Volleyball Season Preview: Douglas will build on youth & experience | RecordCourier.com

Volleyball Season Preview: Douglas will build on youth & experience

by Joey Crandall

Coming out of tryouts last week, Douglas volleyball coach Suzi Townsell had two options.

She could either go with a senior-laden squad or she could start building for the future.

Either way, she liked the way the team was shaping up. So she chose both.

Douglas enters the year with 15 players on its roster, including five players with significant starting experience last year, 11 returning lettermen and four newcomers.

“I love those big numbers,” said Townsell, who has had a tendency to carry deep rosters in her three seasons at the helm. “We had so many key seniors that I wanted to make sure that we have a team coming into next year.

“I thought if I could get five juniors in there, that would be good. Then some girls really stepped up and had a great tryout so I kept them too.

“This year we have a really good chance to do something special, but it will all start with building that team chemistry.”

For starters, the team had a mini-retreat in the school gym last week to get to know each other better.

“That and the trip to Las Vegas (this weekend) are going to be big for this group,” Townsell said. “It’s just about getting to know each other and depend on each other. It’s a really great group of girls.”

Douglas loses all-league standouts Jourdan Burke (outside hitter) and Mysta Townsell (libero) out of its starting lineup, but returns the majority of a group that finished third in the Sierra League behind Damonte Ranch and Manogue.

They come in boasting what Townsell calls the best outside tandem in the state with seniors Shannon Dugan (241 kills, 61 blocks, 78 digs, 43 aces) and Brenna White (172 kills, 101 blocks, 53 digs) both all-leaguers in 2009.

“If they aren’t the best duo in the state, I’d be really surprised,” Townsell said.

“Shannon’s game has matured a lot over the spring and Brenna always makes things happen out there. “I’m looking forward to seeing what they can come up with.”

In terms of getting the ball to the outside, the Tigers will have a number of options beginning with returning starter Jackie Harper (620 assists, 29 aces, 55 digs) at setter. Junior Hailey Sclafani (146 assists, 11 aces) may get the nod to start the year, though, as Harper is still rehabbing a knee injury suffered last year.

“You need a blocker at the setter spot and Hailey had a great club season,” Townsell said. “Jackie is really coming on and I see her only getting better. It’s still the jumping and twisting that she is having to work through. She’ll have the brace on all year and she’s getting stronger every day.”

Having two capable setters allows Townsell to work with her preferred 6-2 rotation (two setters on the floor) but Sclafani will start in the 5-1 (one setter) rotation.

Senior middle blocker Emily Garcia (169 blocks, 140 kills, 12 aces) spent the summer working with former Douglas and University of San Diego standout Emily Haas (who is playing in Finland this year) and has shown marked improvement.

“She finished off last year really well and got better during the club season,” Townsell said. “I’m seeing really good things from her so far. She is working her tail off and I can’t wait to see what will come through for her this year.”

Mia Townsell (194 digs, 21 aces), a second-team all-leaguer last year, will step in at libero/defensive specialist where her sister left off and rounds out a capable set core of starters.

After that, the Tigers have a host of depth and interchangeable parts to fill the final starting spot and come off the bench.

Keely Latham (44 kills, 52 blocks), Erin Allison (53 kills, 28 blocks), Carly McCullough (41 kills) and Dani Trujillo (15 kills, 5 blocks) are all vying for time on the right side, along with JV call-up Amanda Wartgow.

Allison will also see time in the middle, battling for a spot with newcomer Savannah Wood.

“I was looking at Erin as a backup on the left or right side and then she went back and forth between the right and the middle all summer,” Townsell said. “She just had a great tryout in the middle. Savannah is right there too. We have some really good depth in the middle with her, Erin and Emily.

“I can throw either Erin or Carly McCullough to the left to, so there is a lot of flexibility with what we can do.”

McCullough will also help round out the defense with Nikki Chavez (60 digs, 17 assists).

Townsell said newcomer Heidi Schefcik will be count on for her defensive skills as well.

Schefcik and fellow junior Cassi Uhart will add more depth on the outside behind White and Dugan.

“The juniors are just bringing it during practice,” Townsell said. “And the seniors are responding. There is a lot of healthy competition and the level of play just at practice has been impressive.”

The rest of the league will be strong, particularly with the 4A crossover games counting toward playoff standings.

Damonte Ranch and Galena are expected to be among the top teams in the Sierra League and Carson returns an experienced group.

Townsell also listed Spanish Springs as a potential dark horse on the other side while Reno is favored to win the High Desert.

“I think we stack up pretty well,” Townsell said. “There are a lot of good teams out there and it will be a tough battle every night. Just to stay in the hunt, you have to be focused every night.”

Joey Crandall can be reached at (775) 782-5121, ext. 212.