Reloaded Wolves aim to net Olympic League title

The one constant in this world,

the old axiom reminds us, is change.

So it is with Olympic League volleyball in 2009, with new coaches and a likely shift in power.

Ask Wolves coach Jennie Webber Heilman if her team is ready to reclaim the title of league champs for the first time since 2004 and expect a maybe - at best.

"We're kind of young on experience," Webber Heilman says, pointing out there are three freshmen and seven brand new members to her varsity squad.

"We're still feeling everything out."

In 2008, the Wolves battled to a second-place finish among 2A teams behind undefeated North Mason and fourth overall in the combined 2A/3A league standings. Sequim shrugged off two elimination games at the West Central District tournament to earn their first state tourney berth since 2004.

After winning four consecutive league titles, North Mason lost their "twin towers" (Danielle and Michelle Cook) and all-state setter Maci Hunt to graduation. Sequim, Nisqually League champs from 2000-2004, looks to reclaim the top league spot.

The Wolves are formidable up front with big hitters and size. Senior Caitlin Pallai is a 5-foot 10-inch middle blocker and had 14 stuffs to lead Sequim in 2008 while junior Maddy Zbaraschuk, 5 feet 9 inches tall, had 12 blocks. Add to the mix 6-foot 2-inch Jessica Lauritzen from last year's junior varsity squad and Sequim certainly can alter a number of opponents' shots.

Pallai (87 kills in 2008) and Zbaraschuk (63 kills) know well how to put it away. And despite her relatively small frame, senior Sierra Clark became a featured attacker and got plenty of playoff experience from last year's state tourney-qualifying team.

The Wolves look to Sarah Hankins to set it. Sister of SHS grad Kari Hankins, the Wolves' starting setter in 2008, Sarah Hankins had 41 assists in limited playing time for Sequim last year.

Sequim's varsity lineup also features four underclassmen thrown into the mix: Taylor Balkan, Haleigh Harrison, Kyla Martin and Rylleigh Zbaraschuk. Balkan may see plenty of playing time at the setter spot, Webber Heilman says, while Harrison can help with blocking.

The Wolves lost several key players from their 2008 state tournament-qualifying team to graduation, notably Megan Zumbuhl (team-leading 115 kills in regular season, 74 digs), Teyloure Ring (team-best 79 digs, 51 kills) and Kari Hankins, the team's leading setter (244 assists) and server (151 of 160 on serves, 32 aces).

Webber Heilman said the biggest challenges for Sequim likely will come from the 3A ranks, such as Olympic, North Kitsap and Port Angeles.

"We're a little young but I think (the team) is going to be good," Webber Heilman said.

Come playoff time,

Sequim will be battling for one of just two state tournament berths from the West Central District.

Reach Michael Dashiell at

Preview: Sequim High Wolves volleyball

2008 record: 8-4 in regular season, fourth in Olympic League; 2-3 in postseason, qualified for state 2A tourney

Coaches: Jennie Webber Heilman, head coach (17th year); Becky Balkan, assistant

Returning players: Caitlin Pallai (sr.), Maddy Zbaraschuk (jr.), Sierra Clark (sr.), Sara Hankins (jr.), Sarah Donahue (sr.), Keli Haffner (sr.)

Newcomers: Haleigh Harrison (fr.), Kyla Martin (so.), Rylleigh Zbaraschuk (fr.), Taylor Balkan (fr.), Jessica Lauritzen (jr.), Lindsey Soha (jr.), Rebekah Kirsch (sr.)

Outlook: Sequim has the talent to win a league title. If Webber Heilman can assimilate her less experienced players into the starting rotation, this team is the best of the league's 2A teams. A return to the state 2A tourney seems within reach.

Key dates: Sept. 26 at Mark Morris Tournament; Sept. 29 at North Kitsap, Oct. 8 vs. Port Angeles, Oct. 29 vs. North Mason.

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