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The team is ready to play after a player on the JV team came down with COVID-19, forcing a two-week quarantine.

COURTESY PHOTO: MICHELLE NETT - Lions girls volleyball team in action, using COVID precautions. With fall weather around the corner and area schools returning to a semblance of normalcy, the St. Helens High School volleyball team is ready to take on strong opponents this season.

Tom Ray is currently head coach of the girls team and is looking forward to a new season, which kicked off Thursday, Sept., 16 at Parkrose. The Lady Lions fell in five games.

"Our first-game jitters were very apparent as we had some first-game-of-the-season errors," Ray said, adding that the Broncos "showed they had more games under their belt" with their win.

The mismatch in experience in the early going is because the Lions were shut down at the start of the season due to a COVID-19 quarantine.

"There's one girl on the JV team that came down with COVID," Ray said. "She lost her taste, so we all went into quarantine because when the girls warm up, after they warm up and start running indoor, they took their masks off. Coaches, we keep ours on, so we were not quarantined."

Ray continued, "This year, with St. Helens High School remodeling their high school, we're all in one gym. So, we have three teams sharing two courts, so we were all involved. So, we had to quarantine all three teams."

Luckily, the team is healthy following the two-week quarantine.

Ray said top performers against Parkrose were Karlee Webster, Ellie Austin, Brianna Holz and Maddie Blackburn.

Webster and Austin are captains on the team.

"Those two have been helping a lot of the young girls," Ray said. "They have contributed during youth camp and during all of our tryouts – when I partner them up to do warmups, I partner them up with a player that's younger. It will help both of them be better."

The Lions volleyball squad will be facing traditionally tough competition this time around in the 5A Northwest Conference, including Wilsonville, LaSalle, Parkrose and Rex Putnam.

"Our league is pretty tough," Ray said. "Hillsboro is really tall. There are some tough teams."

Last season was a challenge for the volleyball team, Ray acknowledged.

"Last season with COVID was difficult," Ray said. "I was so happy we got to even play. There was no state tournament, but it was good for the seniors that have been a part of the program. They got to play their senior year — that was huge."

Looking ahead, Ray predicted, "I think we're going to be right in the middle of the pack. It's going to be tough, but we'll see where they can land."


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