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SELMA - After making a deep playoff run last year, the expectation for the Selma volleyball team is to go farther this season.

“I could definitely see us winning [the CIF] DV playoffs this year,” Selma head coach Montana Lowe said. “This year, we have a lot more hitting options and it’s going to allow us to go a lot deeper into the season.”

Lowe is entering her second year as coach, and not only does she have high expectations, the girls on the team have aspirations of winning a Valley championship as well.

“Our goal is honestly to get to Valley,” Selma libero Genesis Rodriguez said.

“My expectations is definitely to go to Valley,” Selma setter Mia Salinas said. “We have a really great team environment right now. I feel like we improved so much from last year and everyone just has a positive attitude. I feel like we could make it far if we work together.”

Last season, the Bears finished 14-17 overall with a 1-9 record in Central Sequoia League play. Despite only winning one league game and finishing the season under .500, Selma made an impressive playoff run that went as far as the semifinals of the CIF Central Section Division V bracket.

Rodriguez and Salinas were part of last year’s team and being one game away from competing for a Valley title was motivation for the girls heading into the season.

“It motivates us,” Rodriguez said. “If we could get that far, then we could get even further than that. It was one game away.”

“We knew we had the potential,” Salinas said. “This year, I feel like if we work hard, we all just work together, we’ll be able to do it.”

Five players from last year’s roster graduated including Caitlyn Hansen, who led the Bears with 315 kills and 44 service aces last season. Hansen is currently listed on the volleyball roster for Fresno City College.

The majority of last year’s team has returned and Lowe expects to have a balanced team with several contributors this season. Other than Rodriguez and Salinas, Lowe said Gurleen Brar and Khori Cranford should be key players this season.

“Last year we had a star player and they knew we were going to send the ball there,” Lowe said. “Now, we’re a little more even.”

If Selma does want it to take it to the next step, the Bears will have to play through a competitive CSL schedule that includes reigning Valley championship teams, Exeter and Immanuel. Selma will also play two extra league games with Hanford West departing the West Yosemite League and joining the CSL this season.

Winning a CSL title is one of Selma’s goals this season as well.

“For us, it’s coming in as the underdogs,” Lowe said. “I think people are really going to underestimate us.”

Lowe and Exeter coach Samantha Silvers are the only returning coaches in the league this season. One of the CSL’s new coaches this season is Kingsburg’s Brittany Henderson, who coached Lowe in 2016 at Fresno Pacific. That year was Lowe’s senior season playing for the Sunbirds.

When asked about coaching against Henderson, Lowe said, “It’ll be kind of cool to build that camaraderie going into those rival games with a friendly atmosphere and being more competitive. It’s kind of coach versus player.”

Selma is scheduled to open the season on the road against Caruthers High School on Aug. 14. The Bears will step onto their home floor against Roosevelt High School on Aug. 16, which is slated for a 6 p.m. start time.

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Jeremiah Martinez can be reached at 559-583-2413 or jmartinez@hanfordsentinel.com

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