by: PHIL HAWKINS - Anna Tkachenko is one of eight seniors on the Bulldogs experience-heavy varsity volleyball team this fall that will be led by first-year head coach Brittany Wilson.New Woodburn volleyball coach Brittany Wilson is eager to get her team on the court for the start of the fall season.

The former assistant coach from Gervais High School has been working with her new team for the past two weeks and is anxious to see the Bulldogs play against live competition. The team was scheduled to play at West Albany High School on Thursday in a jamboree against fellow Mid-Willamette Conference rivals.

“A jamboree is a great place to see where the team needs work,” said Wilson.

It’s also one of two chances for Woodburn to get in some non-conference games before the Bulldogs host West Albany in their league opener on Sept. 10. Woodburn has had more than its share of difficulties in conference play over the last two years, after going winless in 2012 and 2013. But Wilson thinks her team has a chance to catch some of their conference rivals off guard with a squad that is heavy with senior talent.

The Bulldogs boast eight seniors on the team this year, players who Wilson actually coached three years ago when she was an assistant coach at Woodburn. Since then, Wilson has spent two years coaching at Gervais while that group of freshmen put in their time on the court.

“The girls have grown a lot since I coached them,” Wilson said. “The last time I worked with them, they were just learning the basics.”

While the team packs a lot of experienced players, Wilson said she didn’t use seniority as a guide for picking this year’s Woodburn varsity squad. She threw out the previous year’s varsity roster and held open tryouts in her first week of the team, awarding varsity positions to the players she thought would give the team its best chance against its Mid-Willamette rivals.

Since then, the team has been hard at work in the gym every night as Wilson seeks to fine tune the girls, while the Bulldogs have been feeling out the coaching style of their new skipper.

Woodburn will have a difficult time carving out a place in the conference, which was dominated by the defending 5A state champion West Albany Bulldogs last season. West Albany led six Mid-Willamette teams that qualified for the play-in round in 2012, three of which – West Albany, Lebanon and Corvallis – advanced to the quarterfinal round.

The Bulldogs were scheduled to play at McKay on Tuesday. Woodburn’s home and league opener is set for next Tuesday against West Albany.

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