EO VOLLEYBALL STRONGER, MORE ATHLETIC
By Raenelle Kwock
Observer Staff Writer
This season's Eastern Oregon volleyball team is a lot different from last year's squad.
"I like this group," second-year coach Ryan Platt said. "It is much stronger in every position from last year."
Platt said there are a lot of good recruits.
Mary Branch, a transfer from College of Southern Idaho, Sarelle Parish, a transfer from Tacoma Community College and Union High School graduate Melissa Helmer will be vying for the setter responsibilities.
Jamie Russell, a transfer from Albertson, and Union High School graduate Jana Brotherton will bolster the hitting attack.
Russell was coached by Platt during high school.
The coach said Brotherton will make a "pretty big impact for us in the middle."
Eastern will have nine to 10 pre-conference matches unlike last season's two.
Two seniors graduated from last year's 6-17 overall and 4-14 Cascade Collegiate Conference team.
All-Region honorable mention and All-CCC first-teamer Kaki McLean is a returning outside hitter.
"We have good returning defensive specialists," Platt said.
Emily Lee, Tara Daly and Rhianna Stafford will be pushed by the new recruits, Platt said.
The new defensive specialists are Emily Heward, Kim Marr, Jessie Morris and Megan Shimamoto.
Branch is also a defensive specialist as well as a setter.
Morris will also see time at outside hitter.
"It's an extremely tight group," Platt said about the team chemistry.
"We're talented, faster, quicker and have a lot more depth in every position," said Platt, who will be assisted by his wife, Jenna.
The status of Erin Phelps is questionable for the season. She is fighting fires and hasn't been able to practice with the team.
Platt said it is a huge loss because Phelps had the potential to be All-CCC and All-Region.
"We're a lot more athletic," he said. "It's a really good group. They hustle a lot. Very enthusiastic."
Platt said everyone has transitioned quickly.
The rest of the team consists of middle blocker and outside hitter Keri Brown, outside hitter and right side hitter Kiley Cobb, outside hitter and right side hitter Jeanna Eastburn, middle blocker and right side hitter Brina Fritzsche, outside hitter and right side hitter Olivia Graff, right side hitter Misty Jenkin, outside hitter Denee Newton, and middle blocker and right side hitter Heather Ruhnke.
"We're excited about our chances this year," he said.
Eastern will play the alumni at Quinn Coliseum at 7 p.m. Saturday.
The Mountaineers head for the LCSC Holiday Express Invite next weekend in Lewiston, Idaho. They will open conference play against Oregon Tech Sept. 12.