The positives and negatives of playing volleyball in the state’s toughest 4A league. Seaside saw both sides of the coin in 2017.
On one side, the Gulls finished 1-9 in league play. On the other side, 1-9 was good enough to land a spot in the regional play-in round — just one step away from the Sweet 16.
In the end, the Gulls lost the play-in match at Sweet Home and finished 11-14 overall, still a respectable record in Eric Huntsman’s only season as head coach.
Huntsman has stepped down, one season after replacing wife Angie Huntsman, and Demi Lund has taken the coaching reins.
With the coaching changes, the Gulls “maybe haven’t felt much security in recent years, so I just told them that I plan on sticking around,” Lund said. “And they know that success may not happen instantaneously, so we’re not building goals around wins. Right now, it’s more important that we build their confidence up.”
Last year’s final eight at the 4A state tournament included three Cowapa League teams (Scappoose, Tillamook, Valley Catholic), with the Valiants advancing to the state championship match.
Valley Catholic has lost league Player of the Year Lizzy Osborn and one other all-league player. But in a league where two-thirds of the starters made all-league, the Valiants still have four all-leaguers returning.
All six Tillamook starters also made all-league, but only two return.
Scappoose is no longer in the league, while Astoria was the most improved in 2017, advancing all the way to the Sweet 16 one year after an 0-10 league record.
The bottom line: The new-look Cowapa League has just five teams, and if the RPI rankings are good enough at the end of the regular season, all five could end up in the state playoffs.
Lund played collegiately at Mt. Hood after a high school career at Roseburg, and the young coach — she turned 27 Aug. 28 — has brought some excitement into the Seaside program.
The Gulls opened with two bracket wins in the Warrenton tournament Aug. 25, and lost a close match in the championship to Culver — which played in the 2A state championship match last year, and is normally an automatic lock to win the Warrenton tournament.
“We were able to see some of the more apparent things that we need to work on,” Lund said.
One factor: Seaside is long on experience in 2018.
The preseason roster — which is subject to change, Lund said — includes four seniors and five juniors. Two freshmen are also on the list.
All-leaguer Anna Huddleston tops the list of senior returners. Huddleston was an honorable mention setter last season, and is back with fellow seniors Maddie Jensen and Tori Tomlin.
The fourth senior is Morgan Blodgett, a middle blocker who transferred from Warrenton along with her sister, junior outside hitter Elly Blodgett.
Additional varsity experience includes junior Andrea Castro, with junior newcomers Emma Brown, Emma Meyer and Bella Samuelson.
Brown and Elly Blodgett are listed as outside hitters, as the Gulls look to replace Jetta Ideue.
Seaside’s two freshmen are defensive specialist Sandee Adriano and right side hitter Lilli Taylor.
“We’ve looked really good,” Lund said. “We’re strong at the net, with Tori Tomlin. We’ll be running a 6-2, with a ‘setter up’ defense, which is something they’ve never played before.
“Anna Huddleston and Emma Meyer are my two setters, then we’ve got the two sisters from Warrenton, who will both contribute,” she said. “Morgan will be a strong middle blocker, and Elly is our strongest hitter. So they will definitely make a difference.”
Coach: Demi Lund, 1st year
2017: 11-14 (1-9 league)
Playoffs: Lost regional play-in at Sweet Home, 0-3
All-league loss: Alyssia Gonzales
All-league returner: Anna Huddleston, Sr.