JOHN DAY - Defending Wapiti League volleyball champion Grant Union may be going through a rebuilding year in 2004, under the direction of second-year head coach Sophia Morris.
Last year, the Prospectors made their second straight trip to the Class 2A state championship tournament as the Wapiti League's No. 2 seed, after losing in the district playoffs to Union.
Grant Union finished 1-2 at the state tournament, losing to Sherman County in the opening round before bouncing back with a win over Central Linn. In the third round, the Prospectors were eliminated by Willamina.
Despite graduating a number of key players off the squad, Morris said she has a number of talented performers on this year's roster and anticipates the 2004 season to be a successful one.
"Some things are going to be different on the floor this year," Morris said. "We will be playing under International rules and we will be able to have a player go in and out of the game at any time."
This is called the Libero Rule, Morris said, and it has some limitations on what the player can do.
"She will primarily be a defensive player and she can't serve, can't play front row, can't hit anything in front of the 10-foot line and will wear a different color jersey," she said. "I'm looking at using Kristal (Holliday) as the Libero Rule player. So if I use her, I'm going to have to find another setter as right now she is one of my better ones."
The Prospectors have several players with varsity experience returning, including senior Becky Landis who was voted a first-team, all-league player last year.
"Right now, Becky has an injured shoulder and she can't hit and she can't serve," Morris said. "We don't need that right now and I'm hoping her shoulder is going to get better."
Other returning players include seniors Halee Britt, Holliday and Whitney Moore.
"I'm planning on running a 5-1 with Whitney Moore because we just don't have any experienced setters right now," Morris said.
New players on the roster include senior Andrea Ashby-Andrew, who had some varsity time last year and senior Haley Hueckman, who played on the varsity in 2003 before being injured.
Other players include senior Sam Smith, junior Lindsey Duncan who also played some varsity minutes last year, and juniors Bobbie Ferguson and Larissa Silva.
"The girls have been working hard and things are beginning to shape up," Morris said. "The league is going to be strong, but I think we are going to be competitive this year. Union should have a good team once again and with Vale coming in they should be pretty good. We are going to be a totally different team than we were last year and some of the girls are going to have to step up, but I think we should do well."
Grant Union opens the season on Tuesday, Sept. 7, hosting Heppner in a non-league match. Tip-off is set for 4 p.m