Core group of returning starters spells success for Vale varsity volleyball team

VALE – Expectations for this year’s Vale High School varsity volleyball team may not be off the charts but they are certainly high and Coach Shannon Steele believes she has the ingredients of a squad that can make yet another run to the state playoffs.

Tradition for the Lady Vikings is as strong – and as illustrious – as the that of the varsity football team and while their success in the past may seem to have occurred under the radar, their volleyball triumphs are just as significant.

Steele, who starts her 15th year as head coach, can look back on a long record of success and playoff appearances. Her teams reached the playoffs every year but one.

The Vikings, then, don’t necessarily rebuild but instead reload after every season.

The expectations of her team are powered by an understated confidence, she said.

“We should do well,” said Steele.

The Vikings will step out on the court for their first match with a core of returning starters.

Junior Elise Seals along with seniors Sadie Graviet, Brogan Payne, Wrenna Cooke and Jo Jo Cleaver are the veterans Vale will count on.

“I think we have the right kids to reload with. They work hard and hold each other accountable,” said Steele.

When the Lady Vikings open their season on the road Thursday, Aug. 24, in a nonleague match at Nampa Christian, they will do so in the shadow of a solid season in 2022. Vale ended last season with an 8-2 league mark and reached the first round of the state playoffs before losing to Siuslaw.

Steele said her team is ready for the long march toward the playoffs.

“They are disciplined and have high expectations,” she said.

One major change from last season will be at setter. The key position will be shared between Cleaver and sophomore Teresa Gonzalez, said Steele.

“We have some bugs to work out,” said Steele.

Steele said the team to beat this year is rival Burns. The Hilanders reached the state finals last year – plundering the Eastern Oregon League with a 10-0 record – but lost to Valley Catholic High School.

The Hilanders will be just as tough this year, said Steele.

“All their starters are back,” said Steele.

For Steele and her team, much of what they do at practice reflects a focus on fundamentals, transparency and a commitment to responsibility.

Steele said her team will need to be mentally tough and get “as much practice time as we can get.”

“We just need to get out and play,” said Steele.

News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected]

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