After an appearance in the IHSA 2A sectional last season, the hopes are high for the Oregon volleyball team. Bolstering those aspirations are five returning starters.
There will, however, be a significant change in the program. Last year’s coach, Christy Sitze, accepted a coaching position at Rockford University just days before practice was to start. Faith Watson (see accompanying article) was immediately named to replace Sitze.
“It's a lot more responsibility,” Watson said. “There is more behind-the-scene stuff like paperwork and getting information to the school.”
One advantage for Watson as she slides into the head coaching slot is the experience her team brings.
The only starter lost to graduation was Devyn Absher.
“Our biggest weakness is a lack of coaching experience,” she said.
Helping Watson with the varsity will be another former Oregon player, Farrell Tremble, who like Watson, previously assisted Sitze.
Watson describes this year’s unit as a bunch of go-getters. Scrappiness will be their calling card. That was on display in the post-season last year and should pay dividends again.
Listed below are returning starters and a brief description from Watson: Libero, Jordan Wilkin – great serve and receive. Right side attacker, Cydney Long – very athletic and can put spin on the ball. Middle, Shannon Cullen, – powerhouse of the team and hits a hard ball. Setter, Delaney Mahoney, – brings consistency and leadership. Outside hitter, Emy Wright, – very accurate and efficient with hitting. Middle, Hailey Long, – Very quick arm swing and good shot blocker.
Another experienced setter is Alana Leamanczyk, who has traits similar to Mahoney.
Two sophomores have been promoted to the varsity. They are Whitney Long and Sommer Rhea.
“Whitney is extremely fast and has a great block. Sommer is an excellent athlete with a power ball from the outside,” Watson said.
Rounding out the roster are newcomer Holly Phillips, scrappy defender Taylar Smith and hard-working Kelsey Pudlas.
Watson hasn’t had a chance to review the schedule and determine who the teams to beat are.
“Every game will be equally important,” Watson said.