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Panther Volleyball Teams Close Out Championship Season
El Portal 8th graders 2022
Capping off a perfect season, the eighth grade El Portal Panthers went 14-0 in the regular season and defeated Modesto Christian and Ustach in the playoffs, taking first place honors and completing a 16-0 campaign. Photo Contributed
El Portal 7th graders 2022
Assistant coach Ken Baptista, at left, and head coach Amanda Vanderwall, far right, flank the seventh grade El Portal Panthers volleyball team, celebrating with the girls after they claimed the championship at the playoffs hosted on Oct. 6, defeating Cardozo Middle School and top seed Savage. Photo Contributed

The future of the Escalon High School volleyball program is looking bright, as both the El Portal Middle School seventh and eighth grade teams put together hugely successful seasons.

Here is a look at recent playoff action, with information provided by coaches, Amanda Vanderwall for the seventh grade Panther girls and Sidney Saunders for the eighth grade girls.


Seventh Grade

On Thursday, Oct. 6, the seventh grade El Portal volleyball team traveled to Savage Middle School for Playoffs.

“Seeded second, we played Cardozo (Riverbank) who went into the tournament seeded third and beat them in two sets: 25-20 and 25-18,” explained Vanderwall. “We then went on to play Savage who was seeded first and beat them in two sets: 25-23 and 25-20.”

The wins saw the seventh graders come home with the championship trophy and individual medals.

Between the four sets, the following were some of the highlights, with all players on the roster noted in the statistics.

Alexandria Fiser 15 aces, 4 kills, 2 tips, 2 blocks, 4 digs; Emma Strong 8 aces, 4 kills, 2 tips, 4 digs; Kendall Fox 8 aces, 3 kills, 2 tips, 2 digs; Kaia Machado 4 aces, 1 kill, 3 digs.

Also, Ronnie Keo 4 aces, 1 kill, 10 digs; Peyton Jacobs 3 aces, 2 kills, 2 tips, 1 block, 2 digs; Georgia Northcutt 3 kills, 1 block, 1 tip, 8 digs; Arie Paulson 3 kills, 2 tips, 2 blocks, 2 digs; Bretta Brooks 1 kill, 1 block; Victoria Marrufo-Verduzco 1 block, 1 tip, 2 digs; Karyna Dalpogetti 1 tip, 2 digs and Ava Rodriguez 1 block, 1 tip.

“I’d like to thank my assistant coach, Kenneth Baptista for sacrificing so much of his time helping me design extra practices for our players seeking extra help, putting together team bondings to build court chemistry, and staying up late collaborating on lineups and rotations,” Vanderwall said. “He has been so supportive and encouraging not only to me but to our girls. This has been truly special sharing this experience. I’d also like to thank our eighth grade coach Sidney Saunders for being not only a great role model for our girls but bringing new ideas to our program.”

Summarizing their hugely successful season, Vanderwall said the middle school teams also enjoyed some high level support.

“Sharing the same morals, values, and coaching style has really helped further cultivate successful student athletes which will continue to strengthen our Escalon Volleyball Program. Shout out to head varsity coach at Escalon High, Teresa Williamson for doing so much for us and constantly being a huge support and inspiration,” said Vanderwall. “Last but not least, I want to further recognize our seventh grade volleyball team for all the hard work they have put into this season not only on the court but in the classroom. It is a challenge finding that balance but when things got tough, they pushed even harder which says a lot of their character and work ethic. Something I definitely loved about this group was their optimism and their ability to bring each other up when situations were not ideal. Overall, I am very proud of our team and look forward to watching their success throughout our program.”


Eighth Grade

The eighth grade Lady Panther volleyball team headed into playoffs on Thursday Oct. 6 with the first place seed.

“The eighth graders had a perfect 14-0 season and continued the streak by first defeating Modesto Christian in the first game of the final tournament, then went on to win the championship against Ustach in the final game for a final record of 16-0,” head coach Sidney Saunders said of the perfect campaign.

Team members were Rachelle Barker, Samari Webster, Aniston Hunt, Payton Houser Keaton, Savannah Parsons, Elizabeth Castro, Haven MacKinnon, Selah Jansen, Violet Da Silva, Arianna Velasco, Hennessey Mayns, Jayci Trimble, Brynn Caton.

“I want to thank Amanda Vanderwall, the seventh grade coach, who has been the go to for coaching and life. I only started coaching last year and had no idea what I was doing. Amanda has always been there for me and puts such a great foundation on these girls,” Saunders said. “I am so fortunate to have such an amazing partner to coach with.”