On a recent afternoon when North Creek’s volleyball tryouts were done for the day, one player joked with a friend that her shoes were extra worn down from the vigorous training. The volleyballer needed a new pair of shoes anyway, she added with a chuckle.
About two weeks later, North Creek junior setter Emmi Foltz echoed the tryout girl’s sentiment: “We’ve gotten more and more competitive every year. Our practices are getting a lot more intense.”
Last year, the Jaguars finished 18-7-1 overall and won the 4A KingCo tournament championship, a crown that they’re gunning to notch again this season, said head coach Richard Abiador. Following KingCo, the team finished fifth at the Wes-King district tournament and qualified for the 16-team state event.
“We have high expectations for this team and they, as players, agree,” said Abiador, adding that the Jaguars are aiming to finish higher at districts. “Mainly, because we are deeper and have more experience playing at that level. So we are looking to build upon that.”
Foltz, who stands 5-foot-10 and is one of the team’s captains, said that hard work can take the Jaguars back to state, where they hope to place in the top eight.
To reach those target goals, Foltz lists some key roads they’ll have to traverse on their journey: “Just pushing one another is gonna be a really big one. We’re really holding ourselves to a high standard and holding ourselves super accountable. We’re doing a lot more conditioning than we’ve done in the past two years.”
Top players patrolling the Jaguars’ side of the court will be senior captains and returning first-team all-KingCo honorees Allison Wilks (6-1 outside hitter/middle blocker) and Jenna Howard (5-10 setter/right side), along with senior Sofia DeCoteau (5-10 middle blocker) and freshman Kyleene Filimaua (6-foot outside hitter). As an eighth-grader, Filimaua verbally committed to play indoor and beach volleyball at Florida State University when she graduates.
“Our strength is we are deep in all-skill players,” Abiador said. “I find that the best teams have many players that are proficient in all skills of volleyball. Our key to our success is serve and serve-receive. If we can do that well, we will compete at a high level.”
While taping her fingers before a recent practice, Howard noted that the team is looking solid and she has high hopes for a successful season with the five returners fusing with the newcomers.
“I definitely think we can bring the competitive style of all the returners and the work ethic of KingCo,” said Howard, referring to the arduous league matches.
As for her personal goal, it blends into a team goal as well: “(I’m) definitely trying to lead more on the court, being more open with the new freshmen and trying to make them feel welcome.”
Each time the players step onto the court, Wilks said they’re learning about their own abilities and how their teammates react in myriad game situations. They’re working hard on team chemistry and improvement each time the ball is served into play.
“Improvement is literally the No. 1 thing that you can do when you step on the floor: improving yourself, improving your teammates. Pushing each other is the most important thing,” Wilks said.
When everything clicks into place, it’s a good time to be part of the Jaguar machine, she added.
“When we’re on the court and everything’s going right, it’s just fireworks,” Wilks said as her eyes lit up. “It’s so much fun to be out there when everyone’s got their arms out, got their passes up.”
Inglemoor began its season with a bang by defeating Juanita three sets to none on Sept. 11 at home.
Top players during the match were junior outside hitter Maya Koth-Richardson (5-7), who unleashed a plethora of aces; senior middle Miranda Nelson (5-9); junior outside hitter Arianne Barlowe (5-7), who also shines on the beach-volleyball court; junior setter Analynn Liam (5-5); and senior outside hitter Aditi Jain (5-7).
“The thing about this group that’s gonna make it a real special season is they all work so very hard at practice and they make each other better every day. They fight it out at practice. Honestly, I could insert A, B and C and have the same result. They just fight that hard,” said head coach Marni Drechsel.
Bothell’s squad is young, aggressive and ready for the challenge, according to head coach Marlie Davis. The Cougars were hot out of the gate by defeating Lake Washington, 3-0, on Sept. 10.
Davis said they’ll have some height in the lineup and the Cougars’ new setting crew of juniors Avarye Monsef and Jenna Milner will bring good consistency for their hitters. With three freshmen on varsity, Davis said another key will be the returners providing mentorship to the youngsters. The freshman trio consists of Nora Hayd (6-1 outside hitter), Beatrice Anitei (6-foot middle blocker) and Haedyn Bambolo (6-foot opposite/outside hitter).
On the coaching-philosophy front, Davis notes, “Compete with competence, confidence and class. Know the game, work on your craft, compete hard and be a good person.”
CEDAR PARK CHRISTIAN
For head coach Julie Nelson’s Cedar Park Christian Eagles, this season’s strengths will be team cohesiveness, work ethic and leadership.
To go along with those crucial components, Nelson’s coaching philosophy is “to work hard in all you do because no one can ever take away work ethic from you, and to always honor God in all you do.”
Top players this season are senior Irena Korolenko (6-foot outside hitter), junior Kayla Nelson (5-6 libero), senior Marci Drews (5-9 outside hitter) and senior Kiara Renstrom (5-7 setter).
In a 3-0 win over Seattle Christian on Sept. 9, Drews had 16 kills, Korolenko had 10 digs, Renstrom had 27 assists and Rachael Cumley (5-11 senior) had seven kills.
The Eagles defeated Sammamish, 3-1, on Sept. 10 and received 20 kills and six aces from Drews, 15 kills and 10 digs from Korolenko and 38 assists and six aces from Renstrom.