When Carol Grauer took over the Molalla High School volleyball program before the start of the 2011-12 season, the Indians had only one direction that they could go up.
Three years later, the Indians have made significant strides under Grauer, but the head coach wont say the program has truly turned the corner.
The freshmen that I had three years ago are now seniors, Grauer said. After three years, they now understand how Coach Grauer thinks, which is really scary, but they are beginning to think like me. Theyve come to understand the game that much more, too.
We lost a few good strikers last year in Janelle Ferlan and Katelin Satyna, but right now, I look at my team with the youth that we have coming up, some of the sophomores and juniors that are really working hard, and were going to do okay.
In preparation for the Sept. 2 home opener against Yamhill-Carlton, the Indians are looking to build around the experience of their five returning senior starters Callie Baker, Helen Daniels, Ashley Johnson, Brie Riley and Haley Thrower.
Daniels and Johnson both earned all-Tri-Valley Conference honorable mention last season after Molalla placed fourth in the six-team league with a 4-6 record and finished 6-10 overall.
I see a better offensive team, Johnson said. Not so much a hitting team this year, but were pretty scrappy and I think that will help.
Im not sure what to expect. We have a lot of new people that I havent seen play, especially the new freshmen. It will be interesting to see how they impact the program.
Freshman Marina Daniels is expected to see playing time with the varsity at the libero position a back-row, defensive specialist, and a position that Molalla rarely utilized last season.
We didnt have a true libero last year, so we didnt use one, Grauer said. To play that position, you really truly have to hit the floor. You have to be one that will sprawl, dive, roll, and do all those things to be able to pick balls up and go after that hard hit.
The Tri-Valley has a new look as La Salle Prep and North Marion departed the league and were replaced by the Corbett Cardinals and the Crook County Cowgirls of Prineville.
Crook County has won eight consecutive state championships four at the Class 5A level from 2006-09, and four at the 4A level from 2010-2013. Last season, the Cowgirls went 26-5, knocking off Cascade in the final.
Corbett is moving up from the Class 3A ranks after finishing third in the nine-team Lewis & Clark League last season, going 10-2 in league and 19-8 overall.
Having those two teams drop in is going to make things interesting, Grauer said. Were just going to have to play them and see.
Colton coach Nick Keli'upule'ole will make his high school coaching debut Thursday when the Vikings play Taft in Lincoln City.