A state title in 2015 and a fifth place finish last season might be considered tough acts to follow, but this year's Banks volleyball team has a couple new coaches, a gaggle of new faces and will have a different look minus a couple iconic teammates.
First-year co-head coaches Natalie Herb and Aubrey Rue are optimistic about the prospects.
"We're young, but Aubrey and I are excited about the season," said Herb. "It's going to look a bit different, but it will also be a similar brand of Banks volleyball."
Gone to graduation are all-star performers Mary Schorn and Maddie Standley. Between the two of them they boast multiple all-league and all-state honors, a Cowapa League Player of the Year, and the type of experience you just can't replace. But while it's a challenge, the 2017 Braves will try to do just that with a nice combination of youth, experience and good old-fashioned hard work.
"It's an exciting group with a versatile offense, with a lot of young and fresh faces who are eager to learn," said Herb. "We've put in a lot of time this summer going to camps and working hard."
Despite the loss of some key elements, Banks returns six girls who played at the varsity level last year and will have 10 players on the roster as a whole. Many will be playing different roles this season and no one person will be able to replace the loss of Brave legends like Schorn and Standley.
"It's going to be different because Mary carried such a heavy load handling the ball," said Herb. "But now we'll have a lot of different girls working on and capable of it."
"She was such a unique offensive player, I'm not sure you can replace her," Herb said. "But now Dani, Ellie and Bella will have an opportunity to carry an offensive load and they've had a great summer."
That'd be senior middle blocker Dani Neuman, senior outside hitter Ellie Schmidlin and junior middle blocker Bella Albert, a group of talented players Herb said the team will lean on for production.
"Dani and Ellie are going to lead our offense," said Herb. "The two of them coupled with Bella, a setter, will offer a lot of experience."
Herb says that what this team lacks in varsity court time, it makes up for with its versatility. Of the their 10 roster players, she expects eight to contribute offensively and all will get different looks from different spots on the court. She and Aubrey both believe that as the season progresses, this team will continue to mature and get better, leaving exciting prospects as to what could be by the end of the year.
"There are a lot of key pieces here and I might have been nervous in May looking forward, but now I'm optimistic based on the talent," said Herb. "I think we're going to be a lot more competitive than I originally thought. It's a matter of getting all the right pieces lined up in the practice room and getting the kids more comfortable."
And what might that mean going forward?
"We've talked a lot about our goals for the season, and these girls understand the tradition here," the coach said. "They want to finish high in the league and get back to the state tournament."