Coach Blankenship believes his squad has talent necessary to claim first NWOC title in 11 years

ARCHIVE PHOTO - Junior Lindsey Hartford will be one of the strong returning players for the Wilsonville Wildcats this upcoming season. Coach: Nathan Blankenship

2017: 14-7 (12-2 Northwest Oregon Conference)

Key losses: Tenley Lubisich, Madison Schmitt,

Key returners: Lindsey Hartford, Delaney Dougherty, Grace Thompson, Kennedy Juranek,

Outlook: Last year, new Wilsonville head coach Nathan Blankenship had in his head a three year plan for the volleyball team and the milestones he would like to reach with them.

In the first year, get to know the team and get the athletes firing on all cylinders. The second year, secure a league championship and advance into the playoffs. The final year of the three year plan is the obvious culmination: win the state title.

At the outset of year number two, Blankenship and his squad appear poised to take the top spot. With only two key members of the upstart 2017 team leaving (first team all-league setter Madison Schmitt having graduated, and honorable mention middle blocker Tenley Lubisich pursuing other extracurricular activities), the Wildcats return several strong athletes.

Among them, six foot tall outside hitter and first team all-league junior Lindsey Hartford, all-league senior second team defensive specialist Delaney Dougherty, and junior honorable mention libero Grace Thompson.

On top of the veterans, Blankenship also has a pair of freshmen who will likely be a part of the starting six. Morgan "Ashli" Edmiston and Tatum Lubisich (younger sister of Tenley Lubisich) will join their more experienced counterparts on the varsity squad.

"I'm very pleased, I've got a tremendously strong freshmen class that have come in," Blankenship said. "I actually am looking at starting two freshmen right now, which is unreal."

The team s to watch out for this year will be the always tough La Salle (who return three all-league players from last year) and Putnam (who also return three all-leaguers, as well as last year's NWOC coach of the year, Amanda Wiedeman). Replacing Sandy in league will be the former 4A school Scappoose, who went 10-12 overall last year.

The captains for this year's squad will be junior setter Kennedy Juranek and Thompson.

"(Kennedy)'s a leader on the court and super supportive of her teammates," Blankenship said. "That's one of the things I look for in a captain, and it's one of the things the girls need in a captain. There was a vote and my other captain ended up being Grace Thompson, who is my libero. Not surprising since she's a very light, up person. Extremely high energy, and the girls turn to her when they're feeling a little flat."

The team got its season off to a strong start, besting league foe Milwaukie in dominant fashion, winning 3-0 (25-8, 25-4, 25-16). They will face another NWOC foe in Scappoose (0-1) on Tuesday, Sept. 4 at home.

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