Coach Yamasaki says team strengths are enthusiasm and net play

by: JOHN DENNY - With a more experienced lineup and higher skills, Oregon City players and coaches expect to be much improved in volleyball this fall. Pictured are the four seniors on this years team - (from left) Lindsey Keegan, Erin Morris, Dani Stevens and Elle Verschingel.“We’ll be much better than last year, for sure.”

So said Oregon City volleyball coach Syd Yamasaki, when asked how he thought his Pioneers might do in high school competition this fall.

“We’ve got a lot more experience at the varsity level than last year,” Yamasaki said of his Pioneers, who have struggled over the past two seasons, going 1-9 in the Three Rivers League and 8-15 overall last year, and 4-6 in the TRL and 7-14 overall two years ago.

“We’ve got a lot more depth on the team,” said Oregon City senior Dani Stevens. “We’ll have a lot of people contributing. Not just one or two people.”

“Our passing and setting skills are so much better than they’ve been for the past two years,” said senior Lindsey Keegan. “We’ve got more players with good all-around skills.”

“All the girls are coachable and our drive to win is so much stronger....,” said senior Erin Morris. “This year we’re united. It’s more like family.”

“Everyone communicates better and we work better as a team,” said Keegan. “We have stronger skills (than last year), as individuals and as a team.... Everyone pushes each other and themselves to be the best they can be. We want to do it for each other and not just for ourselves.”

“I think we can end in the top three in league,” said senior Elle Verschingel.

“Our strengths are enthusiasm and at the net,” said Yamasaki. “We have some really good hitters.”

The Pioneers have eight returning lettermen and six of them saw at least some starting action last year. The returnees include: seniors Stevens (5-5 setter), Verschingel (6-0 middle blocker), Keegan (5-10 outside hitter/middle blocker) and Morris (5-5 setter/defensive specialist); and juniors Kylee Brevick (5-8 setter), Taylor Katzmarek (5-9 outside hitter), Katie White (5-3 defensive specialist) and Kylee Krug (5-6 outside hitter).

Rounding out the roster are: juniors Corie Hammock, Kenzie Carpenter, Brianna Higshihara and Keely Pearson; and freshman Brooklyn Bevens. Hammock is the tallest player on the team, at 6-2.

Yamasaki said he expects the TRL to continue as one of the tougher leagues in the state, with Clackamas, Lakeridge and West Linn all fielding highly competitive squads.

“Clackamas has got to be the favorite (to win league),” said Morris. “They’re always good. They have such a good coach and such a strong program.”

“They’ve all been together their entire careers, going back to club,” said Keegan.

The Pioneers have a preseason match at Westview this Thursday and they play Southridge on the road next Tuesday. League play begins Tuesday, Sept. 17, at Canby.

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