PRAIRIE CITY – A positive outlook is firing up the Panthers as they begin Prairie City’s volleyball season this week.
Four seniors are stepping up where five left off last year, setting the pace for the younger teammates.
“We have some good, strong senior leadership,” said Louanne Zweygardt. “We have some competitive, aggressive freshmen – I look for those seniors and freshmen to work together to bring the whole team up.”
Six freshmen are joining the ranks, and four juniors and three sophomores round out the team.
Zweygardt is in her third year as Panther head coach, following four years as assistant coach. Lance Zweygardt is assistant coach.
Prairie City ended on a strong note last year, advancing to the second round of state playoffs.
They had an 8-10 record overall, winning six of their last 10 games.
At the close of the 2013 season, the coach said it was “working hard together” that made the team successful.
“I’d like to see us continue to improve our season finish,” she said this week.
One of her goals this year is to see a “continuation of positive communication and interaction among the girls.”
“The positive collaboration is going to be a strength,” she said.
The Panthers have been refining their fundamentals the past couple weeks of practice in preparation for their first challenge of the season: this Saturday’s Grant Union Tournament.
Games start at 8 a.m. in John Day at Grant Union and in Canyon City at the Humbolt Elementary School gym.
Other teams traveling to compete include: Dayville-Monument, Crane, Nyssa, Pilot Rock, Powder Valley, Cove, Weston-McEwen, Adrian, Jordan Valley and Heppner.
Zweygardt said her team is working hard to be ready.
“We’re going to work a lot on learning rotation and positions on the court, so when we get to the tournament they don’t have to think about it,” she said.
The seniors are looking forward to the season.
“We get along really well,” said Amy Black.
She said despite losing five seniors to graduation, the team still has some strong hitters, and all the girls are fairly consistent.
“It’s easy to be a leader with these girls – they look up to us and respond to us,” Black said. “We’re a young team, but athletic – we’ll improve.”
“Our real strength this year is going to be hitting and serving,” said Lindsey Black. “Once we get through the first games, we’ll get the jitters out.”
“I’m pretty optimistic about how far we can go this season,” said Michel Hitz.
Samantha Molt said she’s looking forward to her senior year on the volleyball court.
“Last year we did amazing, and this year I want us to be great,” she said.
She said she’s working to improve her skills to help the team as a whole.
“I hope we work as a team and a family,” she said.