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By David Pan
Sports editor 

Timberwolves, Grizzlies both look to be playoff contenders


Last updated 9/25/2019 at 1:56pm

The Wesco 4A volleyball season finally kicks off this week.

The first regular season matches were scheduled to be played on Thursday following three and a half weeks of practice. The regular season was pushed back a week with the state championships set to wrap up on Nov. 23 at the Yakima Valley SunDome, which also will be hosting the 1A/1B/2B state tournament a week earlier.

Jackson and Glacier Peak both advanced to last year's Wes-King tournament and hope to again be in the playoff mix. The Grizzlies fell one match short of state and were the team that eliminated the Timberwolves from districts.

The Wolfpack returns a younger squad with only three seniors – Lexi Dollarhide, Esha Mahal and Paige Wilson.

Wilson, a 5-foot-10 outside hitter, is a three-year starter and leads what should be a solid offense with 6-1 junior Erin Ingram and the 5-10 Dollarhide.

"We do have a lot of strong outside hitters," Jackson coach Mindy Staudinger said.

The versatile Ingram likely will see time as a middle blocker, positions that Jackson is trying to fill.

"We have good prospects training in that position who haven't played there before," Staudinger said.

The Timberwolves have good height with 6-0 sophomore setter Ellina Powell, 5-10 junior opposite/middle blocker Katie German and 5-10 junior middle blocker Ainsley Johanson.

Jackson did hit the court for a jamboree, but Staudinger is eager to get the regular season going and also see how her team performs at this Saturday's Kent Classic tournament at Kentwood High School.

"We have a pretty strong group. They did really well at the jamboree," Staudinger said. "But you never really know until you have the opportunity to compete."

Glacier Peak coach Dave Thorn also likes what he's seen of his team through the first three weeks of practice.

This is Thorn's third season at the helm of the Grizzlies and this year's roster might be his deepest.

"We've got a lot of good athletes working hard," he said. "We have a lot of depth in a lot of our positions. I think we could have a good year."

Senior setter Jordan Sprink returns to lead the offense.

"She's a good leader. She's very athletic," Thorn said. "She's very accurate with her hands."

The future also appears in good hands with junior setters Monica Girgis and Ciara Fortier. Thorn noted that running an offense with two setters is under considering, adding that "it's always based on personnel."

Senior Emma Gluth, junior Megan Perry, junior Emily Habib lead the office and have plenty of support from a number of new varsity players. Senior libero Kate Hansen anchors the defense.

While Jackson and Glacier Peak have spent most of their time in their own gyms, Archbishop Murphy is off to a 1-1 start in Wesco 3A/2A play and is 1-2 overall under new head coach Allison Sinex, who is a 2007 graduate of the school.

Sinex was especially encouraged by how the Wildcats rallied to defeat Stanwood in a back-and-forth match Thursday, Sept. 12.

Archbishop Murphy prevailed 25-12, 23-25, 25-20, 21-25, 15-13 on the road.

"Our focus that match was sticking to the game plan we had developed ahead of time," Sinex said. "A five-set match is a big challenge. Our girls did that. They focused on one point at a time and being in the moment."

The Wildcats bring back only four seniors – Sydney Pattison, Hannah Cymbaluk, Olivia Watson and Sophia Schutte – and all four came through against the Spartans.

"Our seniors really stepped into leadership roles in that moment," Sinex said. "They are four very different fantastic young women. They are very unique. All of their teammates leaned on them."

Stanwood closed out the fourth set with a string of aces and appeared to have the momentum.

"It was not the best finish to the fourth set," Sinex said. "Our leadership really took control of the fifth set for us. ... Everyone was a contributor. That's why we saw success."


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