The most improved team for the 2017 Cowapa League volleyball season … Astoria, hands down.
After going 0-10 in 2016, the Lady Fish turned things around big-time in 2017. In her second year as coach, Jessie Todd led Astoria to a 6-4 league record and a No. 7 ranking in the final OSAA poll.
That put Astoria back in the playoffs, where the Fishermen swept past North Valley in a play-in match to land a spot in the Sweet 16.
Alas, Baker ended the dream with a four-game win over Astoria in late October.
The Fishermen return with high expectations in 2018. Astoria has already shown up as the ninth-ranked team in a preseason coaches poll.
“I’m really excited with the group I have,” Todd said. “We have 10 really solid kids who mesh really well together. I’m excited to see what they can do. They’re motivated and competitive.”
A large turnout will once again give Astoria three teams.
“We have a great group of athletes,” Todd said. “And we had a good season last year. We’ve spent time talking about how we’re going to continue that success. We want to get back to state again.”
Valley Catholic swept everything last year, finishing 10-0 in league with both the league’s Coach (Becky Kemper) and Player (Lizzy Osborn) of the Year.
Osborn is gone, but four all-league players return. Second-place Tillamook lost four all-leaguers to graduation, while fourth-place Scappoose is gone completely. The Indians will now compete in the 5A Northwest Conference, leaving the Cowapa with just five teams and an eight-match league season.
“The league is always tough,” Todd said. “Losing Scappoose is going to put an interesting twist on it. It’s just eight league matches, and that will be different, having a bye week.”
As for the league race, she said, “Valley Catholic and Tillamook will be good, Banks will bring it and even Seaside will be better … you can’t take anybody for granted.”
THE LADY FISH
Astoria finished with four all-league starters last season, including first-team players Madi Landwehr and Julia Norris. Of those four, Norris is the only returner.
On the plus side, the players coming into the program already have some experience.
“A lot of these freshmen played club, so that puts us ahead of the learning curve coming in,” Todd said.
Astoria will be competitive with their long list of returners, including seniors Heaven Barrett, Camille Campbell, Emilli DeLong and Kes Sandstrom.
The talent doesn’t stop there, as Kajsa Jackson, Hailey O’Brien and Norris return for their junior seasons.
Three sophomores on the varsity roster are Kelsey Fausett, Halle Helmersen and Taja-Rae Tuimato.
“We definitely have some height, and some good experienced players,” Todd said. “Taja and Julia will both be setting, and Kajsa will add some height in the middle. Kelsey and Emilli will do some hitting, and possibly Halle on the outside. Hailey O’Brien will add some good leadership defensively, as will Camille.”
Coach: Jessie Todd, 3rd year
2017: 13-9 (6-4 league)
Playoffs: Defeated North Valley in play-in, lost state playoff at Baker.
All-league losses: Chelsea Christensen, Corrin Howard, Madi Landwehr.
All-league returner: Julia Norris, Jr.