Yarrell keeps adding to her game.
Last year she really focused on her serve to add another weapon to her game. This year she concentrated on her volley.
“It helps me be more aggressive in matches and end points quicker,” Yarrell said.
Yarrell lost just two matches all season, finishing with a 22-2 record.
The Gauchos star reached the finals of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II singles tournament, winning her first three matches before falling in the championship game 6-1, 6-4 to Armijo’s Laura Wadsworth.
“I was very excited and proud of myself to go further than I did last year,” said Yarrell, who reached the semifinals as a sophomore. “Making the finals was a big accomplishment.”
Claire Wright, Chowchilla
Chowchilla High senior Claire Wright didn’t start playing golf until she got to high school. In just four years, she became one of the top golfers in the Central Section.
Wright posted the top score in all five North Sequoia League tournaments this season to help Chowchilla win their first NSL championship. Three of the matches she shot an even-par 36 at Eagle Springs, Pheasant Run and Dragonfly.
She qualified for the Valley Championships after shooting a 76 at Lemoore, which was good for second place out of 100 players at the Central Section Division II and III championships.
She finished 12th at the Central Section Individual Golf Championships at River Island Country Club in Porterville to earn her second straight trip to the Southern California High School Championships.
Wright is the Sun-Star Girls Golfer of the Year.
“The first tournament I ever played in was when I joined the Chowchilla golf team,” Wright said. “I think I shot a 40 on a par-36. It was a league match.”
Wright played volleyball and golf during the fall her freshman and sophomore seasons. The past two years she’s concentrated on golf.
It was the summer before her freshman year that she started playing golf. Her twin brother, Jack, jokes it’s because she was copying him.
She would follow her brother when he went on the course at Pheasant Run.
“I just liked the fact that golf was an individual sport,” Wright said. “Everything was up to me. If I hit a bad shot, it’s my own fault. If I hit a good shot that was up to me, too. I like team sports too, but golf is completely different.”
- Mikela Labno, Hilmar
- Miranda Baptista, Buhach Colony
- Kinsley Vlot, Chowchilla
- Paige, Martin, El Capitan
- Cameron Gray, Buhach Colony
- Mallory Pazin, Buhach Colony
- Maartje Vander Dussen, Stone Ridge Christian
- Ellie Hamm, Merced
- Robin Helms, El Capitan
- Emma Martin, Hilmar
- Zoya Wood, Golden Valley
- Sadi Tucker, Stone Ridge Christian
- Coaches: Patti Harris, Hilmar and Ken Shaw, Stone Ridge Christian
- Alexis Smith, El Capitan
- Tarveen Takhar, Buhach Colony
- Erin McBride, Buhach Colony
- Christine Koenig, El Capitan
- Ashland Alcorn, Buhach Colony
- Gabrielle Perez, Buhach Colony
- Natalie Frontella, Atwater
- Liberty Hamilton
- Madeline Hall, Merced
- Jaden Key, Merced
- Mekayla Hooker, Los Banos
- Coach: Andy Seto
- Clara Harman, Atwater
- Arely Venegas, Atwater
- Elisabeth Garner, Atwater
- Kaitlynn Perez, Merced
- Berta Figueras, Buhach Colony
- Coach: Ken Rhoades
- Kierstyn Cotta, Los Banos
- Anessa Cardenas, Atwater
- Kayla Perolini, Golden Valley
- Trinitey Meza, Los Banos
- Coach: Don Bragonier
- Lauren Gudgel, El Capitan
- Caitlin Garcia, Buhach Colony
- Phoebe Arista, Merced
- Aubreanne Aponte, Merced
- Sadie Datray, Buhach Colony
- Annie Winton, Livingston
- Coach: John Kane