Lots of changes highlight Blue Mountain Conference volleyball
UNION — The Union volleyball team is going to be small on numbers but big on teamwork this season, according to head coach Mendy Clark.
Clark said the program has only 12 girls total. But the coach added that the girls who are on the team possess talent and determination.
“The girls are working tremendously hard,” Clark said. “I think we’re more focused this year.”
Clark said because of the shortage of players, she is having to move kids around to different positions on the court.
“I’m having to play girls in positions they have never played,” Clark said. “But they are all embracing it.”
Clark said the reason for the dip in players this year is due to graduation and some players simply moving away.
“I don’t think it will hurt too much because you play with who you have,” Clark said.
Maddie Martens and Courtney Rynearson are the two seniors that Clark will have this season. She said both Martens and Rynearson have been irreplaceable so far.
“Their leadership is going to stand out the most,” Clark said. “I really think that if you create a family you will be more successful.”
Juniors Sarah Good, Keesha Sarman and Viki McCabe will all play a significant role this season for the Lady Cats as well.
Clark said she thinks the team will be a strong hitting team with a lot of power. But she feels the team is young at the setter positions.
Which might not hurt too much because of all the player shuffling going on.
“All of these girls can play several positions because they have to,” Clark said.
As usual, Clark has the district tournament in mind for her team this season but she doesn’t want to look too far ahead.
She said the Blue Mountain Conference will be hard once again.
“The BMC is exactly what it is — tough,” Clark said. “It’s anybody’s match on any night.”
The Lady Cats will start the season Saturday at a tournament in Grant Union. Union will then host Wallowa Thursday at 5 p.m.
Elgin looks to improve
ELGIN — For the second straight year, the Elgin volleyball team will welcome a new head coach to the sideline. Only this year it will be more of a familiar face leading the Lady Huskies.
Carmen Gentry, who was an assistant coach under Twila Ivins for 11 years, returns to the program this season after taking a year off. Gentry will replace Emily Sorenson.
Gentry takes over a program that struggled last season. The Lady Huskies went just 1-23 overall and 0-16 in the Blue Mountain Conference.
But all the youth that the program had last year is now a year older.
“We have 23 kids out,” Gentry said. “We have a really big group of juniors and a lot of team leadership. The team is looking strong.”
Juniors Aria Higgins, Jordyn Anderson, Miah Slater and Stormy Silver all saw significant playing time as sophomores last year.
“We have a really good core group of girls,” Gentry said.
Gentry coached the juniors when they were freshmen in the program, so the players have had an easy time adjusting to Gentry.
“Once we got back in the gym, they remembered my coaching style. My philosophy is that we’re going to work hard and as one unit.”
Gentry said last year it was hard for the players to adapt to a new coach after Ivins had been in charge of the program for so many years.
“That year was really rough for a lot of reasons,” Gentry said. “Having a longtime coach and then a change to a new coach was hard on the girls.”
Gentry thinks that the struggles that the team went through last year can only help this season.
“Our team goal is to make it to districts,” Gentry said. “It’s going to take dedicated practices and working well together.”
She also thinks her team has a fighting chance in the BMC.
“We’re going to be good competitors and put our best foot forward every game,” Gentry said.
The Huskies get the season under way today at 4 p.m. against Cove.
Outlaws have new coach
ENTERPRISE — The Enterprise volleyball team has a new head coach for the second consecutive season.
With the retirement of Lil Conrad after one season back on the sideline, Lashonda Gill will lead the Outlaws this season.
Gill helped coach the Grant Union junior varsity team the past three seasons. She is a former player at Grant Union as well.
Gill said the players are making the transition to a new coach rather smoothly.
“They all seem excited,” Gill said. “I think it’s going to be good for the program.”
Gill said that after cuts, she has 20 players for the EHS program.
Seniors Hayley Riggs and Carsen Sajonia are two of the leaders for the Outlaws this season. Sophomore Andrea Butterfield and freshman Tiffany George will also see significant action on the court, Gill said.
“Our leadership is really good,” she added.
Gill said the team wants to make it to the district tournament and hopefully get a spot in the state tournament.
“I want to build a successful program,” she said. “I think we’ll do really well this year.”
Grant Union joined the Blue Mountain Conference last season after coming down from the 3A level. That gave Gill a chance to see the conference.
“I’m a little familiar with the league,” she said.
The Outlaws open the season Saturday at Imbler.
“The girls are excited and are ready to start playing volleyball,” Gill said.