By Ray Hamill — With just five players returning from last year, and a group of six sophomores on the roster, the Eureka High volleyball squad will have a young look to it in 2018.
Despite that, however, head coach Rachel Evans has set some lofty goals for the Loggers and believes her players are up to the challenge.
“We sat down with the players and made a list of our goals for the season, and one of them was to make it to state,” Evans said. “We’re aiming for the moon, but the players are getting better. It’s showing every day.”
Key to achieving that goal will be the five returning players, including seniors Makaila Napoleon, Peyton Suchanek and Paige Lyons.
“They’re very athletic,” Evans said of the senior trio. “And they are perfectionists, especially Peyton and Paige, always wanting to excel and make themselves better.”
Napoleon, a talented all-around athlete, will play middle blocker and has developed her game from last year.
“She’s looking super strong,” Evans said. “Her hits just seem to get harder every year.”
But the head coach will be looking to the seniors for more than just their athletic ability this season, especially with a such a young roster.
“I spoke to them last week about how they need to set the tone for the rest of the team and set an example,” Evans said.
Mopping up the floor
Also returning from last season’s 19-13 team, which lost to Drake in the first round of the North Coast Section playoffs, are a pair of juniors, Malia Guilbert and Bailey Giovanoli.
Guilbert is a back-up setter to Lyons but has has been pushing the senior in the preseason.
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“I think we’re going to see more of her at the setter position,” Evans said. “She’s definitely been improving on her hitting as well, and she has beautiful hands as far as setters go.”
Giovanoli, meanwhile, broke her wrist early last year and missed much of the season, but the starting libero is back and seemingly eager to make up for any lost time.
“We definitely had a void without her,” Evans said. “But she’s back and ready to play, and she’s mopping up the floor.”
Of the six sophomores, big things are expected from outside hitter Keala Menz and middle hitter Sadie Hampton.
“She’s super strong,” Evans said of Hampton. “She’s still young, but she’s gaining knowledge and accuracy with the ball.”
Overall, the fourth-year head coach likes the cohesion she’s seeing from her squad.
“We’re fairly new as a team, but everybody seems very supportive of one another and they seem to get along with one another,” the coach said. “And I want a team that can support their teammates.”
Also joining the team this year is Brazilian exchange student Maria “Mavi” Victoria, as well as sophomores Cambelle Suchanek, Madison Broese, Bella Vigil and Alley Williams.
The Loggers got the season off to an impressive start with a 3-0 win at St. Bernard’s on Tuesday, and will host Yreka on Sept. 6.
In 2017, Eureka finished 5-3 in the Big 5, tying Arcata for second, three games behind undefeated champions Del Norte.
“I feel that last year we were pretty close,” Evans said. “This year we’re hoping to take first. That’s another one of our goals.”