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Program is down in numbers, but coaches and players are eager to get on the court.

PMG PHOTO: STEVE BRANDON - Scappoose players battle to keep the ball alive during their final game of the 2019 season. Two players pictured — Abby Stansbury and Raleigh Erickson — are now beginning their junior year season.Scappoose High School's volleyball team is starting off the season with two wins and two losses.

Coach Ashley Girres said her main focus for the season "is just getting these kids in the gym, around each other, getting exercise and a feeling of being a part of something."

"Of course, I want to improve their volleyball skills and it's always fun to win, but having done this for well over a decade, it's blatantly clear to me that these children need human interaction, to feel valued, and have a physical outlet with everything they've been going through the last two years," Girres said.

The varsity team has nine players without any swing athletes playing for both varsity and junior varsity. That's just slightly lower than past years, but the numbers for the full Scappoose volleyball program are a more substantial drop from pre-pandemic years.

"The program as a whole is down quite a few kids. We've had a number of players move out of state and out of district," Girres said.

The team only has one senior. The rest of the varsity squad is made up of five juniors, two sophomores and one freshman.

Mandatory quarantines have added to the challenges for players. Students are required to quarantine if they come in close contact with classmates, fellow athletes, or fellow bus riders who test positive for COVID-19. Students who are vaccinated but do not show symptoms are not required to quarantine after exposure to someone with COVID-19.

"COVID has had an extreme impact on the kids, mentally and emotionally," Girres said.

The coach said she's had two athletes quarantine, "which was physically difficult for their teammates and mentally difficult for themselves."

Girres said the standout players this season include two juniors; outside hitter Abby Stansbury and middle blocker Dylan Mann, who have been on varsity since their freshman year.

Sophomore Peyton Travis is a second-year varsity starter "who has made vast improvements during the short off season," Girres said.

The sole freshman on varsity this season, Aryanna Searle, "is an incredibly gifted athlete with an endless amount of upswing," Girres said.

As of Sept. 13, the team was 1-1 in league matches, with 12 more league matches scheduled. Scappoose won 3-1 against Milwaukie on Sept. 7 and lost in three sets against Hillsboro on Sept. 9.

The team went 2-9 in league in the short 2020-21 season, and 5-9 the year prior.

Unlike last year, there are no COVID-related limits on the number of spectators at games, which means players can have masked friends and family members cheering them again.

"They're a great group of kids who are in dire need of normalcy, physical exercise, and emotional connection. They're all sweet young ladies who I can only hope know how much they're loved & how grateful I am to coach," Girres said.

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