As fall sports begin to get into full swing, we take a look at the volleyball local squads, some of which are again looking to make deep postseason runs while others are looking to rebuild under new leaders. With matches beginning next week, it should once again be an exciting season.
The bar has been set high after winning the 4A state title last fall, but the Lions should be loaded for another run again. Their recent success and returning roster has Bellarmine Prep nationally recognized, with some rankings placing them within the top 50 schools in the country.
The Lions will try to repeat their success behind Narrows 4A MVP and University of Washington commit Courtney Schwan, whose accomplishments and accolades keep rolling in. The dominant 6-foot-2 senior outside hitter is joined by senior Emily Newberry up front, while juniors Reghan Pukis and Claire Martin provide the Lions more overwhelming size. Senior Julia Wright will look to continue to lead the defense, and junior Natalie Jensen will be serving as the setter.
The Tigers will be looking to rebuild under first-year head coach Hannah Merritt and assistants Samantha Mason and Salina Herd. They will have to replace departed outside hitter Tabi Webb and libero Helena Stout, but the potential is there for an improved season.
Leading the way should be senior right-side hitter McKenna Cady and senior setter Lauren Schultz, while junior Chloe Coughlan also returns to shore up the middle.
Junior Julia Jones will look to step in and be the defensive specialist, while Merritt noted that sophomore Ashton Robertson is a promising right-side hitter.
“We definitely have strong hitters and blockers and a quick defense,” Merritt said. “We are expecting to be a lot more competitive.”
The Rams are another squad under new tutelage this year, as former assistant Jackie Mullen takes over. And there will be much to replace, as all-league outside hitter Sojournah Channel transferred back to Spanaway Lake and second-teamers Tia Briggs and Alexis Slater graduated.
Mullen will be counting on senior middle hitter Savana Smith and senior right-side hitter Nia Cox to lead the way, while setter Sarah Schroeder will look to set them up with solid passing. Mullen is also impressed with skilled freshman outside hitter Alex Bunch, who should contribute.
“Our biggest challenge is that since we are such a new team, it’s just getting our team chemistry going since we haven’t played together before,” Mullen noted.
The Abes graduated seven seniors last year, but interest in the program remains strong, as 58 girls turned out this season.
Headlining the group is senior outside hitter Lyric Jones, a solid all-around player, while senior setter Iyris Fua shows good court awareness and leadership skills. Sophomore basketball star Tamia Braggs joined the team this season and has impressed early with her work ethic and focus, and incoming freshman libero Leea Jones – Lyric’s sister – is a skilled defender and excellent passer who should contribute early.
“Defense and passing are going to be our strength,” noted head coach Steve Johnson. “I’ve probably got more good passers this year than I’ve had in…I can’t remember how long.”
The Falcons will be a fairly young squad this year, and are another team that welcome a new head coach in Rochelle Rosario – former assistant at Mount Tahoma.
Senior middle blocker Fa'umanuia "Nia" Fáalaviau and senior Naomi King will look to provide the leadership for the Falcons, while junior setters Monica Villanueva and Kiersten Luedtke should set the hitters up nicely. Rosario is also impressed with freshmen Angela Stanback and Patricia Stahlnecker, who each should find a role in the rotation.
“We want to build strong, independent women,” said Rosario. “Our focus is believing this year. Believing in ourselves and our team and that we can achieve.”
The Thunderbirds feature a “mixed bag” of talent, according to head coach Terry Lynn Thayer. Thayer will be counting on senior middle hitter Aliyah Carector – who earned second-team all-league honors last year – to lead the way, while senior Rejie Wright will help up front and senior Cydney Tillman should be a solid defensive specialist.
The Thunderbirds should also feature some versatility, as senior setter Jessica Evans and junior left-side hitters Asalei Sokimi and Sacha Ausage can also serve as defensive specialists. Sophomore Alanna Bates-Carector flashed a lot of ability last season and should once again be a key player this year.
After advancing to the 1A state tournament last year, the Eagles should be loaded for another run, returning nearly their entire roster.
A solid core of seniors is headlined by dominant right-side hitter Johnnise Moore, while setter Carly Normandeau is an excellent distributer. Fellow senior middle hitters Ashlee Hamilton and Jordan Youngblood should be solid as well, while Acacia Sanchez should help lead the defense along with junior libero Kylie Burton. Junior outside hitter Maddy Long already has extensive experience as well, and sophomore Kaitlyn Konsmo is another important player who can serve as a setter or defensive specialist.
The Crusaders are a veteran group as well, returning all of their starters, including SeaTac 2B MVP Natalie Snyder. Snyder is dominant with her overhand smash, but also passes extremely well and displays a great serve.
Three-year starting setter McKenna Neufeld returns to provide more leadership for the offense, and senior outside hitter Kathryn Carlson also displays a solid all-around game.
Senior Michaela Jandebeur should provide some more size up front, junior Lily Powell should be strong on the right side and sophomores Jane Cooksley and Ashley Brooks should push for more time
“We’re going to be a little more complex with our offense,” head coach Rusty Carlson noted of the luxury of returning so many players. “We’re going to continue to emphasize defense and no ball hits the ground.”
The Gators lost Emerald League MVP Lani Kalalau to graduation, but return nearly every other player after claiming seventh place at the 1A state tournament last fall.
The offense starts with tall, imposing senior left-handers Margaux Arnston and Tori Smith, who each possess the height and strength to wear down opponents at the net. Junior setter Kaley Turner also returns and should provide Arnston and Smith with ample opportunities to attack, and head coach Rodney Kalalau noted that the teams setters should be a strength.
Lexi LeClech also returns to the middle, and Maria Vipond is a versatile player that will most likely be asked to help out on the defensive end at libero.