Lions lack experience but have potential as they face tough schedule

by: MATTHEW SHERMAN - West Linn's Hannah Clarke, who joins the team this year after coming over from Newberg, knocks a shot over the net against Bend.
The West Linn volleyball team will feature another young and relatively inexperienced group this year but one that will be battle-tested heading into a league that should be highly competitive once again.

The Lions are replacing some key components again but have a solid foundation. For the third year in a row, coach Carl Neuberger is transitioning his libero to be a setter.

This year that honor falls to senior Leah Beyer, one of the team’s most experienced players.

Defensively, West Linn should be solid with Courtney Misner and Kenzie Granville manning the back line.

Up front, the Lions need to replace Caitlin O’Neil and are turning to Shawna Erickson for firepower. Erickson was the team’s No. 2 hitter last year.

“She’s capable of doing a lot of things and can probably be the equivalent of Caitlin this year,” Neuberger said.

Erickson figures to be a prominent target for the Lions and in early matches has received the majority of sets, but the team has other weapons as well.

Savannah Davis is back along with and Hannah Clarke, a transfer from Newberg. They should also play big roles on this year’s team.

West Linn will have to learn on the fly this year as they play some extremely tough competition early on. 

But despite the team’s youth, it won’t shy away from anyone this season and figures to take big strides as it faces one of the toughest schedules in the state.

And that competition usually brings out the best from the Lions.

“With young players, they generally play better against a strong team. It keeps things more consistent,” Neuberger said.

West Linn will continue to keep its standards high and, like last season, figures to be playing some of its best volleyball late in the season, which could make them a tough out in the playoffs.

Early in the season, the team has been working hard on its fundamentals and tightening up its serve and receive game.

“We've always done a lot of teaching in the program. It's just that when there's more experience the success comes a little faster,” Neuberber said.

West Linn will play in what is one of the toughest and deepest leagues in the state again this year. Clackamas, Lake Oswego and Lakeridge, which finished first, second and third respectively in the Three Rivers League last season, all return strong squads that should be in the top-10 in the state this season.

“You definitely won't be able to take anyone for granted,” Neuberger said.

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