by: PHIL HAWKINS - The Kennedy volleyball team celebrates after scoring in their opening-round game against Gervais on Saturday.A year after returning to the state playoffs for the first time since 2007, the Kennedy volleyball team is back and picking up right where they left off last November.

“This year’s team I think is stronger all the way around with athletic ability and confidence as athletes,” said coach Staci Sprauer.

The Trojans boast 10 girls who are exceptional athletes, said Sprauer, who compete in multiple sports throughout the year.

Whether it’s track and field athletes Amelia Grosjacques, Loghan Sprauer and Madison Sprauer, or softball players KC?Boen, Hannah Kloft and Mariah Pranger, Kennedy’s volleyball team is packed with girls who are active throughout the season.

This keeps the girls in shape athletically, but it also helps them build friendships and camaraderie from frequently playing together.

“It’s a very easy team to coach,” said Sprauer. “They know how to work well as a team. They’re comfortable off court as well. There’s a team dynamic with friendships around players off the court, so when they get on the court, they just gel well together.”

The Trojans (8-2, 4-1) played host on Saturday at their annual Oktoberfest Tournament, where they went 2-1 and placed third overall in the eight-team field.

Kennedy started the day with a 2-0 victory (25-6, 25-9) over Gervais to forge a semi-final match against the Oregon Episcopal Aardvarks. The Trojans fell 2-0 (25-16, 25-23), but bested De La Salle 2-0 (25-16, 25-10) in their final game of the day.

The Aardvarks came into the game as the No. 1 team in the 3A classification, and they won all three matches to stay perfect and take the tournament championship.

“With Oregon Episcopal, we were complimented in the sense that they said we were the best competition we’ve given them all year,” said Sprauer, who noted that her team could have competed even better if not for several unforced errors. “In the second game we had played them, we only lost by three points, and four of those points came off of missed serves.”

The Trojans are currently 10th in the latest OSAA rankings, but Sprauer thinks the team could be even better if they can avoid giving unnecessary points to opposing teams.

“The points that we gave away in most of our games were just errors on our part,” said Sprauer. “It’s missed serves and small mental lapses.”

Kennedy’s wins over the weekend capped a week in which Trojans opened with conference games against Regis, Waldport and Toledo.

The Trojans swept all three games against their Tri-River rivals, beating Regis 3-0 (25-13, 25-19, 25-20), followed by 3-0 over Waldport (25-8, 25-9, 25-11) and finally 3-0 against Toledo (25-8, 25-11, 25-5).

Through the first two weeks of the season, Kennedy has shown itself to be one of the top 2A programs in the state.

In addition to the loss to the Aardvarks, Kennedy only other loss of the season came Sept. 5 against Culver, currently the No. 2 2A team in Oregon and the defending state champion. The Trojans lost 3-0 (25-18, 25-9, 25-13) in that match, marking the third time in a row they have fallen to the Bulldogs, dating back to last season. Sprauer said the way her team played at Culver in the first week is not indicative of the type of volleyball the Trojans can play, and she expects things to be different when Culver travels to Kennedy for the rematch on Oct. 3.

“They’re definitely going to see a different team than they saw at their place,” said Sprauer. “I think Culver’s going to have a little bit of a surprise when they come to our place. How (Kennedy) can play and how they did play are two completely opposite things.”

The Trojans were scheduled to play host to East Linn Christian Academy on Tuesday before taking to the road Thursday at Western?Mennonite in Salem.

Top 10 2A Teams

1. Days Creek

2. Culver

3. Weston-McEwen

4. Monroe

5. Reedsport

6. Delphian

7. Canyonville

8. Riddle

9. Grant Union

10. Kennedy

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