The Oak Harbor High School volleyball team posted an 8-7 record in 2017, going 7-5 in Wesco play and finishing in sixth place in the 13-team league.
The Wildcats lost six letter winners and four starters from last fall’s squad, so they will depend on fresh faces to help push them up the standings.
Among the graduates was Hailee Blau, the school record holder in career kills (999).
To make the climb more difficult, two more teams, Archbishop Murphy and Cedarcrest, have joined the Western Conference.
Murphy was one of the state’s best 1A teams last fall, losing only once during the regular season.
Oak Harbor does return two veterans, seniors Camryn Bristow and Ceirra Dean. Bristow, an outside hitter and a three-year letter winner, and Dean, a defensive specialist, each earned honorable mention all-Wesco honors last year.
Other returning letter winners are juniors Leielle Salinger, Jaslin Webster and Jasmine Ford.
The attack will be bolstered by senior setter Leah Quidachay, a transfer from San Antonio, and versatile sophomore Morgan Pease, who missed 2017 with an injury.
Moving up from the junior varsity are senior defender Maekaila Divinagracia and sophomore setter Annie Salinger.
Freshman Payton Parks will also fight for varsity playing time, according to coach Kerri Molitor.
“We have good chemistry and teamwork,” Molitor said. “The players push each other in practice, while also being supportive.”
“They believe in one another,” she added. “We will be aggressive and enthusiastic.”
Molitor said the team tends “to have a lot of fun” and sometimes loses focus, which is a concern.
“I have a fairly young team, but we have good leadership,” she said.
To have a successful year, Molitor said, the Wildcats will need to reduce their unforced errors and stick together, “improving as individuals and as a team.”
“I have been coaching for quite a while, and this group is really something special to work with,” she said. “I look forward to seeing them compete.”
Oak Harbor hosts its annual jamboree at 9 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 1.
The regular season begins when Meadowdale (4-10 in 2017) comes to Oak Harbor at 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 6.