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Although the Timberwolves have only two returning seniors, Tualatin's coach says her team is hungry.

COURTESY PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER GERMANO - Tualatin's Stella Fetherston scores for Tualatin during a matchup against Tigard Tuesday. Despite an unprecedented training season often relegated to Zoom-call conditioning sessions, the Tualatin volleyball team has started out strong this season, most recently beating archrival Tigard during Three Rivers League action Tuesday night, March 9.

"We started off a little slow, but then we finished strong," said Tiffany Zwick, the Timberwolves' volleyball coach, of the 25-18, 25-17 and 25-8 win.

Senior Kylie Zralka was a standout player in the win. Zralka has been a middle for the majority of her high school career, but Zwick — who is in her first year as coach at Tualatin — moved her to the outside for Tuesday's matchup, creating "a huge asset to the team having her there because she gets the majority of the sets," the coach explained.

"Her experience as a four-year varsity player has definitely been a huge reason for our success," said Zwick, who most recently served as Sherwood High School's varsity volleyball coach for two years.

Also outstanding during the game was Sophie Biehler, a junior, who Zwick called a phenomenal player and leader.

Tuesday's win brings the Timberwolves to a 2-1 overall record. They beat Canby recently and dominated Lake Oswego before that in a five-set "thriller," Zwick said.

Zwick said she's optimistic about her team and the remaining short six-week season.

"Andie Valdez and Sophia Biehler in the back row is just amazing, because those two rarely let any ball hit the ground," she said about the sophomore and freshman, respectively. "And we focus so much on defense."

Zwick said she didn't see her players all summer because COVID-19 restrictions wouldn't allow them to practice together in the gym. That meant a short in-person turnaround to get ready for the season.

"And these girls are rock stars, especially since I am new to them," said Zwick. "Everything I have to say and give to them they absorb it and they are like, 'We want more. We want longer practices so can we stay longer.'"

Overall, Zwick said she thinks the team looks really strong this year, even though Tualatin doesn't have as big of hitters as league rivals Lake Oswego and West Linn.

"We make up for that in our serve receive and our defense. … Against Tigard, our blocking was amazing," Zwick said, adding that the team's serve receive and defense are probably a lot stronger than last year. "They just flow really well together. I feel they're pretty disciplined players right now for me."COURTESY PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER GERMANO - The Timberwolves celebrate after Tualatin's Olivia Jackson tipped for the kill against the Tigard Tigers Tuesday night. Tualatin beat Tigard 25-18, 25-17 and 25-8.

She said sophomore Sophia Fast is doing an amazing job getting the ball to Zralka as well.

Other notable players include junior Josie Phillip, who is a solid all-around player for the team.

Zwick said the only other senior on the team, Olivia Jackson, is doing a phenomenal job despite the fact that this is her first year on varsity.

Also doing well are Zwick's middles, Paige Lawton and Stella Fetherston, both juniors. Junior Sara Cepeda, junior Makayla Randels, sophomore MacKenzie Edwards and Helayna Sy are all making strong contributions to the team as well.

Zwick admitted there's been unique challenges to overcome because of the COVID-19 pandemic, considering the conditioning restrictions.

"But the minute we got on that court at tryouts, I mean, these girls were just hungry," she said. "They give 110% every practice. I never have to say 'let's hustle.' I never have to say 'do this.' They want it so bad, and I think they know they're an underdog team because they know we don't have the big all-around hitter."

All in all, Zwick is enjoying her first year with the Timberwolves.

"I couldn't be happier at Tualatin, coaching these girls," she said.


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