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Outlook bright for Wildfires

Foresthill adds power from Placer, looks to contend in CVCL under new coach
By: Eric J. Gourley, Journal Sports Writer
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FORESTHILL — Talk about change. When Mariah Dvorak transferred from Placer High to Foresthill this fall, she joined a volleyball program that has won fewer matches in the last four seasons combined than the Hillgals did in a few short months last year. “It’s very different,” the senior said. “It’s not as advanced, but I really like it here. We get along great as a team. We’ve all bonded.” As a junior, Dvorak helped Placer to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III semifinals after the Hillgals won the first outright Pioneer Valley League crown in school history. Now, she’s already becoming an integral part of a Wildfires squad that finished 7-14 last season to fall one victory shy of its cumulative total for the previous three years. “She’s going to be a huge asset,” said Stacy Stroup, Foresthill’s first-year head coach. “She’s a leader on the court. She knows the game very well. She’s a strong hitter and she’s a good server. She knows how to be prepared and she knows how to use her feet and get ready, where a lot of our players are still a little flat-footed. She’s still working on a few things herself, but she’s a natural volleyball player with a good swing.” Stroup, a middle and elementary school teacher, hadn’t seen the girls play in a few years before assuming the helm at the high school this fall. “I didn’t have a whole lot of expectations,” she said. “I wasn’t able to follow volleyball, because my own daughter’s sports schedule took me away from that. I saw these girls play when they were in middle school but it’s been a while since I’ve seen a lot of them play. There are a lot of individual skills. It’s a matter of putting them together and sharpening them up a little bit.” The Wildfires looked nervous in a season-opening sweep by Valley Christian on Friday. “It was a great thing to see because it really showed us what we need to work on,” Stroup said. Foresthill will have an extra week to work out the kinks after Jim Elliot Christian backed out of Thursday’s Foundation Game. The Wildfires’ next scheduled match is Sept. 10 when they host Cristo Rey. “That’s not a bad thing, because we have some stuff to work on,” Stroup said. “We have some coverage things in our defense, and that was really apparent in our games on Friday. I just need to learn where their strengths are and how to play them on the court to benefit the team. Right now that’s kind of what we’re doing.” Scrappy juniors Trysta Ferguson and Mariah Quintanilla are vying to fill a void at Libero — a position the Wildfires played without last year when their roster featured only seven players. Foresthill has already suited up 12 this fall, and 6-foot-3 senior Timea Nemcekova plans to come out for her first practice this week. “Every one of us has played sports forever and volleyball for a long time, so we’re very athletic,” Dvorak said. “We can jump.” Anna Steever, a tall middle hitter, will be a leader this fall. Fellow sophomore Caitlin McCann returns with a year of experience. “She’s a lefty and she just hits the ball hard,” Stroup said. “She also has really good hands, so she’s one of my better setters.” Junior setter Jessica Satterlee is a “fireball” who doubles as a strong outside hitter. “She’ll do whatever you ask of her,” Stroup said. “She’s very quick. She’s a setter and she’s a little bit shorter but she’s a strong hitter and a great serve. I can tell her where to put the ball and she’ll get it there.” While both are new to the program, Stroup and Dvorak are optimistic Foresthill can have one of its most successful seasons in recent years. “They have a lot more talent on the team, with some of the same girls and some additions,” the coach said. “Not having seen the teams that we’ll play in league, it’s hard for me to say. From what I’ve seen, these girls can compete. I think they’ll do well.” Dvorak agreed. “We do have some goals and we do have potential,” she said. “I can see us definitely doing really good this season.”