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Wolves could be in for big season

Doug Rostron returns to coach the Tualatin High School volleyball team

TUALATIN - Doug Rostron had a few reservations about coming back to coach Tualatin's volleyball team after stepping away nine years ago to spend time with his family.

He'd given away his notes to former assistants and was coming in fresh, having stayed away from the gym during the break.

But the opportunity to rejoin the program presented itself after Ray Nunn resigned, and Rostron is brimming with excitement given the team he inherited.

'I'm really blessed I had this opportunity this year and I took advantage of it,' Rostron said. 'It's rare to get these type of kids and this attitude for a brand-new coach.

'We're going to be extremely competitive and extremely fun to watch.'

Central to his enthusiasm is a trio of standout 6-foot middle blockers in seniors Samantha Child and Sarah Kirsch and junior Jessica Meteer.

'We're going to be seriously tough in the middle,' Rostron said. 'I don't think anyone has three middle blockers like them. It's a luxury.'

Rostron considers Child 'one of the top athletes in the senior class,' making it imperative for him to convince her to rejoin the program after taking her junior year off.

'She will amaze you,' Rostron said. 'She's a special athlete.'

Kirsch also is making a return to the court after blowing out her knee early last season, tearing her ACL and meniscus. Her versatility will make her a threat at the net and on the attack from the back.

'To come back from that injury and play at a high level is a testament to her perseverance,' Rostron said. 'Her and Sam should dominate in the middle.'

That 1-2 punch in the middle might force the talented Meteer to take some swings on the outside despite being a 'natural middle blocker,' according to Rostron.

'We're working on finding a way to get Jessica on the floor,' Rostron said. 'She'll get a lot of playing time.'

For all their strength in the middle, the Timberwolves have no lack of talent elsewhere on the court. Tualatin's outside attack is led by senior Abby Messenger, who earned first team Pacific-9 Conference honors last season.

'She a fantastic outside hitter,' Rostron said. 'She's going to crush the ball. She's also a tremendous all-around player.'

The Timberwolves will bring senior Ashton Bentz opposite Messenger.

'She's also an extremely tough defender,' Rostron said. 'Just a tremendous athlete and good passer.'

Sophomore Hannah Holloran gives Tualatin a solid punch from the back row. Holloran was the only freshman on varsity last season.

'She's a tremendous leaper with really good hands,' Rostron said. 'We're working on her one-step takeoff to hit on the back side.'

Senior Gabriela Bosley will distribute the ball to the Timberwolves' versatile attack as the team's setter. Rostron sees her as one of the league's best setters.

'She smart and adept at the process of volleyball,' Rostron said. 'Gabby's really good at moving it around and spreading the defense thin. And she has so many weapons to work with.'

Junior Marty Pellicano backs up Bosley and will also serve as a defensive specialist. Pellicano could also serve in the libero role with junior Jordan Skinner, who also will be a force as a jump server.

'Those two will anchor the defense,' Rostron said.

Senior Alexis Brown and juniors Erin Connelly and Kendall Re also will be relied on for defense in the back row.

With so many talented players on the squad, Rostron's most difficult task might have been finding a coaching staff, considering the names he knew had either moved to head coaching positions, the college ranks or retired.

'I was concerned about getting a good coaching staff to augment my style and be on the same page,' Rostron said.

But a few phone calls later and Rostron has been able to do just that. Leigh Kester will serve as Rostron's varsity assistant, while Tanya Belmont takes over as the junior varsity coach and Tualatin graduate Brittney Sullivan will lead the freshman.

'As a staff, we're very cohesive and supportive of each other,' Rostron said. 'Our goal is to bring back a love of the sport and get a lot of kids out.'

And there's no better way to do so then to find some success, something this year's team should provide.

'I hope we get the program back where it needs to be,' Rostron said. 'I think with the steps we've taken and the coaches we've hired, we're heading in that direction.'

Rostron expects Canby to be Tualatin's toughest foe in conference play, while McMinnville and Tigard should also compete for playoff spots.