The 2011 volleyball season was an eye-opener for Sandy. The Pioneers won just two matches that year, and most of the losses weren’t close. Sandy made some drastic improvements and won six matches in 2012. Now a year later, the Pioneers think they have what it takes to be even better this season.

Sandy has a solid group of returners who should bring some degree of stability to the team. Senior libero Jordan Hall will anchor the defense for the Pioneers in the back row. On offense, Sandy brings back senior outside hitters Allie Crane and Kayla Anderson. In addition to being a hitter, Anderson will be one of the team’s top servers. Sandy has a total of seven seniors on the squad, and most of them were in the program for the two-win season, so they know what that feels like and have no desire to relive it.

The seniors will provide the majority of the team’s leadership, but a few juniors stand to make significant contributions this season. Outside hitter Alex Ford was Sandy’s go-to weapon in last week’s season opener at Estacada. Ford led the team with 11 kills and she is the likely candidate to lead Sandy in that department all season. Madison Kansala is another junior outside hitter who will get plenty of opportunities to make an impact. Middle blocker Bekah Mather, though just a junior, gives the Pioneers some much-needed height up front. Junior setter Ashley Laughlin will also be a regular on the court throughout the season.

Everyone on the team, regardless of class, will need to meld together as a cohesive unit quickly. One of the biggest keys to an improved season will be a better start. Last year, Sandy started 2-11 and appeared to be headed for another disappointing season. Fortunately, the Pioneers stuck together and went on a four-game winning streak late in the year to get to the six-win mark. If they can pull out a few more victories earlier in the season, a better overall finish is realistic, and even probable.

Sandy opened Northwest Oregon Conference competition on Tuesday at Sherwood. The Pioneers will compete in front of their home crowd for the first time Thursday against conference-foe St. Helens. Sandy then hosts a non-conference tournament on Saturday to prepare for the rigorous league schedule which resumes on Tuesday.

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