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Bear Creek volleyball making big strides | Volleyball preview
Is this the year of the Grizzly on the volleyball court?
Watching The Bear Creek School’s volleyball team progress over the last few seasons, one might think that 2011 just might be.
In 2008, the team fell late in the 2B Tri-Districts tournament, and came back to make their first state tournament appearance in 2009, earning an eighth-place trophy. Last fall, they returned to the Yakima SunDome, going 3-1 in matches and placing fourth.
The program, which returns five seniors from last year along with one key addition, had its biggest turnout ever with 34 players playing in Bear Creek’s Upper School, and another 35 in the Lower School (5th-8th grades).
“They can only get better by playing, and the more touches they get on the ball, the better they get,” explained head coach Sherrie Brown. “These seniors have set a great tradition, and with success breeds the want for improvement, and improvement gets us success.”
The Grizzlies this year are led by a number of talented hitters and senior leaders, including co-captains Bethan Meyer and Elizabeth Fernandez, first-team all-league selections from last season.
Rounding out the returning upperclassmen are Kendall Englestone, a middle hitter who is coming off ACL surgery from last year, Kristin Wallis, a defensive leader at the libero position, and Nikki Peterson, who will add to the Grizzlies’ depth at the outside hitter position.
Finally, Bear Creek has a secret weapon in their arsenal that has the potential to be deadly — and that is senior Madelyn Magee, the reigning 2B state high-jump champion. Having not played organized volleyball since “sixth or seventh grade” according to Brown, Magee has raw talent, and holds a lot of promise.
“We would like to develop her into a weapon, she’s working hard,” Brown said. “I don’t think she has (that) role quite yet, but I think she will surprise people... she is an amazing athlete with an amazing drive to get better.”
The Grizzlies’ talent doesn’t end at their senior class, however.
Junior Makena Schoene, at 6-foot-2, and Fernandez’s younger sister, Catherine, will be dangerous outside hitters for the Grizzlies. Morgan Cadigan has been to state twice as a libero, and setter Michele Brown, the Sea-Tac 2B League MVP last year, will be feeding all of the team’s hitters.
“Definitely height, and athleticism,” said Brown on what stood out about her team this year. “When you put the maturity in with them having played so much, those are our strengths.”
The Grizzlies kicked off their season at a familiar venue, the SunDome, last weekend to play in a prestigious event, the Yakima Volleyball Festival, which drew some of the top teams from all over the Pacific Northwest.
In total, the Grizzlies were at the SunDome for 14 hours, playing 15 games over six matches. It was a long, grueling day that the team capped off with three straight wins to place ninth out of 32 teams.
“They were doing well to continue to play and win after so many hours,” Brown recalled. “I think the parents wanted to flip a coin, but the kids wanted to play. We started at Yakima, hopefully we can finish at Yakima.”
Added Elizabeth Fernandez, “It was really helpful to be in the Yakima SunDome, where we’re gonna be for state, and get that experience there. Playing late at night, being tired, and being able to push through that showed we have a lot to look forward to this season.”
Always one to test their limits against bigger and better competition, on Tuesday night the Grizzlies challenged Redmond High, a 4A school, to a volleyball showdown on the Mustangs’ home court, with the Grizzlies coming away with a 3-0 sweep.
“It was really encouraging to see that we could hang with the bigger teams,” said Meyer, adding that playing the tougher competition showed areas for improvement.
It may be only mid-September, but the Grizzlies are hoping to improve upon last year’s state finish.
“It’s early, and we’ve got lots to improve on, (but) they’ve been there before,” Brown said about her teams’ chances to win the 2B title. “I’d say today, no we couldn’t, but hopefully in nine weeks with the improvement they’re putting into their work, we’d like to make that great run for state.”