When Jennie Webber Heilman looks to her bench for some senior leadership this fall, she’s going to have to get it from juniors or underclassmen.
Now in her 27th season leading the varsity program, Webber Heilman and fellow SHS coaches are looking at a revamped lineup after graduating eight seniors from last year’s squad that came one win from a state 2A tournament berth.
“Everybody’s thinking we won’t be able to play because we graduated to many people; we need to prove them wrong,” she said at a preseason practice, moments after separating the three-dozen prospective athletes into their grade levels. One group was noticeably empty: this year’s turnout sees no seniors.
Webber Heilman, with a wry smile, noted, “There are going to be some freshmen on varsity.”
The squad sees just one returning starter in junior setter Kalli Wiker. As a sophomore, Wiker earned a spot on the All-Olympic League second team after leading Sequim with 307 assists, 39 aces and a .975 serving percentage (307-of-315).
The Sequim coach said she expects Wiker to be a strong on-court presence.
“She’s gone to state (in other sports, and) … she knows what it’s like to work,” Webber Heilman said. “She can set the tone a little bit.”
Another returning junior, Jessica Asselin split time between varsity and JV squads as an outside hitter and saw action in both regular season and Olympic tournament games.
Juniors Kiana Robideau, McKenna Hastings and Amanda Weller, as well as sophomores Allie Gale and Jordan Hegtvedt, saw junior varsity time in 2018 and figure to help make up this year’s varsity roster, along with newcomer Kendall Hastings.
“It’s just hard; we don’t have a lot of height,” Webber Heilman said. “We have to figure out who can play middle.”
Wolves coaches are also looking for another consistent setter to compliment Wiker, allowing for the squad to play a 6-2 formation (two setters on the court at the same time).
The Wolves lost to graduation eight seniors, six of whom saw significant court time. Gone is Tayler Breckenridge, a two-time all-Olympic League first team and all-state honorable mention hitter who led the Wolves in kills (293) and digs (374) and was second on the team with 34 aces and third with 23 blocks.
Also gone are Brittany Gale, the team’s No. 2 setter and all-league first team player in 2017, and Isabelle Dennis, who finished second on the team in serving (95.1 percent) and digs (368), along with lineup regulars Bobbi Sparks and Arlene Law.
Junior Jayla Julmist, an all-league honorable mention as sophomore middle hitter who chipped in a team-high 79 blocks to go with 113 kills (second on team) and 32 aces (third), is not on this year’s roster, either.
“We’re going to have to work hard,” Webber Heilman said. “Perfect passing and strong serving … If we can pass well and serve well, that’ll help.”
In 2018, the Wolves went 9-3 in league play and 13-6 overall, finishing 1-2 at districts and coming one win shy of a state 2A tournament berth.
Sequim this fall looks to keep pace with perennial league foes from Kitsap County. North Kitsap has won 10 of the last 11 league titles — Sequim was the last non-Viking team to take league in that stretch, in 2012 — while a surging Kingston squad tied Sequim for second place in league play last fall and, along with NK, earned a berth in the 2A state tournament.
The Wolves get their first taste of on-court play when they host a preseason jamboree on Monday, Sept. 9.
“We’re not rebuilding; I don’t want them to have that expectation,” Webber Heilman said.
“Our goal is to get better very day.”
The Wolves open the regular season at Port Angeles on Sept. 12 and hosts their first home league match Sept. 17 against Bremerton.