Myriad volleyball teams in east Pierce County will vie for an opportunity to advance to state tournaments in their respective classifications.
The Cascade Christian Cougars, Rogers Rams, Emerald Ridge Jaguars and Puyallup Vikings will all strive to advance deep into the postseason this fall.
The following is a look at how each volleyball squad may perform during the season:
EMERALD RIDGE JAGUARS
Co-coaches: Bobby McGivern, Jill Fox-Mullen, second year
Last year: 17-5, advanced to the Class 4A state tournament
Key players: Jenna Mullen, OH; Jessica Davis; Tristyn Smith, MB; Isabella Zubrod, S; Audrey Saelens, MH.
The Jaguars return five starters from a team that went 1-2 at the Class 4A state tournament last November at St. Martin’s University in Lacey.
The season goals are the same as they were a year ago, when many of the players were sophomores.
Co-head coach Bobby McGivern said the Jaguars want to earn a trophy at state this year.
“We’re hoping to finish in the top four,” he said last month. “The goal is to get to that semifinal match and win that, and have a chance to play in the finals.
“There are a lot of tough teams out there. Bellarmine is obviously going to be the top team. From there on down, I’m not sure who the teams to beat are. There are a lot of competitive teams out there. We obviously have to get through league and districts, too.”
Head coach: John Reopelle, first year
Last year: Advanced to the district tournament
Key players: Brylie Barnette, OH; Colby Barnette, MH; Kelsie Abra, L; Kinsey Vittetoe, OH; Naomi Sarell, DS; Madison Maziar, OH; Presli Cooley, DS.
Rogers head coach John Reopelle, who spent the past 25 years at Bethel High School, is excited to bring his brand of volleyball to South Hill in his first season as the Rams’ head coach.
“My coaching style is one of a strong emphasis on fundamentals, passing and serving,” he said. “All good things come from that foundation. I am detail-oriented when it comes to the game but really enjoy having fun with my team. We work hard on the court and in the weight room but make sure we are having fun doing it.”
Reopelle said the Rams’ team chemistry was evident during early season practices.
“Our best strength would be the closeness of the team,” he said. “Many of them have been together since the seventh grade, even playing club volleyball together. They hang out together, even when not on the court, and enjoy spending time with each other.
“My goal for the team this year is to continue to develop their skills as volleyball players. I would like to finish in the top three in the league and take that success as far as possible into the postseason.”
Head coach: Tony Batinovich, 22nd year
Last year: 27-8, placed sixth at Class 4A state tournament
Key players: Braylie Jeffers, MB; Addie Picha, OH; Rachel Strobl, OH; Olyvia Johnson, S; Cheyenne Baird, DS
The Vikings have consistently been a top-flight program since Tony Batinovich took over in the early 1990s.
Each season, the goal is to advance to the state tournament, and the Vikings delivered last year with a sixth-place finish.
Two of Puyallup’s strongest players return to the fold — outside hitters Braylie Jeffers and Addie Picha.
“We always strive to make it to state, and this year is no different,” Batinovich said. “We have the same goal. The tradition of this program before I came to Puyallup created the road of success. I am proud to be part of carrying on that tradition.”
Batinovich said his team has pushed itself during early season practices.
“They have a lot of respect for each other and enjoy pushing each other to get better every day,” he said.
Head coach: Amy Wood, second year
Last year: 11-3, advanced to tri-district tournament
Key players: Dani Tang, MH; JJ Jorgenson, OH; Anna Johnson, L.
Many new faces will be part of Cascade Christian’s volleyball team.
Last year, the Cougars’ senior-laden team won 11 games.
“We have a young team and only four returning players from last year, but the team is bonding quickly and excited to build a solid foundation for years to come,” Cascade Christian head coach Amy Wood said.
The Cougars recently elected JJ Jorgenson and Anna Johnson as team captains.
Wood said the goal is to continually improve every day.
“We want to grow in our relationships, communicate on and off the court and be competitive,” she said.
Sports Editor Shaun Scott can be reached at 253-552-7002.