FAIRBANKS-They're almost a mirror image of the UAF volleyball team. A tall and talented team infused with experienced returners, young capable players and some major transfers.
The West Valley Wolfpack graduated one senior from last year. Coming into the program are sophomore Stella Knox and junior Audrey Freeman, who are lower 48 transfers with club exprience. Deenaalee Hodgden comes back to West Valley for her senior campaign after winning a 3A state title with Mt. Edgecumbe. Hodgden played for the Wolfpack her freshman and sophomore year.
So what did the returners think at the first practice?
Well the first thing that went through my head was competition," junio outside hitter Nora Troppman said. "We have new recruits from out of state so I definitely knew that I needed to raise my game in order to make varsity this year. I'm glad to have the team, have the recruits to make the team because we have a great team this year."
Team captain Samantha Crawford agrees that competition is intense but she says its making the team better.
"I've always been one of the tallest but now coming on to this team with a bunch of other tall girls is kind of more competition but we all bring each other up. Its really good," Crawford said.
"We're not really competing to where as we have to fight against each other but competing to help each other make each other better. I think it will makes even better on court, come together as a team even better, kind of like family yeah., Crawford said.
Arguably the biggest edition is long-limbed 6'2" Ruthie Hebard who transferred in from conference rival Lathrop.
"It's good. They accepted me which is kind of-it's nice. We're all friends. We already had sleepovers and team bondings and I love them." Hebard says, "I never had a team that was that big before. Its a lot nicer, [having] other hitters that can hit with me and we can do special plays that look cool. We all different positions still sometimes. Some can play back row, some can only play front row so, its fun."
Head coach Dave Cox in his third year, believes this is the most talented West Valley team he's had and believes they can be contenders for a state title.
"We running stuff that normally we would be running say mid-season so we are very strong. We have a lot of height. We have a lot of hitters so we're going to be pretty tough," Cox said.
Cox went on to talk about how he is making sure this almost all-star of volleyball has defines roles.
"I've already told all of them I could put anybody in all the way around and not play. I also kept a larger team this year so it is tough. So the girls have to know the importance of their role on the team."
West Valley starts their season against Eielson.