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New-look Metro gets ready

But Jesuit is the same old favorite as the new six-team league gets set
by: MILES VANCE, SHE’S READY — Westview senior Stacie Appel and the Wildcats are ready for another playoff run in 2006.

It's a brave new world in Metro League volleyball this year, with the league itself contracted to six teams (from 10) by the Oregon School Activities Association and just 14 of 30 Metro all-stars back from a year ago.

This much, however, is known - Jesuit is the overwhelming favorite to win its ninth consecutive Metro League title and also to build on its Metro-record 86-match winning streak.

'It would be wonderful to see another team challenge their umpteenth league title; I just have a hard time seeing it happen this year,' said Beaverton coach Megan Nilson. 'They are good. They are talented, and while not impossible, they are very, very hard to beat.'

'Certainly, Jesuit has to be picked No. 1,' said Sunset coach Lad Salness. 'You'd have to be crazy to pick anyone else.'

Despite all the attention pointed her team's way, Jesuit coach Teresa Zimmerlee was not about to take another title for granted, nor was she about to take part in any kind of league forecasting.

'We all start with the same win and loss record and go from there,' she said.

That said, Westview, Sunset and Southridge were all playoff teams last year, Beaverton hit the postseason most recently in 2004, and Aloha in 2002.

'I think that most coaches would obviously make Jesuit the perennial favorite,' said Southridge coach Brooke Mayo. 'That being said, I look around our league and see a lot of teams that believe they have enough talent to compete with anyone on a given night.'

'This year's league might bring some surprises,' Nilson added. 'I definitely don't think at this point anyone should be counted out for playoff contention. There will be little room for error in this league this year.'

Following are previews of the varsity volleyball teams at the six Beaverton-area Metro League high schools.

Aloha

ALOHA - Year two of the Kellie Scholl regime at Aloha begins with much promise and optimism, even as the Warriors look at the challenge of the tough Metro League season ahead.

'I think it will be a race for the top four seeds,' Scholl said. 'We should do all right if the team can carry over the aggressive mentality they have in practice into game situations.'

The Warriors will be led this year by senior outside hitter Elise Yarnell (5 feet, 7 inches), a player who won third-team All-Metro honors a year ago and should be even better in 2006.

'Probably our most consistent player at this time is Elise Yarnell,' Scholl said. 'She is our captain and a very good all around player.'

Also back with experience from a year ago are senior middle blocker Megan Silvey (5-11), senior outside hitter Katie Hoy (5-9), senior middle blocker Cristy Johnson (5-10), junior outside hitters Niki Naboulsi (5-9) and Shannon Loggins (5-7), sophomore defensive specialist Emily Rosenberger (5-2), sophomore setter Sarah Bain (5-7) and sophomore middle blocker Kimberli Boswell (6-2).

Also in the varsity lineup this year are senior middle blocker Lynzy Elzinga (5-9), junior setter Amber Lundy (5-7), junior defensive specialist Loren Robinette (5-3) and junior middle blocker Kelsey Buchanan (5-8).

Together, that group should provide a balanced, solid unit.

'Our team is very even this year,' Scholl said. 'Some practices one player shines, and in other practices, another player will shine - everyone does a great job of pushing each other to become better.'

Beaverton

BEAVERTON - The Beavers finished in the unenviable fifth-place position last year in a league with only four state playoff berths, and with that feeling fresh in their minds, are working hard to move at least one rung up the Metro League ladder for 2006.

'Obviously, we are working toward a playoff position, but we know each match will be a challenge,' said Beaverton coach Megan Nilson. 'Everyone in the league has strengths we will have to contend with.'

That said, the Beavers have a few strengths of their own, beginning with senior setter Sydney Kloetzli, a third-team All-Metro pick a year ago, senior outside hitter/middle blockers Danielle Bowman and Caitlin Fetzer and junior outside hitter/middle blocker/setter Claudia Mays.

'We are definitely looking at those four players to help lead us on the court,' Nilson said. 'They are all very talented athletes and make significant contributions on the court.'

Also back with varsity experience are senior hitter/middle blocker Hannah Mills and junior outside hitter/middle blocker Julie Sullivan. Newcomers to the varsity lineup will be freshman defensive specialist Anna Johnson, sophomore defensive specialist/setter Nicole Sugihara, sophomore outside hitter/middle blocker Alli Williams, and sophomore outside hitter/middle blocker/setter Traci Protosona.

'We've made some strong additions to our roster with swing players from last year, Hannah Mills and Julie Sullivan,' Nilson said. 'Both players are doing very well on the court and showing a great deal of leadership. Beyond that we've added some young talent and well rounded athletes.'

Jesuit

BEAVERTON - It may be cliché to pick Jesuit as a lock for its ninth straight Metro title, but barring supernatural occurrences, mass suspensions or bus crashes, it is also extremely likely to be accurate.

The 2006 Crusaders return four first-team All-Metro players from a year ago and five all-leaguers total off the 2005 team that went unbeaten in league play and finished fourth at state, the team's sixth state tournament trophy in the past seven years. Back from last year's first team are junior all-around Elizabeth Dick (5-11), senior middle blocker/outside hitters Alicia Milo (6-0, though out with an injury presently) and Kayla Hughes (6-3) and junior libero/defensive specialist Christa Grauert. Also back is junior all-around Erin Kilroy (5-11) who earned second-team honors in 2005.

'We will be as competitive as possible, and we will not take any team for granted,' Jesuit Teresa Zimmerlee said of the coming 2006 Metro season. 'There are good coaches in the league and they will also be preparing for a good battle.'

Zimmerlee said that freshman Hayley Feest (5-3), junior Mary Claire Brenner (6-0) and freshman Ali Grauert (5-7) would also start, while sophomore Micaela Bisio (5-10), senior Anna Clarke (5-4), sophomore Jennifer Monk (5-7), junior Elizabeth Bullock (5-7), sophomore Samantha Waters (5-9), sophomore Tegan Clark (5-6) and junior Margaret Rose (5-6) would also see time.

'This is a team, so without every player none of us can do our best,' Zimmerlee said. 'We have a strong contention of players that can come off of the bench and get the job done for us. This is a very deep team.'

Southridge

BEAVERTON - It won't be easy.

Southridge knows that the revamped Metro League will provide as tough a test as any league this side of the Mt. Hood Conference, but the Skyhawks also think they have a chance.

'I think the importance of league contests will be magnified due to only playing 10 matches instead of 18,' said Southridge coach Brooke Mayo. 'If we play the way we are capable of, I think we can compete with the five other teams for one of the four playoff spots and hopefully enter the postseason with momentum. But we will definitely have to play well to achieve that goal.'

The Skyhawks also have a couple all-leaguers back to help them achieve that goal, led by senior setter and captain Ali Lefebvre (5-4), a second-teamer last year, and junior outside hitter Cindy Chen (5-6), a third-teamer in '05. Other team leaders for '06 include senior outside hitter Amber Manthe (5-8), sophomore libero Jessica Nguyen (5-0) and junior setter and captain Brittney Johnson (5-5).

Chen and Manthe 'will be strong on the outside for us this season. They're smart hitters and versatile players,' Mayo said. 'Jessica Nguyen … will take care of business in the back row (and) our captains … will be great leaders for us this season.'

Alo due for varsity time this year are junior outside hitter Kelsey Pautz (5-7), junior defensive specialist Laura Davis (5-4), sophomore middle blocker/outside hitter Catie Logan (5-9), junior defensive specialist Christina Hampson (5-6), freshman outside hitter/middle blocker Samantha McNabb (5-8), junior middle blocker/outside hitter Kaci Cox and sophomore defensive specialist Maggie Valusek (5-5).

Sunset

CEDAR MILL - Sunset completed its climb from the depths in 2005.

Three years after going 1-15 in the Metro League, the Apollos battled their way to third place in league and into the 2005 state playoffs.

Now they want to do it again.

'We should be in the mix for the second, third or fourth spots,' said Sunset coach Lad Salness. 'Our goal is to make the playoffs again.'

And the Apollos appear well-heeled to do just that, thanks to the return of 2005 all-leaguers Katie Sneed (a 5-7 senior setter who won second-team honors), Jennifer Jorgensen (a 5-9 sophomore setter who won third-team honors) and Amanda Hoffman (a 5-11 senior middle blocker who won third-team honors). Also due for significant time are junior middle blocker Allison Groom (6-0), junior outside hitter Sam Gatzke (5-11), senior libero Britton Washington (5-7), senior middle blocker Lauren Humm (5-10) and freshman outside hitter/setter Alyssa Martin (5-10).

'Sneed and Jorgensen are both captains and returning varsity setters,' Salness said. 'And Hoffman and Groom are doing great in the middle and Gatzke and Martin are doing well on the outside.'

The rest of the lineup will include senior defensive specialist Emily Hinds (5-7), senior middle blocker Sarah Middleton (5-10), junior outside hitter Brittney Boyd (5-8), junior libero Annie Brask (5-5), junior setter Katherine Howard (5-6), sophomore middle blocker Karina Dracott (6-0) and sophomore outside hitter Laura Stanulis (5-8).

'We're playing well. We're starting to gel,' Salness said. 'We should have good size. We should be able to hit well. We'll block well and serve well. We just need to work on defense.'

Westview

ROCK CREEK - The 2005 season was a great one for Westview, featuring a strong second-place finish in the Metro League, Player of the Year honors for graduated senior Kallie Corbin and a state playoff berth.

Now, the Wildcats are hoping for more of the same in 2006.

'I'm extremely excited about the upcoming season,' said Westview coach Socorro Hernandez. 'We have a great group of girls that have already established awesome team unity and chemistry.'

The Wildcats will be led this year by returning varsity players Stacie Appel (a 5-8 senior outside hitter who won third-team All-Metro honors last year), Bailey Williams (a 5-9 senior middle blocker), Annie Richardson (a 5-3 sophomore defensive specialist/libero), Monica Kirnak (a 5-6 sophomore defensive specialist/setter) and Katelin Comfort (a 5-10 sophomore middle blocker).

The key for us is the 'senior leadership from Stacie Appel and the big girl in the middle, Katelin Comfort,' Hernandez said.

The rest of the Wildcat varsity lineup includes 5-9 freshman outside hitter Julianna Evola, 5-2 sophomore outside hitter Jade Kealiinohomoku, 5-6 senior outside hitter Julia Baker, 5-9 senior setter Stephanie Phelps, 5-6 sophomore setter Katie Lydon, 5-5 sophomore outside hitter Nicole Phelps, and 5-8 junior outside hitter Maryah Jackson.

'We have a fun, competitive league and I'm looking forward to seeing how our team improves throughout the season,' Hernandez said. 'Our goal is to be one of the teams in the playoffs this season.'