Players for the Vale and Union volleyball teams go for the ball during a tournament hosted in La Grande on Aug. 25. (The La Grande Observer/Ronald Bond)
Malheur County high school volleyball teams are set to build on state playoff runs from last year or are rebuilding from tough campaigns in 2017.
3A Eastern Oregon League
After making an appearance at the state tournament last season and placing fifth in the 3A Conference, the Vale Vikings entered the 2018 season with a relatively young team.
“We’re really really young but with really great athletes,” said Coach Shannon Steele, who is in her 10th year of coaching. “We’re just looking forward to playing on the court. The girls have been working really hard.”
Steele expects the same teams from last season to be at the top, with Burns as the Vikings’ most competitive match ahead. She said Burns has the most returning players from last year.
Vale’s 12-person varsity volleyball team has only one player from its starting lineup a year ago. But Steele is proud of her girls and says her roster is packed with hard working players.
“We may be a new team, but we still have the same dream,” said Steele.
In Nyssa, two returning seniors make a “solid” nine-player team this season, according to Coach Maddie Speelman. “All have talent,” she said.
“I come from a program that was huge, the Vale Vikings,” said Speelman, a native of Vale. “From generation to generation, they have built this program where younger generations knew what to do. I wanted to do that, make it as good, if not better.”
This season, she wants to make sure for each game that girls will “come out [and] feel comfortable.”
“The girls are ready to get down and battle,” said Speelman. “This year we can make it to state. I truly believe that.”
Speelman, who used to coach club volleyball in Vale, said she’s “super excited” to coach Nyssa this season and feels “luck for the opportunity.”
The girls kicked off the season in shape and are “proving everyday that they’re taking the initiative to do extra off the court, in their hearts,” said Speelman.
1A High Desert League
Harper Charter’s youthful squad had a mediocre season last year with three out of four wins in the High Desert League.