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Trojans setting sights high
With most of the team back, Oly has high aspirations.
If the early season is any indication, this could be a banner year for the Olympic High School volleyball program.
But if you ask coach Keith Peden, he was thinking that even before the season began.
“We had a good offseason,” Peden said. “We had a lot of participants in summer and spring practices.”
But even more encouraging was the shear number of players turning out, with 38 girls trying out for two teams, a number Peden said might just be the most the program’s ever seen.
“We’re excited about that,” Peden said. “I think there’s some excitement in the air.”
Throw in the fact that Olympic, which didn’t have a senior on its varsity roster last year, returns all but junior Sammy Viray, who left the team to focus on basketball, and things are looking up for Olympic.
“We have pretty much everyone else back,” Peden said. “It’s a feeling of familiarity. A lot of teams, kids are still trying to feel it out. We already have that.”
And it’s paying off.
Olympic improved to 4-2 overall and 3-0 in Olympic League action Thursday with a 3-0 (25-8, 25-10, 25-19) sweep at Port Angeles. Senior outside hitter Megan Rainey led the way with 15 kills and five aces.
“We have a couple good hitters,” Peden said, including players like Erynn Geno in the mix. “That’s definitely gonna be big for us. But I still think, like all Oly teams for all time, defense is gonna be the key for us.”
Lexi Orteza, Serah Peterson, Ashley Pujimula, Cayla Lawson, Terrin Day, Jessica Castro, Amy Stone, Chelsea Brustad and Sam Thorton are all varsity returners.
“The key returners are the returners,” Peden laughed.
But that doesn’t mean a couple new faces won’t get into the mix, including players like Kira Varady.
“She’s doing a really good job,” Peden said. “She’s not intimidated. She’s gonna be a very good player.”
But with so many returners gaining so much last year, Peden said continued improvement will be key, especially when it comes to players like setter Stone.
“We have two young and improving setters,” he said. “They’re just evolving in front of my eyes every day.”
Players like Peterson give Oly some much needed depth too.
“We have some good flexibility for the first time ever,” Peden said. “She’s kind of taken on that role of the Willie Bloomquist-type utility player.”
Oly saw good things come of an early season win against North Kitsap, expected to be the Trojans top 3A competition this season.
“North Kitsap, we played them and it was a a tough match,” Peden said. “We were happy to get out of there with a win.”
With North Mason expected to pace the 2As in the Olympic League, Peden said don’t count Oly out for overall contention.
“We’re looking at (North Mason) saying, ‘It’s not your cake yet,’” Peden said. “They’re gonna have to beat us if they want it.”
Olympic traveled to the Kentlake Tournament last week, where they battled 4A No. 3-ranked Monroe and 3A No. 8-ranked Mercer Island. Oly lost a tough bout with Monroe, keeping it close, and earned a split with Mercer Island.
More efforts like those will be needed for Oly to achieve its goals.
“It’s really, really important we win that 3A (league) championship,” Peden said. “That’s one of our greatest goals. That’d give us a lot better seeding than we’ve had in the past.”
Part of that opportunity stems from a new subdistrict tournament this year which will pit the top three teams from the 3A Olympic League against the top three from the Western Cascade Conference. The leagues’ champions will play for the top two seeds to districts, which each league’s No. 2 and No. 3 teams will face off.
Districts is even more exciting this year, as the Kitsap Fairgrounds Pavilion will play host to the West Central District 4A/3A/2A Volleyball Tournament, a feat Peden said could be the biggest prep tournament held in Kitsap.
“We want to really make this a good event,” he said, adding they anticipate 38 teams, 650 players and between 2,000 and 4,000 spectators for the event. “We’re really excited.”
Peden, who’s organizing the event, said they are still seeking sponsors for the tournament. Those interested can contact Peden at Olympic High School at (360) 662-2700.
Peden said the fans have been showing up like crazy so far.
“We’ve had just tremendous fan support,” he said. “Go to our games and you’ll think you’re at a football game.”
He expects the house to be rocking even more when North Kitsap comes to town for a rematch on Oct. 16, which Peden said is Pack the House Night. He said all alumni are invited back and are encouraged to attend.
Oly is hosting the Kitsap JV Classic at the Pavilion at the Kitsap County Fairgrounds today.