By Josh Bronson
Pilot staff writer
What was supposed to be a veteran Brookings-Harbor High School volleyball squad was turned upside down this summer after a number of unexpected departures.
The Bruins were only supposed to lose one key contributor from last season's team, graduating senior Kim Paradis.
But a number of changes has left the Bruins with a young and untested team.
"We only have two returning players that played full time for us last year," Head Coach Lori Cooper said. "But we'll be fine. We'll still be competitive and our league is up for grabs this year."
Two seniors, serving specialist Lindsey Freeman and setter Ahndrea Medina, are moving this year and will most likely play elsewhere. Medina was an honorable mention selection for the Far West League last year and led the team in assists.
Another honorable mention selection from last year, senior Kara Miller, who was second on the team in kills and blocks, has decided to play soccer this year.
Along with Miller, junior Kayla Hamm, who was the back-up setter, will also be playing soccer this year.
Junior Emily Fettig, who went back and forth between the JV and varsity teams last year has also decided not to play.
But Cooper and the rest of the team are not going to let the drastic changes take away from their season.
"One thing about this team is that they want to work hard, which means they're going to get better," Cooper said. "We just have to find out who we are first."
The Bruins will be relying on senior Stephanie Kerr once again to be their big hitter.
Kerr led the team in kills, blocks and aces last season as she was selected to the second team of the Far West All-League Team.
Kerr's powerful hitting and excellent passing make her a force to be reckoned with in the upcoming season.
The only other senior on the team is defensive specialist Vanita Carrillo.
"We're going to be a scrappy team," Cooper said. "We have to be good passers and try and get the ball to our hitters. And we're going to need some girls to step up who might not have had to otherwise."
Several young players will have some big shoes to fill this year.
Junior setter Molly Vance will be stepping in after the departure of the two other setters.
Vance played last year on the JV team, with a few appearances at the varsity level.
But Vance has been working out as the main setter for the team throughout summer practices and camps.
Vance will get some help at the setter position from Moriah Foster, a junior transfer from Eureka.
With Kerr starting at middle blocker, the Bruins have five other players who are capable of playing as middle blockers or outside hitters.
"Most of the positions are still open, so we'll just play with it and see how they work as a team," Cooper said.
Junior Breanne Manley is one of the more versatile players for the Bruins this year and will probably play as an outside hitter.
Sophomore Sarah Pate and junior Dani Olsen, who both saw varsity action in the final few games of last season, will both have to step up and hit the ball this year, either at the outside hitter or middle blocker positions.
Even though the Bruins lost a number of players from last season, they also gained back a pair of players who did not play last year.
Juniors Taylor Keys and Zoey Silver will also see playing time at the outside hitter and middle blocker positions.
The Bruins finished fifth in the Far West League last year with a 3-8 league record and an overall record of 8-10.
In the final game of the year last season, the Bruins went head-to-head with the South Umpqua Lancers to see who would get the chance to play the Siuslaw Vikings for the third and final spot in the state playoffs.
After splitting the season series with the Lancers, the Bruins dropped their third meeting of the year and just missed a chance to make the playoffs.
But this year, Cooper hopes to turn things around and get her team into the playoffs.
"My goal for them is to make the playoffs and then from there, we'll just see what happens," Cooper said.
And the goal is a legitimate one, with several teams in the Far West League, including defending state champion North Bend, losing a majority of their players to graduation.
The first test for the Bruins will be a tournament in Ashland on Friday, Aug. 31.
"It's going to be a challenge for us, but it'll be a time for me to play with the lineup and see what works," Cooper said.
The Bruins will be holding a pair of car washes this weekend to help raise money for the tournament.
On Sunday, Aug. 26, the girls will have a car wash in the parking lot of the Brookings Harbor Medical Center, 446 Oak St., from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and again on Monday, Aug. 27, from 2-5 p.m. at Ray's Food Place.