Coach: Kelsey Swapp (third year)
Last season: 5-8 conference, 7-11 overall, bi-district qualifier
Key returners: Aynslee King, sr., middle hitter; Mackenzie Wakefield, sr., outside hitter; Alyssa Kiser, jr., outside hitter; Kenna Flynn, soph., setter; Ariana Bickley, soph., libero.
Key newcomers: Lauren Long, jr., middle hitter; Joey Keltner, jr., multiple positions.
Outlook: Swapp said the team will be able to build on last year’s competitive season in a tough Northwest Conference.
“We only lost two seniors ... so it’s nice to have a group where most of them were a part of the program last year,” she said. “We were really young last year so we’re more experienced and are going more confidently into matches.”
Swapp said the team will likely have several dangerous hitters, including returners Kiser and King.
“I think we’ll have multiple go-to hitters,” she said.
She added, “These girls ... they’re fun to coach, and they’re coachable. They work hard in practice. They want to get better.”
Due to gym renovations, the team will begin its season playing home matches at Anacortes Middle School.
Coach: Tawnya Brewer (26th year)
Last season: 17-5, fifth in Class 2A State Tournament
Key returners: Katie King, sr., middle hitter; Bronte Lacey, sr., right side; Lauryn Dykstra, sr., outside hitter; Dylan Isaacson, sr., libero; Gabriella MacKenzie, jr., middle hitter; Amey Rainaud-Hinds, soph., setter; Jordyn Smith, soph., outside hitter.
Key newcomers: Malani Rein, fr., defensive specialist; Adria Ray, fr., defensive specialist.
Outlook: This year’s team is eager to build on last season.
“So far, we have kind of a different attitude going into the season,” Brewer said. “The seniors are stepping up, there’s more urgency ... it has a different feeling from last year. I think it really helps having a core group of returners who can set the tone right away. They know what our standards are, and are doing a good job holding each other accountable while helping the younger girls.”
She said the team will lean on offense.
“I think offensively we’ll have more weapons than maybe we’ve had in the past,” Brewer said.
Coach: Kevik Rensink (seventh year)
League: Northwest 2B/1B
Last season: 2-13
Key returners: Kylie Clark, jr., right side; Cassidy Smith, jr., libero; Sierra Rensink, jr., setter; Autumn Neece, jr., defensive specialist; Ashley Parker, soph., setter; Rebecca Rider, jr., middle hitter.
Key newcomers: Payton Dickinson, soph., middle hitter.
Outlook: The Lions have no seniors, but many of the players who will suit up have plenty of experience.
“We have a really good sophomore and junior class; both of those are good classes with experienced players. We have a lot of returners on varsity with three starters (Clark, Smith, Rensink) and others who lettered,” coach Kevik Rensink said.
La Conner Braves
Coach: Suzanne Marble (27th year)
League: Northwest 2B/1B
Last season: 20-0, Class 2B state champion
Key returners: Joanie Benson, sr., middle hitter; Justine Benson, sr., setter; Katie Watkins, jr., middle hitter; Annajane Thulen, jr., defensive specialist; Maya Masonholder, jr., setter/defensive specialist; Morgan Herrera, sr., outside hitter; Sarah Cook, soph., outside hitter/middle hitter; Rachel Cram, soph., libero; Emma Keller, soph., right side/setter; Aubrie Sloniker, soph., outside hitter/defensive specialist.
Key newcomers: Ellie Marble, fr., outside hitter.
Outlook: The Braves look to qualify for state for the 25th consecutive year and defend their state title.
They’ll have to do so without Skagit Valley Herald Girls’ Athlete of the Year Matty Lagerwey, who graduated.
Coach Suzanne Marble said the team is working to replace Lagerwey’s leadership. She said any of the Braves could be a candidate for that role.
“We have a lot of leaders on this team, and they’re working to be the best teammates they can be,” she said. “I can see anyone at any time who can step into that.”
Returners include Justine Benson, a first-team all-state tournament selection last season, and Morgan Herrera, a second-team all-state tournament pick.
Joanie Benson, an all-league first-team pick, is back, as is Cram (second team), Keller (honorable mention) and Watkins (honorable mention). They are joined by Ellie Marble, a freshman with club experience.
“We have more depth in our defensive positions,” Suzanne Marble said. “We’ll take a lot of different looks at things. We’re powerful both on the right side, the middle, the outside. We’ve got good power coming into the season ... Justine is doing a great job spreading ball around.”
Mount Vernon Bulldogs
Coach: Mishel Keltner (second year)
Conference: Western 4A
Last season: 6-8
Key returners: Aaliyah Angulo, sr., opposite; Sarah Ware, jr., defensive specialist; Lily Zavala, sr., libero; Grace Pollett, sr., outside hitter; Alexis Aguilar, sr., middle hitter; Kamryn Horton, jr., setter; Naisa Williams, jr., outside hitter.
Key newcomers: Meadow Gustafson, jr., middle hitter; Elisabeth Schutza, jr., middle hitter; Samantha Pearson, jr., opposite.
Outlook: Keltner likes what she’s seen heading into her second year.
“They’re hardworking and they’ve played a lot of volleyball,” she said. “They know what it takes to be a winning team.”
She said Williams, Zavala and Horton have made strides heading into the season. Horton, she said, will step into the setter role.
“She’s being a great leader,” Keltner said.
Mount Vernon Christian Hurricanes
Coach: Noel Ruble (second year)
League: Northwest 2B/1B
Last season: 13-8, state qualifier
Key returners: Josie Droog, sr., libero; Abby DeVlieger, sr., middle hitter; Emma Droog, soph., middle hitter; Avery Yates, jr., outside hitter; Sophia Wood, sr., setter; Kailey Faber, jr., outside hitter; Ainslee Nicholas, jr., right side hitter.
Key newcomers: None.
Outlook: The Hurricanes return the core of last year’s state-qualifying team.
“We have everyone returning, which is great; they know what to expect,” Ruble said. “It’s been nice.”
She said the Hurricanes will be more offense-minded this season.
“I believe our strong point will be our offense, because we have more hitting offense and are running more plays,” she said. “A lot of work is still needed but they’re responding well and are excited. We’re excited to see what comes of it on the court.”
Coach: Chris Tesarik (seventh year)
Last season: 9-12, state qualifier
Key returners: Claire Hindman, jr., middle hitter; Grace Pohl, sr., outside hitter; Jamie Bartok, soph., outside hitter; Amber Helinski, jr., setter; Sammi Wise, sr., middle hitter.
Key newcomers: Hannah Jutte, jr., right side; Emery DeJong, fr., right side/outside hitter; Amelia Vaith, jr., defensive specialist/libero; Kiah Trammell, soph., libero/defensive specialist; Torrie Nasin, soph., setter.
Outlook: How does Sedro-Woolley follow up last year’s state tournament appearance? With a lot of hard work.
This year’s team comes into the season after an offseason that includeed workouts and a visit to the Gonzaga team camp.
“This has been a great group to work with. They’re hardworking girls. They want to be coached, they want to work hard. They got a little taste of the postseason and state last year and want more of that,” Tesarik said.
He expects the Cubs to be more refined on the attack.
“I think we’re making the transition from being more of a defensive team to being a more offensive team,” he said.
Tesarik said Hindman, Bartok and Pohl have made strides this season.
— Trevor Pyle