Monday, September 19, 2011
Coming off a season in which the Eagles made the state playoffs for the first time since 1993, expectations have been raised this season.
The Eagles lost some height and some passing skills with the graduations of Melanie Siegrist and Katie Wood, but are figuring to make up for it with a big group of returning players.
The loss of Siegrist means that the Eagles are not exactly big in height, but the whole team spent the summer focusing on being better blockers on the front line.
"We're lacking height but we are quick and scrappy," said senior setter Tracy Mok.
The Eagles spent part of their summer attending a camp at Arizona State University, and they spent the bulk of the camp learning to be better blockers.
"Other than our blocking we are really strong," senior Courtney Harvey said.
To be fair to the Eagles, while they may not be tall, they still have several players who can crush the ball when given the chance.
Kaillie Duffy and Meagan Frazier are two of the more athletic hitters in the Columbia River Conference. Logan Bailey and Harvey are also competent at the net.
In the Columbia River Conference the Eagles also do not need to field a starting lineup of girls 5'10 and above to have a shot at the state playoffs.
The Eagles were in the running for a conference championship until the final game of the season when they lost to The Dalles.
The Eagles went on to win a play-in game and then lost to Churchill in the first round of the state playoffs.
This season they don't want to lose focus down the stretch, because the goal isn't simply to have a winning season, it's to make it the state finals tournament at Liberty High School in Hillsboro.
"We learned that you've got to focus on every game," said Bailey.
"We know we so could have beat The Dalles," Mok added.
Coach Scott Walker felt the team was a little starry-eyed with its state playoff appearance in Eugene last fall, and spent the offseason raising the expectation level.
The team had most of its members playing club volleyball throughout the year and the numbers at the sub-varsity level are way up.
"Our goal is Liberty High School," he said. "Anything less would be a disappointment."
Hermiston again figured to be the favorite to win the league, but HRV is not far behind the Bulldogs, and with improvement to the Pendleton and TDW squads, anyone can truly beat anyone else on any given night in CRC play.
That figures to happen plenty with each team playing 12 league games - four against each team.
"It can get really old," Walker said.
Which is why the league playoff spots may not be decided until the final week again, when teams are facing each other for the final time and must maintain their focus.
With all their experience playing together, and the lessons learned from last season, the Eagles don't think that will be a problem this go-around.
"We've been playing together since seventh grade," Harvey said. "We have a chemistry you can't replace."