Last season, the Manteca High girls volleyball team got over the hump.

The Buffaloes won the Valley Oak League title with a 13-1 mark in league play, then went on to win a pair of games in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoffs before falling in the semifinals to top-seeded Sonora.

Now, Manteca has a new challenge: repeating as champs.

The Buffaloes, along with the rest of the league, begin VOL play today. They’ll host Oakdale (1-3) at 6 p.m.

Manteca (8-1) has already started the 2018 season fast. Head coach Kevin Bolding said the pre-league schedule has been centered around playing tough teams that will prepare the Buffs for an unforgiving VOL slate.

“We’ve done well up to this point,” Bolding said. “We’re at a point now where hopefully we’re prepared. We know league isn’t going to be easy.”

Manteca has three four-year varsity players in Kaitlyn Morenzone, Payton Reis and Kacy Bolding as part of a group of eight returners from last season’s title-winning team. They’ll provide veteran leadership on an otherwise young team, Bolding said.

As the Buffaloes chase another title, Bolding said keeping the team healthy will again be an important factor. If they can keep their best players on the court and work to get better each time out, he said, the rest should take care of itself.

“If we can put ourselves in a position to give ourselves a shot,” Bolding said, “we can’t ask for a whole lot more than that.”

Kimball (14-14, 7-7 VOL last season)

The Jaguars played even volleyball in 2017, and have gotten off to a strong start this year. Kimball is 6-4, led by a talented group of underclassmen.

Junior Raia Maamo leads the team with 45 kills, followed by senior Ambrielle Coulter (36) and sophomore Rein Bocage (29). Coulter also has 16 blocks, Bocage has 90 digs and sophomores Nicole and Samantha Mayer had 47 and 42 digs, respectively.

The Jaguars begin VOL play at 6:30 p.m. today at East Union.

Weston Ranch (12-14, 4-10 VOL)

It wasn’t a great league showing last season for the Cougars, but they are 6-2 this season. Junior Julianna Lassiter and senior Senecia Patton lead Weston Ranch in kills with 42 and 17, respectively.

Lassiter also has 49 digs on the young season, with senior Allison Bacuyani pacing the team with 36 assists.

The Cougars’ league schedule starts at 6 p.m. today against Central Catholic in Modesto.

East Union (3-14, 2-12 VOL)

The Lancers played near the bottom of the VOL in 2017, and they’ve gotten off to a 4-2 start in 2018.

East Union will try and get things started on the right foot in VOL play today, playing host to Kimball.

Sierra (8-17, 0-14 VOL)

The Timberwolves were winless in the VOL in 2017, and they enter league play in 2018 without last year’s top player in the graduated Lindsey Walljasper.

The good news for Sierra is, they still have senior Hailey Steele (103 kills and 58 digs in 2017), as well as players like seniors Teresa Benham (29 kills, 26 digs) and Dulce Cruz (22).

Manteca awaits Sierra in the first game of VOL play.

Oakdale, which was second in the VOL with an 11-3 record, and Central Catholic (third at 10-4) are not a part of The Record’s coverage area.

Contact reporter Nick Woodard at (209) 546-8272 or nwoodard@recordnet.com. Follow him on Twitter@nwoodard25.