With the return of high school sports comes the familiar squeaking of sneakers on hardwood.
That's right, folks. Volleyball is back. It's a sport that provides exciting back-and-forth action, impressive feats of strength and athleticism and, usually, plenty of coordinated celebrations. The north Clackamas County boasts a reigning state champion in West Linn, a state runner-up in Wilsonville and many more promising programs that could hoist a state title in 2022.
As the season gets fully underway with nonleague games and weekend tournaments around the state, here are the top volleyball players to watch around north Clackamas County.
CLACKAMAS CAVALIERS (6A)
Following a season in which the Cavaliers earned the No. 8 seed in the 6A playoffs and won their first-round match, Brumitt and McMurray are back to help lead the squad even further. Head coach Nathan Blankenship called Brumitt, who is committed to Dominican University in California, "a force of nature with a massive right arm and a true leader on the court." McMurray, a sophomore, is making the jump from JV, but Blankenship says she has "huge energy, an amazing jump and remarkable speed."
LAKE OSWEGO LAKERS (6A)
The Lakers are likewise looking to get back to the playoffs under new head coach Alex Hasenstab. Lake Oswego will rely on its only returning senior from the All-Three Rivers League First Team, Wollmuth. She will pull double duty as "a setter, who will also be a big offensive tool for us as a right side," says Hasenstab. As for Bovich, the senior defensive specialist is back after receiving an all-league honorable mention last fall. Other impactful seniors include Vivi Kaelin, Casey Moran and Claire Williams.
LAKERIDGE PACERS (6A)
Lakeridge is also coming into the season with a new face at head coach in Quinn Takashima. The former Yamhill-Carlton coach will have some serious talent at her disposal with players like Hamlin and Coleman in the fold. Hamlin was an All-Three Rivers League First Team selection as a sophomore, while her fellow hitter Coleman received an honorable mention on the all-league list. Takashima noted that she has nine returning varsity players, and she thinks the Pacers "are going to be a force to be reckoned with."
NELSON HAWKS (6A)
It was a successful first season for the Nelson volleyball program, with the Hawks finishing 17-8 overall (13-3 in league play) and earning the No. 13 seed at state. Back for one last ride are the team's senior hitters, Lukovich and Christopher. Lukovich made the All-Mt. Hood Conference First Team last season, while Christopher was named a second-team performer. Three of the Hawks' eight total losses came to Central Catholic last year, so expect Nelson to be fully invested in getting revenge on the Rams.
OREGON CITY PIONEERS (6A)
The Pioneers are coming off a very solid season in which they reached the state quarterfinals as the No. 7 seed in the playoffs. Head coach Erica Frajford says that Oregon City is "setting [its] sights on another run at the state championship." Guiding that run will be two returning all-leaguers in Keightley, the team's senior libero, and sophomore outside hitter Thies, whom Frajford calls "one of the top players in the state." The Pios also have another all-league first-teamer in junior hitter Olivia Adamo.
WEST LINN LIONS (6A)
The Lions are the defending state champions in Class 6A, but the road back to the mountaintop will require some new faces to step up. West Linn had nine seniors on its team last year, and this year's senior class is a little smaller at five. Leading that quintet are Hoover, an All-Three Rivers League First Team selection as a junior, and Semau, an all-league honorable mention. Look for more stars to step up behind the hitting attack as the Lions look to claw their way back to the state championship again.
LA SALLE PREP FALCONS (5A)
One of three senior captains in the Falcons' flock, Maulding returns as an All-NWOC First Team selection from a year ago. Also returning for La Salle Prep is the blocker/hitter Heytvelt, who was also a first-team player — and one of only two sophomores to be named to that team. This Falcon team boasts six total seniors and five more juniors, so reigning NWOC Coach of the Year Anna Dillard has plenty of experience at her disposal. La Salle Prep is looking to build on a No. 8 ranking and a quarterfinal finish in 2021.
MILWAUKIE MUSTANGS (5A)
The Milwaukie volleyball program has nowhere to go but up after a winless season in 2021. Helping the Mustangs on their upward journey will be the team's pair of senior captains, Bondo and Allen. Last season, Bondo made the All-NWOC list as an honorable mention, and she is the only returning Mustang from the all-league list. Standing 6 feet tall, Bondo should be in for bunches of blocks this year. Allen, meanwhile, slots in as a libero/defensive specialist and will look to be a stable force in the passing game.
PUTNAM KINGSMEN (5A)
With an astounding 10 seniors on the roster this season, Putnam will be one of the oldest teams in 5A in 2022. The Kingsmen went just 4-10 in NWOC play last year, so expect this senior-heavy class to make strides in their final go-round. Leading that senior class is Sharp, a versatile hitter from either side who made the All-NWOC Second Team a year ago. As for a younger star, look to Lemen, the team's junior middle blocker. Lemen was also an all-league second-team selection as a sophomore last year.
WILSONVILLE WILDCATS (5A)
After coming into the playoffs as the No. 7 seed, Wilsonville made a surprise run to the 5A state title game in 2021. Leading the charge to get the Wildcats back will be a pair of seniors. Wiepert was an All-State Honorable Mention last year after making the All-NWOC First Team, and the setter will play a huge role in 2022. Alewine, meanwhile, led the team in blocks (47) and serving percentage (93.1%). Throw in versatile junior Mary Matthews, and Wilsonville looks well on its way to a fifth-straight NWOC title.
GLADSTONE GLADIATORS (4A)
The Gladiators had an up-and-down season a year ago, finishing 8-9 overall and 4-6 in the Tri-Valley Conference. This season, look for improvement as Gladstone brings back an upperclassman-heavy roster. The Glads have six seniors and six juniors on the squad, all of which are being led by junior captain Cuny, who will serve as a setter and defensive specialist. As for the seniors, only two return from last year's varsity squad. That number includes Koller, as well as defensive specialist Shaela Poersch.
NORTH CLACKAMAS CHRISTIAN SAINTS (1A)
The Saints are looking to march all the way to the state championship in 2022 after a disappointing end to a 25-win campaign last year. Helping them get there is a group of six seniors, which include the hitting duo of Dransfeldt and Watt. One of the two senior captains of the team, along with Hannah Stark, Dransfeldt could be one of the top players in The Valley 10 League this year. She and Watt were both all-league selections last season, as was fellow senior Emmi Kerekffy, and could lead the Saints to glory.
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