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The Tualatin volleyball team looks to compete against the best in the 2019 season

PMG FILE PHOTO: DAN BROOD - Tualatin High School seniors Olivia Ashley (3) and Jackie Phillips (11) are each starting their fourth season on the Timberwolf varsity.The Tualatin High School volleyball team might have a bit of a different look to it this year.

And, the Timberwolves hope, that could be a good thing.

With some key returnees, and some promising newcomers, Tualatin is optimistic going into the 2019 season.

The Tualatin volleyball season will be one of changes," said Tualatin coach Bridget Hinrichs, who was the 2018 Three Rivers League Coach of the Year. "With losing three of last year's senior starters, we are moving some players around to utilize some strengths we didn't have a chance to use in the past. It should be exciting as we mix the seasoned players with this year's up and coming players. I look forward to seeing what these new combinations will bring to our season."

The Wolves do have some top players back from last year's squad that finished in third place in the Three Rivers League standings at 9-5, while going 15-8 on the season and reaching the second round of the Class 6A state playoffs.

Among those returnees are senior setter Jackie Phillips (5-foot-7), who was a first-team all-Three Rivers League selection a year ago, and senior outside hitter Olivia Ashley (5-9), who was a second-team all-league pick. Phillips and Ashley are each starting their fourth year on the Tualatin varsity roster.

"We expect to see them continue with the success they've had in the past and to provide great leadership to this team," Hinrichs said.

Tualatin also returns junior middle blocker Kylie Zralka (6-0). Zralka missed a big part of her sophomore season due to injury, but still earned honorable-mention all-league accolades.

"We are excited to have her back and are looking for her to be a force in the middle," Hinrichs said.

PMG FILE PHOTO: DAN BROOD - Tualatin High School senior setter Jackie Phillips (11) was an all-Three Rivers League first-team selection last year as a junior.Senior Bella Valdes (5-3), who also was an honorable-mention all-league pick last year, returns at the libero spot for the Wolves.

"She'll help us round out our defense," Hinrichs said.

Junior outside hitter Nicole Ager (5-7), who is recovering from injury, junior middle blocker Kayli Depweg (5-9) and sophomore defensive specialist/outside hitter Sophie Biehler (5-7) also return from last year's varsity team.

"They will play a valuable part in this year's rotation, once Nicole is back from her injury," Hinrichs said.

Newcomers to the Timberwolf varsity roster include senior defensive specialist Brooke Stewart (5-7), freshman setter Sophie Fast (5-9), senior outside hitter/middle blocker Savannah Braun (5-10), sophomore outside hitter Jamie Jacobs (5-7) and sophomore setter Josie Phillips (5-8).

We are hoping to capitalize on our experience and volleyball IQ," Hinrichs said. "Whether we capitalize on these strengths will be the question for the season."

As for the Three Rivers League this season, Hinrichs sees some strong competition ahead for the Timberwolves.

"Once again the TRL is extremely tough from top to bottom and any team can win on any given night," she said. "We are hoping to come out and be competitive every night we hit the floor."

No matter what, Hinrichs sounds very enthusiastic talking about the Tualatin team and the upcoming campaign.

"I absolutely love coaching these girls, and cannot wait to see what they can do this season," she said.

The Wolves will open their league schedule on Tuesday, when they host rival Tigard in a match starting at 6:30 p.m. at Tualatin High School.

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