MAUPIN – It is rare that a program with 47 wins and back-to-back district championships is seen as the underdog to start the season.
But, South Wasco County enters the year with their third coach in three years and the loss of six talented seniors over that span, so much of the varsity roster has unproven talent and untapped potential for new head coach Susie Miles to unearth.
“We have a number of returning varsity players who played last year, including a couple of starters, and they have been waiting for the opportunity to be their own leaders on their own team because they have been playing behind some older girls,” Miles said. “Now, it is their moment to shine and we have some younger players that have really been waiting for this opportunity to show what they are made of.”
In 2017 under coach Donna Barton, the Lady Redsides posted a 25-win campaign, had a No. 8 ranking, secured their first-ever district championship and added a sixth-place state finish, so the expectations were raised a few notches.
Last year, coach Crystal Pechanec led her team to a 22-9 overall record, 10-2 in league, for a No. 14 ranking, with 62 sets won and 32 lost.
Gone are all-league winners Kyrsten Sprouse and Madisen Davis, along with all-league and all-state recipient Jada Myers, which leaves the leadership onus on the senior duo of Reese Millis and Laurynn Davis.
“I really didn’t step into a leadership role until my junior year and we have a bunch of younger girls who are freshmen and sophomores, who are stepping into these bigger roles,” Laurynn Davis said. “A lot of them have a good head on their shoulders, so I think they will be fine. It is going to be confidence that we have to work on. I think they can do it. They have the talent and the skills; it is more about their confidence and how they can handle moving into that bigger position.”
At this point in the season, coach Miles is using practices and the preseason to fit players into her scheme, and added that she has the option of either implementing a 6-2 or a 5-1 formation depending on game flow and personnel groupings.
On the varsity team with Millis and Davis are Abbie Silvey (junior), Jennifer Best (junior), Ali Ware (junior), Jade McCoy (junior), Hailey Anderson (sophomore), Holly Miles (sophomore), and Kylie Iverson (freshman).
The rest of the varsity roster will be added as players gain more court experience.
Miles is not planning on plugging in one player for one specific role, saying that her players need to be adjustable to the point where they can play anywhere on the floor.
Even if a player attains a wealth of experience in several capacities, they still need to play a fundamentally-sound game and limit crucial mistakes that can flip-flop momentum.
“Hitters are great, blockers are great, and setters are awesome, but it all starts with the pass, so that’s what our focus will be in practices because you can’t do anything without a great pass,” Miles said. “That means our defense is going to be key, our passing is going to be key and our hitting is already pretty strong, so we want to make sure that our passes are working, so we can run a quicker offense.”
For longer than just the summer, members of the Lady Redsides have been talking about this year and how dead set they are in taking a third district crown and maybe a berth to Redmond.
It will not be an easy accomplishment by any stretch, as there are plenty of teams across the state and in the Big Sky Conference who are poised to knock SWC off its perch.
“All of us have been talking about wanting to get the board again and how we will need to bring out our best effort to accomplish that goal,” Millis said. “This season is going to be very positive. So far, I have noticed that everybody is very encouraging, and they are all trying their hardest. We are going to try to go as far as we can and use our work ethic to get us to a higher point.”
Up next, SWC hosts Dufur in an early Big Sky Conference volleyball showdown slated to begin at 5 p.m. Tuesday from Maupin.
After that, the Lady Redsides host Heppner and Irrigon with a first start time of 4 p.m. Thursday.