Jesuit will be tough again, but Sunset and Aloha are ready to challenge for Metro supremacy
The soap opera that is the 2011 Metro League volleyball race kicks off with its season-opening episode tonight, but before the blockbuster series gets underway again, there are serious questions that must be answered.
Can Jesuit retain the form that has taken it to 13 straight league titles and two consecutive Class 6A championship matches?
Will Sunset or Aloha find a way to challenge the mighty Crusaders, and can the Apollos or Warriors battle their way into to the state tournament?
Is there a chance that Westview or Southridge might show the mettle to join the league's best near the top of the standings?
And can Beaverton break through in this tough-as-nails atmosphere?
Not even the Metro's coaches know all the answers.
'I can't say who will win the league. I truly don't even dare to guess,' Westview coach Anna Dillard said. 'There is a lot of talent across the board. It should be a fun season.'
I have 'no idea who will win League this year,' said Aloha coach Kellie Scholl. 'I think Jesuit and Sunset are always strong, but it will probably come down to who outworks the other teams in the league.'
That said, Jesuit and its seemingly unending supply of new talent is favored to win the league once again.
'With Jesuit's history and tradition, I think they would have to be considered the perennial league favorite,' said Southridge coach Brooke Mayo. 'They are gifted athletically at every position and they always have a lot of depth.'
'Jesuit always finds a way to win. I look for them to repeat as league champs,' added Beaverton coach Melissa Merrick.
Still, Sunset - after two straight Class 6A state tournament appearances - feels it can play with the league's and state's best, and Aloha looks poised for a strong season in 2011 as well.
Following are previews of the Metro League's varsity volleyball teams.
ALOHA - Bring it on.
Aloha is ready to work, ready to compete and ready to win in 2011.
The Warriors finished just fourth in league a year ago, but played their way within one match of a Class 6A state tournament berth and are ready for even bigger and better things in 2011.
'I hope we do well in league, but you just never know until you have a chance to see what the other teams look like,' said Aloha coach Kellie Scholl. But 'one thing that this team brings which I have not seen in the past is the determination to win by absolutely every member of the team.'
The year's Warrior crew is led by senior middle blocker/setter Amy Boswell (6-foot-4 and a first-team all-Metro pick a year ago) and senior middle blocker/setter Amanda Goringe (5-10 and a second-team all-leaguer in 2010).
'We have such great senior leadership this year,' Scholl said. 'Our two setters, Amanda Goringe and Amy Boswell, keep the team focused on the court and push everyone to be better.'
Other key contributors will be senior libero Danielle Jones (5-3) and senior outside hitters Jasmine Osborne (5-9) and Natalie Parker (5-9).
Jones 'leads by her actions. She is an aggressive player the entire team looks up to,' Scholl said. 'And our two outsides (Osborne and Parker) bring a wealth of varsity experience.'
Also due for varsity time are senior outside hitter Jennifer Hilgeman (5-9), sophomore defensive specialist Hannah Vinkemulder (5-6), sophomore outside hitter Victoria Henry (5-6), sophomore outside hitter Jessie Price (5-10), junior middle blocker Tricia Nystrom (5-10) and sophomore middle blocker Brandis Williams (5-9).
BEAVERTON - It's time for a breakthough.
At least the 2011 Beaverton volleyball team hopes so.
The Beavers, who haven't won a Metro League match since 2005, are ready to ditch that long streak, though they know it won't be easy in the ever-competitive Metro.
'Our goal this year is to win league games and to cause an upset or two,' said Beaverton coach Melissa Merrick. 'These girls have been working hard all spring and summer, including adding a team camp to the offseason.'
The Beavers will be led this year by junior outside hitter Brooke Schwab (6-foot-1 and a third-team all-Metro pick last year), senior outside hitter Morgan Rennekamp (5-8), senior middle blocker Justine Rennekamp (5-8), and senior libero Sharon Kim (5-1).
Schwab 'physically can do anything that's asked of her,' Merrick said. And 'Morgan and Justine Rennekamp will probably not leave the court. They are both physical and aggressive.'
Other key performers for the Beavers this year will be junior setter Maddie Kim (5-8), senior setter Whitney Morrison (5-5), senior defensive specialist Sophie Andrich (5-1) and junior middle blocker Annalise Beshears (6-0).
'I'm expecting big contributions from (Kim and Morrison) this season,' Merrick said, adding that Andrich 'will be able to fill in anywhere in the back row.'
Newcomers to the roster this year are senior outside hitter Rebecca Cates (5-7), junior setter Victoria Sanstrum (5-2), senior outside hitter Leia Walton (5-5) and senior defensive specialist Hannah Beachwood (5-4).
BEAVERTON - The post-Elizabeth Brenner era begins now.
The Jesuit volleyball team, which followed Brenner - the two-time Oregon and Metro League Player of the Year - to two straight Class 6A championship appearances, opens a new chapter this season and it promises to be a good one.
The Crusaders bring back three all-leaguers from last year and seem well-armed to chase a 14th straight Metro crown and add to their prodigious 136-match league winning streak.
'I think we will be competitive, and I feel like we have good solid players in the lineup,' said Jesuit coach Teresa Zimmerlee. 'The key for this year will be getting the younger players seasoned quickly.'
This year's team will be led by junior outside hitter Megan McCool (5-foot-8 and a first-team all-league setter in 2010) and two returning second-team all-Metro performers, junior middle blocker Anne Elorriaga (6-0) and senior defensive specialist/libero Maddie DeRego (5-2).
'I anticipate that Anne Elorriaga and Megan McCool will be 'impact' players for the team, and contribute to the team's leadership,' Zimmerlee said.
Also expected to be integral parts of the Crusaders' regular rotation will be freshman middle blocker Ariana Wiltjer (6-5) and sophomore setter Jessica Finn (5-6). Also on the varsity roster are freshman outside hitter Grace Curran (5-7), sophomore outside hitter Rachel Hickman (5-9), sophomore defensive specialist/libero Bridget O'Donnell (5-7), sophomore defensive
specialist/libero Cayla Nistler, junior defensive specialist/setter Ireland Massey (5-6), junior outside hitter Maddie Keudell (5-9), junior outside hitter Macy Naughton (5-9), senior outside hitter Megan Brauser (5-8), and sophomore defensive specialist/libero Melissa Flores (5-3).
'We have a very solid core, and we are adding quite a few 'new' players to the lineup with great talent, but not quite as much experience,' Zimmerlee said.
BEAVERTON - The Skyhawks took a big step forward last year.
In 2010, after missing the Class 6A state playoffs for the first time in six seasons, Southridge played its way into the second season and within one match of the state tournament.
Now, the Skyhawks would like to take a shot at going even further.
'With the leadership and talent returning, we feel we can be very competitive in the Metro League,' said Southridge coach Brooke Mayo. 'Whether that means battling for a league title or competing for a guaranteed playoff seed, we'll just have to wait and see.'
This year's team will be led by three returning honorable mention all-leaguers - junior middle blocker Kelli Derrah (5-foot-11), senior defensive specialist Madi Lynn (5-4), and sophomore setter Erin Stuhldreher (5-2) - and by senior outside hitter Gloria Valusek (5-9).
'Gloria is a great leader and one of our strongest all-around players. She leads by example in everything she does, on and off the court,' Mayo said, adding that Lynn 'is very passionate about the game and pushes her teammates at every practice.'
The rest of the Skyhawk lineup will include junior defensive specialist Maggie Taylor (5-2), sophomore defensive specialist Lauren Lynn (5-3), junior outside hitter Mariah Anderson (5-7), sophomore setter/outside hitter Nicole Rigoni (a 5-8 transfer from Valley Catholic), sophomore outside hitter Erin Bonzer (5-7), junior outside hitter Megan McNeil (5-7), sophomore outside hitter Bethany Kosmowski (5-9) and junior middle blocker Alexa Basauri (5-11).
'Our team is very deep this season so players will be competing for a starting position each week,' Mayo said.
CEDAR MILL - You might not know it, but short of Jesuit and Central Catholic, Sunset has been the state's best team over the past two seasons.
The Apollos, third in the Class 6A state tournament last year and fifth the season before, may well reach those heights again in 2011, though there's some serious work to be done to replace the team's five graduated all-leaguers.
'We've been hanging around at (number) three the last couple years,' said Sunset coach Lad Salness. 'Because of the athletes we have, we'll always be able to be on the floor with the best teams.'
And despite graduating those five all-leaguers, there are three more back in the fold in a lineup dominated by 13 seniors. Senior Maddie Fey (5-foot-7) is back at outside hitter/libero after earning first-team all-Metro honors in 2010, while senior setter Jenessa Taylor (6-1) was named to the Metro second team and senior libero/outside hitter Emily Doyle to the third team.
'We've got some talent,' Salness said. 'They're great kids and there's a whole bunch of them at that age level.'
Other seniors in the front-line rotation will be setter Sammy Embree (5-8), libero Megan Marquiss (5-5) and outside hitter/middle blocker Nicole Nagel (6-0).
Seniors who also due for varsity roles this year will be defensive specialist/libero Nicole Ferrett (5-7), middle blocker/outside hitter Beverly Miller (6-0), outside hitter/middle blocker Anne Marie Richards (5-8), outside hitter/middle blocker Annabell Rosser (5-10), middle blocker/outside hitter Kaycee Smith (5-10), setter/defensive specialist Anna Taylor (5-5), and outside hitter Kerry Wright (5-10).
New to the varsity lineup are sophomore middle blocker Kendall Brock (6-0) and sophomore setter/outside hitter Megan DeMots (6-1).
ROCK CREEK - Westview is just glad to be back, and ready to take its best shot.
The Wildcats, third in league play but ousted in the first round of the state playoffs in 2010, think they very likely might make 2011 last a bit longer.
It's a 'tough league every year (but) we've got a strong group of kids who love to compete and are hungry to prove that Westview can be a contender in this league,' said Westview coach Anna Dillard. 'We'll have to work hard every day and make sure we're prepared for a big match every night.'
This year's Cat crew will be led by its two returning third-team all-league selections, senior outside hitter Chazarae Gaspar (5-foot-8) and senior outside hitter Allie George (5-9).
'As seniors, they'll be expected to model the way we want to compete for some of our newcomers.,' Dillard said. But 'there isn't one or two people who will be the key to success. I'd like to think that we've got a team of leaders this year. Our success will depend on how well we come together to execute and compete as a team.'
There's more talent too, including 5-7 senior outside hitter Danielle Arnold, 5-6 junior outside hitter Adair Kealiinohomoku, 5-5 junior defensive specialist Loren Losli, 5-6 junior setter Holli Hanson, 6-1 junior middle blocker Sydney Blankinship, 5-9 junior outside hitter Lynsey Oordt, 5-6 junior defensive specialist Aleks Vrvilo, 5-11 senior middle blocker/outside hitter Jackie Stein, 5-9 junior outside hitter Carly Steindorf, and 6-0 senior middle blocker Jessica Lautenbach.
'There are no guarantees in this league,' Dillard added. 'We've just got to work hard and compete every night. We'll see where that takes us.'