Sports

Gators looking for playoff return

By CASEY OLSON

Sports editor

The Decatur Gator volleyball team hopes to take one more step this year. The Gators were eliminated at the West Central District Tournament following a fifth-place finish in the South Puget Sound League South Division. This year’s goal is the state tournament.

“I think we’ll be pretty solid,” said coach Kelly Kirk. “We should be a playoff team.”

Kirk returns three starters from last year’s squad, including junior hitter Allison Iwasaki, senior middle hitter Jen Mooth and junior setter Brittany Ashby.

“We have better depth than in past years,” Kirk said. “We have five starters with club experience.”

Kirk will also be counting on a pair of freshmen to give the Gators some production — hitter Stephanie Rojas and defensive specialist/setter Katie Wilson. Senior outside hitter Jill Yotz and junior hitter Caitlin Elya will also see plenty of playing time in the rugged SPSL South.

“It’s an interesting year this season,” Kirk said. “As most teams have more than one question mark. Lots of really good seniors graduated in the league last year, which makes things pretty wide open. Teams that have players step up their performance from last year can do very well.”

Some of the better teams in the league should be Bethel, Puyallup and Spanaway Lake.

Jefferson

The Thomas Jefferson Raider volleyball program is entering a new era under first-year head coach Shawna Sears. The Auburn High School graduate coached at Central Washington University last year.

“I want to provide players with a positive volleyball experience and a love for the game,” Sears said.

Sears will be counting on plenty of underclassmen during the SPSL South season. The Raiders have only one senior on its roster — setter/outside hitter Tara Halvorsen.

“This year will be a rebuilding year,” Sears said.

Freshman outside hitter Jenna Bronson has been impressive in the early season, as has sophomore libero/outside hitter Emily Seckins and junior middle blocker Jessica Pate.

“We have a strong focus to improve, are determined and dedicated,” Sears said.

Beamer

Bliss Carlson is ready to earn her coaching stipend this season as the head of the Todd Beamer volleyball program.

“This is going to be a learning year,” Carlson said.

The Titans roster features only one junior, with the rest being sophomores and freshmen. One of those freshman — Manna Bocchi — will start the season as the setter for the Titans and a lot of Bocchi’s sets will be heading to sophomores Naomi Spyksman, a transfer from Bellingham, and Salena Dickerson.

“We are a young team with a lot of very athletic girls who are learning the basic volleyball fundamentals,” Carlson said.

The Titans will get no breaks during their inaugural season. The SPSL South is arguably the best league, top to bottom, in the state.

“I always encourage my girls to keep in mind that it’s always been 10 percent talent and 90 percent hard work,” Carlson said.

Federal Way

The Federal Way Eagles are looking for improvement during the 2003 season.

The Eagles have won just one match in the last two years in the SPSL South.

“We have everything to gain,” said first-year coach Teri Tuttle. “We have nowhere to go but up.”

Tuttle will be counting several seniors, including hitters Shelby Avaava, Erin Fitzpatrick, setter Whitney Goff and hitter Tracie Loo. Several newcomers will also see plenty of playing time, including juniors Leslie Davis, Pam Butler and Michelle Butler.

Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565, sports@fedwaymirror.com

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