Less than a week from their first action of the 2014 season, and the Sequim High’s volleyball team is still looking for a bit of identity.
“We’re a little low on experience,” says head coach Jennie Webber Heilman as she enters her 22nd season at the helm.
Instead of having a go-to combo or trio as in past years, the Wolves have a number of athletes who can play multiple positions and give other teams different looks. Two of Webber Heilman’s three main options at setter — seniors Emily Wallner and Alyse Armstrong — are also two of the team’s top outside and middle hitters.
With hitters Alexas Besand and Kate Harker and defensive specialist Hannah Hudson graduating in June, starter Sydney Munn moving out of district and an injury to blocking stalwart Caitlin Stofferahn that will likely keep her out the entire season, however, Sequim coaches are looking to rather inexperienced team members for help defending the front line.
Fortunately, Webber Heilman says, the youngsters are ready and willing to take on new roles.
“We’re going to have to push ourselves in practice (and) we’re definitely going to have to play as a team,” she says.
Joining Armstrong and Wallner is returnee Emma LeBlanc. The fellow SHS senior makes the move from part-time setting to full-time defense, though Webber Heilman says LeBlanc is versatile enough to be dangerous as a hitter as well.
Also back are Rylie Roberts, Kylee Salazar and Cheyenna Sokkoppa, who saw some varsity action in 2013 and look to break into the lineup this fall.
Junior varsity Sydney Balkan may follow in the footsteps of big sister Taylor, a 2013 Sequim High grad, as varsity setter.
Webber Heilman says North Kitsap is the odds-on favorite to take the Olympic League title, with squads like Sequim and Port Angeles regrouping after losing some key players.
“A lot of their (North Kitsap’s) girls play club,” Webber Heilman notes.
No longer on Sequim’s schedule are games against comparatively weaker league foes; instead, Sequim sees the likes of North Kitsap and Olympic twice per year, plus several tough opponents at various tournaments throughout the campaign.
Sequim saw a turnout of 34, with coaches making five cuts. With 17 on their junior varsity squad, Webber Heilman says the Wolves can play both JV and C-team games, though they don’t have an official, paid C-team coach.
The Wolves take on Port Townsend and Port Angeles as they host a jamboree on Sept. 9, then play at 4A foe Thomas Jefferson on Sept. 15.
SHS volleyball 2014 season preview
Head coach: Jennie Webber Heilman (22nd season)
2013 record: 7-1, second in Olympic League, 12-8 overall; 1-2 at districts
Top returners: Alyse Armstrong (sr.), Emily Wallner (sr.), Emma LeBlanc (sr.), Rylie Roberts (jr.), Kylee Salazar (sr.)
Key newcomers: Sydney Balkan (so.), Cheyanne Sokkoppa (sr.), Judi Villella (sr.), Ella Christiansen (so.), Megan Breckenridge (jr.), Maddie Potts (so.), McKenzie Bentz (jr.)
Reach Sequim Gazette editor Michael Dashiell at email@example.com.