Pioneers hope to reload

Coach says his players have a 'never quit' attitude

OREGON CITY - Oregon City volleyball coach Syd Yamasaki says he is not surprised that his Pioneers advanced to the Class 6A quarterfinals a year ago, after finishing third - behind West Linn and Clackamas - in the Three Rivers League. It was the first time an Oregon City team had advanced to the final eight since 1999.

'Last year we had a pretty good senior group,' the Pioneer volley boss said. 'We had six seniors with experience. But they're all gone now.'

Yamasaki says he is hopeful his Pioneers can repeat the feat again this fall.

Oregon City returns nine players from last year's varsity, but only three saw much playing time in 2010.

Still, Yamasaki likes what he sees in this year's squad.

'I liked what I saw [in a first-of-the-season match with Thurston],' Yamasaki says. 'We're scrappy. We never quit. If we can continue scrappy and learn along the way, I think we'll be okay.'

Yamasaki says that West Linn, along with Clackamas, will once again be the teams to beat in the TRL this fall. He is hopeful that his Pioneers can finish in the middle of the pack and that, at season's end, they will be playing their best volleyball, just like last year.

'We'll need everyone playing to their skill level,' he said, adding, 'We've got a lot of learning to do.'

Senior Sam Harthun returns to lead the Pioneers. A 6-0 outside hitter, Harthun was a first-team all-league selection a year ago and she's seeing her third season of starting action.

'She's a pretty good hitter and a great blocker,' Yamasaki observed.

Senior 5-4 libero Rachel Roberts and junior 5-11 outside hitter Mykala Rubey were also major contributors a year ago.

Another third-year starter, Roberts received all-league recognition last season.

Other returning varsity letter winners include: seniors Raechel Schimpf (5-9 outside hitter), Teagan Driver (setter/defensive specialist), Kendra Dentel (5-4 defensive specialist), Brooke Kelly (5-5 defensive specialist) and Sabrina Jones (setter/defensive specialist), and sophomore Elle Verschingel (5-11 middle blocker).

Victoria Lauria (5-6 defensive specialist), an exchange student from Spain, has joined the team.

Rounding out this year's varsity roster are: juniors Sierra Veracruz (5-5 defensive specialist), Sylvia Lobuono (5-11 outside hitter) and Natalie Ferland (5-5 defensive specialist), and sophomores Lindsey Keegan (5-10 outside hitter) and Dani Stevens (5-4 setter/defensive specialist).

The Pioneers meet Jesuit on the road this Thursday, and they begin league play next Tuesday, when they travel to Lakeridge.

They entertain West Linn on Thursday, Sept. 22. The Lions have won or shared the TRL title for the past 15 seasons. They tied Clackamas for the TRL championship in 2010, despite losing matches to Oregon City and to Canby.