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A turnout of 23 girls for a 2A volleyball squad … not bad, as the Knappa Lady Loggers and coach Jeff Kaul prepare for the 2017 season.
One factor — the Loggers only lost two seniors off last year’s team, which also had strong numbers in the freshmen and sophomore classes.
Those players are a year older, stronger and wiser, which makes for a promising season.
“Some of the girls who didn’t get a chance to play last year are stepping up,” said Kaul, at the end of the first week of practice. “And we’ve got another good group of freshmen.”
The cycle continues, as Knappa plans on being a player, once again, in Northwest League volleyball.
Gaston ran the table and finished 12-0 in league play last year — but the Greyhounds lost a first-round state playoff against Central Linn. Second-place Vernonia was swept by Culver in the first round.
Gaston may be ready to make a move this year, however, with the return of league MVP Charity Hall.
“Gaston will be the dominant team with Charity Hall,” Kaul said. “She played all summer, and leads that group. If somebody figures out how to stop her, they’re beatable. But she can hit from anywhere.”
Vernonia “lost a huge number of seniors, but they had a pretty large JV group, so they should still be strong; Delphian’s always a wild card; and we had some good games with Nestucca last year, but they lost a couple seniors.
“With our blocks and our speed in the back row, hopefully we can compete a little better.”
The Lady Loggers
From two seniors last year, to six this season.
The list is led by all-leaguers Jaden Miethe and Paris Vanderburg, with Ressa Inman, Mack Strain and Kaitlyn Truax lending experience.
“Paris was starting to come along with her hitting towards the end of the year,” Kaul said. “She’s started off good already, and hopefully she will take some of the work that Kaitlyn (Landwehr) was doing in the front row.”
The Loggers are big, by Northwest League standards, so “hopefully we’ll be able to do some blocking against the stronger teams,” the coach said.
Miethe returns as the libero, Strain is an opposite side hitter, and junior Kourtney Tischer has the tough task of picking up the setter duties left by Landwehr, as Knappa will still run a 6-2 formation.
The varsity will also carry senior outside hitter/blocker Emma Taggart. The junior class has Jordan Walter. Young contributors stepping up include sophomores Sophie Carlson and Aiko Miller, who both saw varsity action last season.
Kaul left two spots open on the varsity, because “with such a young JV group, we’ll wait and give somebody some playing time towards the end of the season.”
Coach: Jeff Kaul, 8th year
2016: 10-10 (5-6 NWL)
Playoffs: Defeated Faith Bible, lost to Gaston and Delphian in league playoffs.
All-League losses: Kaitlyn Landwehr, Alisha Murphy
All-League returners: Jaden Miethe, Sr.; Paris Vanderburg, Sr.