The message at volleyball practice in Bothell is clear: don’t stand in our way if you don’t plan on getting run over.
“I think for Alexa [Torres] and I, especially because we’ve both been playing on varsity since our freshman year, it’s like this is our last hurrah before college,” said senior Sierra Myers. “We want to go out there and prove to ourselves that we can dominate KingCo and head off to state.”
Not win KingCo, but dominate.
Both Myers and Torres have state tournament experience, having played on the team that finished eighth at the state tournament in 2013. Both won all-league honors last season, Torres as a second-team outside hitter and Myers an honorable mention.
The returning experience around Myers and Torres — senior Sydney Cowan was an honorable mention last year as well — and a host of offensive options heap promise onto the upcoming season. Seven players, five of them seniors, return from last year’s roster.
Russell Monsef steps into the head coaching gig after serving as an assistant for several years, switching positions with Marlie Davis, who will remain with the program but take a lesser role.
“We haven’t set goals, but [playing in the state tournament is] going to be a huge focus for us,” Monsef said. “We’ve been close and just haven’t been able to get over that hump to qualify. The league has been pretty tough. Last year it was extremely tough. All eight teams in the tournament were really good, and we fell just short of qualifying.”
The Cougars finished second in the league standings, but lost to Redmond during the second round of the KingCo tournament. The margin for error was slim: Bothell took Newport, the regular-season champion, to five sets before losing 3-2.
That’s where the “dominate” idea comes from.
While Torres is expected to lead the Cougars offensively — Monsef called varsity play “business as usual” for the 5-foot-11 senior — the stable of hitters makes Bothell a threat.
“We’ve had some really good outside hitters come through this program that have really carried our team, but we’re not going to see that one person have a huge amount of kills,” Monsef said. “We’re going to have five or six hitters that are going to share that burden. I’m excited that we’ll be distributing the ball pretty evenly.”
A junior-heavy roster last fall with only three players lost to graduation makes for an experienced rotation — and one dotted with a few new competitive faces floating up from the junior varsity squad. Monsef said he plans to keep nine players in a constant rotation.
Camille Gilmore, who Torres said might hit the hardest of any of the returning players, rounds out the group of seniors along with setter Maddie Rayburn.