Most coaches don’t look favorably on the OSAA’s RPI rating system — but that’s exactly what saved the season for the Seaside volleyball team last year.
The Lady Gulls had just two wins in league play, but because Seaside plays in the always-tough Cowapa League, that was enough to get the Gulls and their No. 16 ranking into the regional play-in round.
And taking advantage of the opportunity, Seaside went to Estacada and defeated the Rangers in four games, securing a spot in the Sweet 16.
In a first-round state playoff at Sisters, the eventual state champions swept the Gulls, 25-14, 25-16, 25-18.
Seaside is under new management in 2017, as Eric Huntsman was named head coach in the off-season, after wife Angie stepped down after four years.
They may not win the Cowapa League, but with three all-league returners, Seaside could be thinking about a state tournament appearance.
Last year’s Sweet 16 included five of the six Cowapa League schools, and three of the eight teams in the state tournament were from the Cowapa, with Banks and Valley Catholic reaching the Final Four (both lost, and Valley Catholic defeated Banks in a consolation match).
The league could be up for grabs this year, with both the Braves and Valiants graduating big senior classes. Valley Catholic lost four all-league players, while Banks lost three first-team all-leaguers.
Astoria and Seaside will both put competitive teams on the floor.
The Lady Gulls
The Gulls only graduated three seniors, but one big loss was outside hitter Maddi Utti.
Her primary sport was basketball (Utti will play at Fresno State this winter), but Utti was arguably the most talented volleyball player in the Cowapa last season.
Still, Seaside has athletes ready to step in and fill the void.
Leading the way are a trio of returning all-league players — senior middle blocker/hitter Alyssia Gonzales; senior outside hitter Jetta Ideue; and junior setter Anna Huddleston.
Seaside’s preseason turnout was enough to fill three teams, with Danielle Reese coaching the junior varsity, and Mitch Ward leading the JV II squad.
The eight players on the varsity roster include two other seniors — Nikki Mercado and Sequoia Shand; along with juniors Maddie Jensen, Emy Kiser, Tori Tomlin and Huddleston.
After one week of play, the Gulls were 3-0 and ranked No. 2 in the OSAA rankings. It’s early, but Seaside appears headed for another state playoff-qualifying season.
Coach: Eric Huntsman, 1st year
2016: 2-8 Cowapa
State playoffs: Lost first-round match at Sisters
All-League losses: Maddi Utti
All-League returners: Alyssia Gonzalez, Sr.; Anna Huddleston, Jr.; Jetta Ideue, Sr.