Prairie City Panther co-coach Lance Zweygardt said his main goal is helping his players master skills that will help them, not only in this year’s volleyball season, but throughout their lives.
The goal is “developing confidence and leadership skills in all the girls, especially the younger girls, through an environment of competitive sports,” he said.
Last year, Louanne Zweygardt, Lance’s wife, was head coach, and this year they’ve decided to share the responsibilities as co-coaches.
There are 16 Panther players this year, the same as last year.
Lance said they’re working on the varsity roster, and Saturday’s Prairie City Tournament should help them decide which lineups will work best for the season.
In addition to three seniors, the team includes four juniors, three sophomores and six freshmen.
“We have a lot of talented freshmen, willing and hard working and athletically talented, so the future looks good for sure,” Lance said.
The team also has returning starter junior Brianna Zweygardt who, last season, was selected for an All-State honorable mention.
Last year, she led the team stats in serving, setting, hit/tipping and blocking.
She was also recognized as Setter of the Year in the 1A High Desert League the past two seasons.
Among the seniors are returning starter Sarah Ennis and MaKenzie Jones, a returning varsity player. Taci Perrenoud, new to the team, is also a senior.
“I think we still have a lot of progress to make, but I think it’s going to be a good season, overall,” said Ennis, who is an outside hitter. “Taci is a good addition to our team. We all get along and that’s what makes it fun.”
Jones, who is a middle hitter, said she’s impressed with the incoming freshmen.
“They’re a really good addition to the team,” she said. “I think that once we have more practice, we’re going to do really well. We work really well together with no drama. That’s really helpful for our dynamic as a team.”
Perrenoud is a libero, or defensive specialist, for the team.
Her family moved to Prairie City this summer from Wyoming. She said she’s looking forward to getting to know the state and plans to attend college in Oregon.
She played volleyball in middle school, and was more recently involved with track and cheerleading.
“I enjoy the way we learn together and the way we pick each other up,” she said. “I’m excited for the volleyball season because I think we’ll do really good.”
In the 1A High Desert League this year, the Panthers will face Monument/Dayville, Adrian, Jordan Valley, Crane, Burnt River and Harper/Huntington, Long Creek and Ukiah.
Crane and Adrian are usually their toughest opponents, the co-coaches said.
Crane finished sixth in the state tournament last year, after winning the district tournament. Adrian placed second, and Jordan Valley third at districts.
The Panthers hope the season ends on a better note, but the main thing, Lance said, is they give it their all.
“We’re in a position to be very competitive in league,” Lance said. “If they know they put it all out there on the floor, and continually try to improve throughout the season, then they should be proud of wherever they end up, as far as league standings.”
Teams invited to Saturday’s Prairie City Tournament include: Joseph, Harper/Huntington, Jordan Valley, Adrian, Union and Cove. Games start at 8:30 a.m. and junior varsity teams will play in the old gym.
Sept. 1: V @ Spray/Mitchell in Mitchell, 5 p.m.
Sept 3: Prairie City Tournament, 8:30 a.m.
Sept. 7: JV/V @ Grant Union, 5 p.m./6 p.m.
Sept. 9: JV/V @ Pine Eagle in Halfway, 2 p.m./3 p.m.
Sept. 17: Interleague Jamboree in North Powder, TBA
Sept. 20: JV/V vs. Burns, 4 p.m./5 p.m.
Sept. 21: JV/V vs. Grant Union, 5 p.m./6 p.m.
Sept. 23: JV/V vs. Monument/Dayville, 2 p.m./3 p.m.
Sept. 24: V @ Crane Tournament, TBA
Sept. 28: V @ Burnt River in Unity, 4:30 p.m.
Sept. 30: JV/V @ Jordan Valley, 2 p.m./3 p.m.
Oct. 7: JV/V vs. Crane (homecoming), 2 p.m./5 p.m.
Oct. 13: JV/V vs. Adrian in Unity, 3 p.m./4 p.m.
Oct. 15: JV/V @ Harper/Huntington in Harper, 12 p.m./1 p.m.
Oct. 22: High Desert District Tournament, TBA
Head coaches: Lance and Louanne Zweygardt
(All times are Pacific Standard Time.)