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FSP: Tribe volleyball overrun by wave of freshmen

Scappoose program has 28 athletes, 17 of which are freshmen


Photo Credit: JOHN WILLIAM HOWARD - Hannah Carrey (2) will be a standout among the Tribe this season along with sophomore Alyssa Spang. Out of 28 total players in the program, 17 are freshmen.Every few years, a coach and a program is generally dealt a young team. Maybe they’ll have a freshman on varsity, or have just a handful of seniors.

But for Mark Sprenger, the head volleyball coach at Scappoose High School, the challenge runs a bit deeper.

“We’ve got 17 freshman, and 28 players in the program,” said Sprenger, who lost nine seniors to graduation last spring.

The result is a varsity squad, a JV team with mostly freshman, and an all-freshman team – many of which are inexperienced and untested. Even those who saw the court for the Indians last year on the junior varsity team can’t quite get a handle on how quickly things move at the varsity level, and as the team was only finalized on Aug. 21, things are still pretty fresh.

“It’s game speed,” said Sprenger. “Not that they’re bad passers, they just haven’t experienced the speed at which they’re going to be playing at. Until they get some experience of seeing the ball moving faster than they’re used to, it’s hard to teach it, even in practice.”

The team will head to Seaside for a jamboree on Aug. 29, something Sprenger hopes will give the youth a chance to break the ice and the returners to shake off some rust.

   The team will see four players return from last year’s varsity squad, including sophomore Alyssa Spang, juniors Ashley MacInnis and Hannah Carey and senior Syrina Revis. Spang and Carey, the crimson-haired pair, saw major time on the court, especially as the season wore on.

Sprenger described Spang, who was the lone freshman on the varsity team a year ago, as a natural leader and a natural athlete that will help the Indians along the front line at middle blocker.

Sprenger also had high praise for Carey, who returns for her second consecutive varsity season and brings with her a host of experience.

“She played club all year, and she played beach volleyball this summer, so she has a vast amount of volleyball knowledge that she gets to share with her teammates,” he said.

Playing volleyball in the sand, according to Sprenger, can be a major boost for a volleyball player across all aspects of their game.

“It improves their agility and speed when they get on the hardwood,” he said. “It’s like they’re so used to moving in the sand that they naturally just move faster. They’re in shape. The stamina that they build up in beach volleyball is good, and you get a lot of touches. There’s only two on a court and you don’t have anyone to hide behind, so you have to touch the volleyball all the time.”

The Indians will lean heavily on their limited number of veterans, hoping to get up to speed before the brutal league schedule arrives in mid-September with a home game against Valley Catholic on Sept. 18. The Valiants romped their way through the Lewis and Clark League at the Class 3A level a season ago and rumbled to the state final before falling to six-time state champion Santiam Christian in the title match. Valley Catholic was also in the 2008 title match, but they’re not alone in having a solid volleyball pedigree. Banks made an appearance in 2010, and was expected to make a run in 2013 before being upset by Sisters in the first round. The Braves took third in 2012 after being knocked out by yet another Cowapa League opponent: Astoria, who went all the way to the final before falling to Crook County.

The Tribe will take on Gladstone, North Marion, Central and Estacada before they attempt to hit the ground running with Cowapa League play, and Sprenger intends to squeeze every last drop of experience out of the preseason he possibly can.

“I think that’s the biggest thing, is to stay patient with them and let them learn and develop over the preseason, and a couple tournaments that we have, to get them ready for league,” said Sprenger, who spoke highly of the team’s ability to score, but said the defense and passing needed serious work if the squad hoped to contend. Thankfully, they’ll have plenty of chances to get things figured out along the way.

“I think we’ll be challenged enough early on that we’ll be up to game speed come league [season],” he said. “Hopefully we’ll be ready by then. If not, we throw ‘em to the wolves.”

Scappoose made it into the playoffs last year, falling in a tough contest at Estacada 3-1 after finishing with an 11-10 record. Sprenger set the high, but attainable, goal of making the state tournament at Lane Community College, but said there was still quite a bit of work left to do.

The key to the Indians’ success?

“Getting these young girls to play like veterans in a hurry,” said Sprenger. “That’s the challenge.”