League setting the nets higher

It's more than a week away from the season opener and Sequim coach Jennie Webber Heilman is showing grave concern.

"We're going to have to work harder in practice," she says, watching her team work on passing drills.

Perhaps numbers are on the veteran coach's mind. Turnout for her squad, one of the more successful programs in the school, has dipped to 21 players, 10 of those freshmen, as of late August.

In the next breath, Webber Heilman is much more positive.

"We still have a good core (and) it's a good chance for younger kids to move up," she says.

The Wolves may need a good, young group of players to step up to give some depth to a Wolves lineup that faces a new challenge. Changes in classification shift traditionally strong programs from Olympic, Port Angeles and North Kitsap into

Sequim's playoff picture.

The Wolves do have a solid six returning to vie for starting spots, including all-leaguer Maddy Zbaraschuk, fellow senior Jessica Lauritzen, junior Kyla Martin and a trio of talented sophomores who started a slew of varsity games last season in Taylor Balkan, Haleigh Harrison and Rylleigh Zbaraschuk.

With any kind of injury to that lineup, Webber Heilman may look to a group of sophomores (Marissa Haner, Katelynne McDaniels, Natalie Stevenson and Grace Trautman) to help.

"We have to be in shape," Webber Heilman says. "If we can pass well and serve well, it's going to help us."

Changes across the state shift Sequim into the biggest 2A district in Washington, giving the Wolves and other league teams several more district berths and five state tourney berths.

But the shift also sees Sequim battle other Olympic League teams and top I-5 corridor-area teams like Fife for those state seeds.

That's why Webber Heilman likes to see plenty of invitation tournaments on her schedule.

Sequim gets two top tourneys with the Mark Morris Invitational in Longview on Sept. 25 and the Capital City Tournament in Olympia on Oct. 9.

"We like those; they're state-caliber tournaments," Webber Heilman says. "We can't not go to those."

Sequim went 1-2 at districts last season, falling twice to Washington.

The Wolves lost all-league seniors Sierra Clark, Caitlin Pallai and Sarah Donahue to graduation.

Webber Heilman says she isn't sure who will lead this team on the court quite yet.

"We'll see who steps into that (role)."

The Wolves qualified for state tournaments in 2000, 2002, 2004 and 2008.

Sequim was slated to open the season with a nonleague contest on Sept. 7 at Central Kitsap - results of the match were unavailable at press time.

The Wolves host a jamboree on Thursday, Sept. 9, taking on Port Angeles, Port Townsend and Silverdale's Klahowya. The Wolves then play at Port Townsend on Sept. 14 and host rival Port Angeles on Sept. 16.

Reach Michael Dashiell at

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