The action for area prep volleyball fans begins in earnest at 5:30 p.m. tonight (Friday), when Taft High School in Lincoln City hosts a Lincoln County School District Jamboree that features the host Tigers and the Newport, Toledo and Waldport programs in their first game-type competition of the season.
The night marks Newport’s debut under freshman head coach Megan Smallwood, and the first steps of conference opponents 3A Taft and 2A-3 Valley Coast, Toledo and Waldport, toward improving their notes from a season ago. Eddyville Charter is set to start the season on Saturday at the Tiger Classic, hosted by Central Christian in Redmond. The Eagles 1A-3 Mountain West League rivals Siletz Valley were scheduled to open Tuesday, Aug. 30 at home in a league game against Triangle Lake.
Although no volleyball program in the region received significant votes earlier this week when the Oregon School Activities Association released surveys of preseason coaches, most programs Lincoln County were brimming with optimism on the eve of the start of the season.
Here’s a look at what to expect from Lincoln County’s volleyball programs this fall:
Smallwood is tasked with resurrecting a Newport program that went 2-13 last season and lost program cornerstones Stella Barber, Carlee Murray and Rachel Smith until graduation. And although Smallwood is entering his first year overall as a high school head coach with a personal hurdle — Smallwood broke right Achilles tendon running lines with his athletes over the summer — don’t expect to the Cubs limping in the regular season.
“We know that we are building a program and know that we have less volleyball experience than our rivals, so we plan to be fit and strong, to be able to physically surpass them or at least give them tough time,” Smallwood said.
Outside forward Josie Wertz is the only Cubs senior on this fall’s roster, and juniors Tori Johnson (right side attack) and Caliya Covington add experience to Newport’s starting lineup. But Smallwood, who played the 2001 and 2002 volleyball seasons at right-hitter/defensive specialist at Oregon State after transferring from NCAA Division II powerhouse Cal State-Bakersfield, loves the Cubs crop mix of lower class athletes.
In particular, Smallwood pointed to the overall athleticism of second-year outside hitter Natalie Paranto and running back Seala Simmons.
“The duo adds an athletic touch to this team, whether it’s Natalie’s quick arm or Sheala’s ability to read and dig the ball defensively,” Smallwood said. “I can see them both playing a huge role for this young and growing program this season.”
Freshman Madi Smallwood brings a wealth of club volleyball experience to this year’s squad and, along with junior Lexus Hunter, should see significant playing time at the libero.
While there may be a learning curve as Newport adjusts to a new coaching staff, Coach Smallwood says the Cubs will be ready to outsmart any competition they face.
“We worked hard in the weight room and conditioning all summer long,” she said. “My girls are determined to compete this year and are working hard to get each team to five sets.”
Newport’s first home game is scheduled for 7pm on Thursday September 1 against North Bend at Spangler Court.
Sixth-year Tigers head coach Kelsey Hart is also happy with how his roster is shaping up and sees great things for the future of the program, now a 3A-3 PacWest conference member with Amity, Dayton , Jefferson, Santiam Christian, Scio and Sheridan.
“We’re in a new league this year, so I’m not sure what to expect from other teams in our league,” Heart said. “But I’m excited to see where our team is going this year. We have great potential. »
After a 4-11 campaign a year ago, Taft is hitting the courts this fall with a roughly 50-50 split between returning and newcomers, so look for the Tigers to use tonight’s jamboree games to try. a handful of different player combinations looking for the best mix once regular season games begin.
The Tigers have a top trio in libero Nat Gates, middle tackle Aleah Bailey and all-around athlete Hailey Weaver, who could fill the setter or hitter roles. Gates was an All-League Second Team selection in 2021
Hart’s club should also get a boost from seniors Brooklynn Lovell and Brooklyn Mangold, adding to what Hart sees as Taft’s strength.
“I’m excited about our athleticism and some of the raw skill that I saw in the first few days of practice,” Hart said. “We have the potential to have a killer offense if we can get our hitters to combine power and control.”
The Boomers are entering head coach Crystal Taylor Hinds’ fourth year leading a program to return to the 2A state tournament for the first time since 2018.
A strong quartet of athletes playing their junior and senior campaigns certainly isn’t hurting Toledo’s chances of breaking last season’s 11-8 mark that left the Boomers one win shy of the state tournament. Although the Boomers graduated first-team all-league middle tackle Cameron Fisher and second-team setter/outside hitter Klaira Flatt, senior libero Avery Tyler returns after earning a second-team selection of all the conferences last fall.
Also returning for Toledo are senior tri-sport star Sierra Ferguson, junior middle hitter Marlee Rozewski and classmate Elka Fisher.
The Boomers don’t host a game until September 7, when they play a non-league game against Myrtle Point.
Seniors Cayden Ritchey and Katie Pankey return a wealth of experience to the Irish, who enter their second season under head coach Jeff Lee,
“They know what to expect from me at this point, and it’s a little different from last year,” Lee said.
Ritchey moves from setter to outside hitter, where she’ll team up with juniors Lillyn LeGrand and Airyanna Paden to form an imposing front line in Waldport. That combo should get some help at net from emerging sophomore Katlyn Morton.
Lee is excited about the potential of first-year passer Payschentz Heron and schoolmate Kiana McNeil (straight forward/defensive specialist).
“Payschentz has a chance to be a top player for us. I’m not betting against that,” Lee said. “Kiana could improve enough to be a top player. It’s also likely to happen.
Waldport will also be seeking contributions from sophomore Alexis Thomas and freshmen Mildred Ervin and Payton Abele.
“Some would say our weakness is youth, but with a lot of patience, I see that as a strength,” Lee said.
Eddyville head coach Mariah Silvonen led just one of Lincoln County’s two volleyball programs last fall to post a winning record as the Eagles went 11-8 overall finished second in the 1A-3 Mountain West League and earned a spot in the 1A State Tournament.
After a strong offseason schedule, Silvonen is ready to see what the Eagles are capable of this weekend.
“I have 16 kids who showed up and worked hard to earn a spot on the court,” she wrote in an email to News-Times staff. “I’m excited to see how far they’ll go this season!”
Silvonen’s squad in 2022 goes to all but last year’s graduating seniors – All-League First-Team winner Patience Knight and All-League Honorable Mention selection Hope Gassner. The Eagles are expected to be very competitive with a host of strong athletes including junior Terra Thomson (2021 All-League second team), second Makayla Rice (third team), Brianna Lopez, Kendall Choat and first setter/libero Zoey Silvonen.
As of Wednesday morning, the News-Times sports deadline, Siletz Valley’s new assistant manager/athletic director, Kent Rilatos, was still looking for a permanent head coach for the Warriors’ volleyball program.
Last year the Warriors went 2-10 in the Mountain West League and overall, and are set to start the 2022 campaign on Tuesday at home with a 1A-3 Mountain West League game against Triangle Lake. The News-Times plans to write a brief season overview for the Siletz Volleyball program in an upcoming issue when the coaching situation is solidified.