Five seniors are leading the Prairie City pack of 13 volleyball players, ready to attack the season.
Head coach Jordan Bass, in her second year leading the team, said she has high expectations for this year’s group.
“Their passion is getting stronger over the years,” she said at their Aug. 28 practice. “They love being here and playing volleyball together.”
Last season’s starters have all returned, including seniors Rilee Emmel, Emily Ennis and Hailee Wall and juniors Katie Hire, Samantha Workman and Abbey Pfefferkorn.
Assistant coaches are Lance and Louanne Zweygardt.
Although the Panthers didn’t make it to the state playoffs last season, they left an indelible mark at the 1A-8 High Desert District Tournament.
Hire had 11 aces during the tournament with 90 percent serving and 20 kills; Ennis had 92 percent serving, 18 kills and 84 percent hitting; and Emmel had 91 percent serving and 18 kills.
Prairie City will face Jordan Valley, Adrian, Crane, Dayville/Monument, Huntington, Harper, Ukiah/Long Creek and Burnt River in the district.
Jordan Valley won the Oct. 20 district tournament with Adrian in second and Crane third — all advanced to state.
“We definitely know who’s been strong in the past, so we’ll expect it and be ready for anyone,” Bass said. “We’re going to take each one as they come. You never know who they’ve got and what they’re going to bring for competition.”
Bass said setters Ennis and Hire have been working hard in the off season, including working out during the winter.
“This is their second year working together,” Bass said. “Offensively, they’re both going to be really strong this year.”
Ennis, who is also an outside hitter, said she’s excited for the season because the team has a close bond.
“We all seem to be very driven this year,” she said.
Wall, a middle hitter/blocker, said the team is like a family and she’s looking forward to a successful end to her high school volleyball career.
“I hope to make it to a state playoff game this season,” she said.
Emmel, an outside hitter, said, “I have high expectations this year already because these past two weeks have been the best compared to the end of previous seasons.”
Seniors Aleah Johns, an outside hitter, and Shaine Madden, libero (defensive specialist), both said they see great potential in their team.
“They all want to succeed,” Johns said.
Madden, who is recovering from a knee injury, said she’s excited to be back with her teammates.
“I hope to bring intensity and strong leadership to the team,” she said.
Bass said the overall theme for the team has been skills, communication and hustle.
“Communication is something we’ve struggled with, and we’re preaching it early this year,” she said. “We’re striving for intentional communication.”
She said most of the team made it to summer volleyball camp in Ellensburg, Washington, at Central Washington University, including all four freshmen. Bass attended CWU and played on the volleyball team there while attending.
Bass said the camp was an opportunity to get the team together early and bond.
“They get lots of reps and get to see some strong competition,” she said.
She said they’re getting geared up for the tournaments, and a district championship title is their goal.
“They’re talking about making it to state this year — that is their goal,” she said.
With the team’s positive attitudes and willingness to learn and strive to improve, Bass said she has a positive outlook on the season.
“They’re going to be one to watch out for, so come and see them,” she said.
The Panthers will play in the Saturday, Aug. 31, Grant Union Tournament, starting at 9 a.m., which will be held at the Prairie City gym due to floor work at Grant Union in John Day.
Prairie City hosts a tournament at 8:30 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 7.
Prairie City volleyball schedule
Aug. 31: @ TBD (Grant Union Tournament in John Day), 9 a.m.
Sept. 6: @ Mitchell/Spray in Spray, 4:30 p.m.
Sept. 7: vs. North Lake at Prairie City Tournament, 8:30 a.m.
Sept. 13: vs. Sherman, 5 p.m.
Sept. 14: vs. Trinity Lutheran, TBD
Sept. 14: vs. Pine Eagle, noon
Sept. 17: vs. Grant Union, 5:30 p.m.
Sept. 20: @ Harper, noon (MT)
Sept. 21: @ Sherman in Bend, 1:30 p.m.
Sept. 27: vs. Huntington, 5 p.m.
Sept. 28: @ Adrian, noon (MT)
Oct. 4: vs. Paisley, 5 p.m.
Oct. 5: vs. Jordan Valley, 1 p.m.
Oct. 12: @ Crane in Unity, 1:30 p.m.
Oct. 12: @ Burnt River in Unity, 3 p.m.
Oct. 18: vs. Dayville/Monument, 5 p.m. (homecoming/senior night)
Oct. 26: @ High Desert League Tournament, 9 a.m.
Oct. 30: First round state playoffs, TBA
Nov. 2: Second round state playoffs, TBA
Nov. 8-9: State Championship Tournament, Redmond