The Lions will go into battle with an all-new lineup save for junior right-sider Lydia Rose, but five seniors are here to help.
Class 5A first-rounder St. Helens features fourth-year players Kenna Reinholdt (setter), Krista Gatten (middle blocker), Hannah Stewart and Alyson Blasier (defensive specialists) and Abby Austin (libero), and Rose has recovered well from a posterior cruciate ligament injury suffered in softball this spring.
The season opener at Class 6A first-rounder Lincoln, Portland Interscholastic League Coach of the Year Stephen Stone and all-league junior outside hitter Grace Zilbert, however, belonged to the Cardinals.
The Lions (0-2 overall) could not escape a sweep (12-25, 19-25, 11-25), on Friday, Aug. 25, where last year they pulled off a 3-2 comeback at home.
"It's a good thing to play a team like that: Lincoln is one of the top teams," said coach Tom Ray, whose Lions will try to reach at least the first round of state for the seventh year in a row through a gauntlet riddled with contenders. "The goal is for the program to be really fit and outlast with long rallies."
Sophomore middle blocker Brynn Austin (5-foot-10), Gatten and junior outside hitter Natalee Webster (both 5-foot-8) are the tallest Lions, and six Lions are 5-foot-5 or shorter, so hustle is invaluable.
"We're not going to have a lot of height, but if you are really good at serve-receive, you will be able to win," Ray said.
Marissa Eib and Teagan Fischer (setters) and Natalee Webster (outside hitter) are juniors, and Izy Wallace (defensive specialist) is a sophomore ready to impress.
Consolation semifinalist La Salle Prep also beat St. Helens (25-13, 25-14, 25-11) on Thursday.
From there, the Lions head to play-in rounder Putnam and all-conference senior outside hitter Kristen Hale for a 6:45 p.m. contest on Tuesday in Milwaukie.
Play-in rounder Hillsboro and expected returning all-conference junior outside hitter Shaddie Kalamau will play host on Sept. 14.
St. Helens enters a tournament at Class 6A second-rounder Lakeridge on Sept. 16, and will visit Class 5A consolation semifinalist Sandy and all-Northwest Oregon juniors Brooke Dodge (setter) and Samantha Brewster (outside hitter) on Sept. 19.
Class 6A first-rounder Oregon City will host the Lions in its tournament on Sept. 23.
In the middle of St. Helens' second conference stretch, Class 6A Franklin and David Douglas, Class 5A Woodburn and Class 5A play-in rounder The Dalles -- starring all-Columbia River Conference talents Jodi Thomasian (senior middle blocker) and Kathryn Bradford (senior outside hitter) and Bailey LeBreton (junior middle blocker) -- will hit town for the St. Helens Tournament on Oct. 7.
"We and La Salle Prep usually dominate the league," Ray said. "We're usually top-10 in the state, but it will take commitment to compete."
SEASON OUTLOOK: The Lions and their five seniors -- the second-most in the conference to Parkrose (7) -- will unite against a perilous schedule, but longer-tenured Northwest Oregon teams may keep them on the outside of play-in contention looking in.
ST. HELENS AT PUTNAM
When: 6:45 p.m. Tuesday
Shutout streak: The Class 5A first-rounder Lions have beaten the play-in Kingsmen 3-0 in each of the last eight meetings
ST. HELENS LIONS
Coach: Tom Ray (16th year)
Classification: Class 5A, Northwest Oregon Conference
2016 finish: 15-8 overall, 10-4 Northwest Oregon Conference (Third in conference, reached first round of postseason)
Lydia Rose, jr., RS, 5-5
Kenna Reinholdt, sr., S, 5-7
Krista Gatten, sr., MB, 5-8
Hannah Stewart, sr., DS, 5-0
Alyson Blasier, sr., DS/RH, 5-4
Abby Austin, sr., L, 5-5
Marissa Eib, jr., S, 5-7
Teagan Fischer, jr., S, 5-4
Natalee Webster, jr., OH, 5-8
Brynn Austin, so., MB, 5-10
Izy Wallace, so., DS/OH, 5-4
Sept. 5 St. Helens at Putnam, 6:45 p.m., in Milwaukie *
Sept. 7 Parkrose at St. Helens, 6:45 p.m. *
Sept. 12 Milwaukie at St. Helens, 6:45 p.m. *
Sept. 14 St. Helens at Hillsboro, 6:45 p.m. *
Sept. 16 St. Helens vs. Lakeridge, 8 a.m., Lakeridge Tournament, Lakeridge High School, in Lake Oswego
Sept. 19 St. Helens at Sandy, 6:45 p.m. *
Sept. 21 Wilsonville at St. Helens, 6:45 p.m. *
Sept. 23 St. Helens vs. Oregon City, Oregon City Tournament, at Oregon City High School
Sept. 26 La Salle Prep at St. Helens, 6:45 p.m. *
Sept. 28 Putnam at St. Helens, 6:45 p.m. *
Sept. 30 St. Helens vs. Century, Century Tournament, at Century High School, in Hillsboro
Oct. 2 St. Helens at Parkrose, 6:45 p.m. *
Oct. 4 St. Helens at Milwaukie, 6:45 p.m. *
Oct. 7 Franklin, The Dalles, David Douglas, Woodburn at St. Helens Tournament, 8:30 a.m.
Oct. 10 Hillsboro at St. Helens, 6:45 p.m. *
Oct. 17 Sandy at St. Helens, 6:45 p.m. *
Oct. 19 St. Helens at Wilsonville, 6:45 p.m. *
* - Northwest Oregon Conference game