OH volleyball returns deep core

There’s a special buzz around the Oak Harbor volleyball program this season.

With the Wildcats returning all but three players from a team that made the program’s first district playoff appearance in 11 years the excitement’s understandable.

“I think with all the talent I have my expectations are very high,” OHHS coach Kerri Molitor said.

The Wildcats, who went 7-1 in the Western Conference North and 13-4 overall, return six girls to the varsity lineup.

Leading the way in that group are five seniors: Pristine Santos, Ashley Kingma, Miranda Thiel, Krystal Rousselle and Jennifer Muzzall.

“They have all been great leaders the first couple weeks into it,” Molitor said.

Rousselle, Muzzall and Kingma were all named as second-team all-league players last year. Kingma also broke the OHHS single-season record for service aces with 113.

One luxury Molitor will have this year is that she can pretty much play all of the girls at any position.

“It really is a great problem to have,” she said.

Along with the seniors, junior Lizzy VanDyke also returns to the varsity lineup. She played briefly last year as a defensive specialist and will see a lot more time at the position in 2005.

Others moving up from last year’s junior varsity team to this year’s varsity squad are junior Christine Connelly and sophomores Becca Wheeler and Clair Thiel.

Six-foot freshman Jennifer Jansen will also play on varsity and has generated some early excitement.

“She’s very mature for a freshman,” Molitor said.

Molitor said her biggest concern this year is that the girls will get too confident after last season and not take a one-match-at-a-time approach. She saw that problem most recently in a jamboree at Burlington where the girls went 3-3.

“They know they can do it,” she said. “It’s just a matter of executing.”

As usual the WesCo North will provide some tough competition, as Molitor expects all the other teams around the league to make strides.

“I think every game’s going to be a challenge for us,” she said.

According to Molitor, teams to look out for include Snohomish, Stanwood and Monroe. She said Lake Stevens and Arlington will also be very improved.

A return to the district playoffs, however, is unquestionably a goal again for Oak Harbor this season.

“I think that after last season they kind of got a taste that we can do that,” Molitor said.

The Wildcats started their season earlier this week against non-league Kamiak. They will face Jackson on the road, Tuesday Sept. 13 and have their first home match at 7 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 15 against Mountlake Terrace.

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