Cougars a team in transition

This isn’t the Cougar volleyball team Central Kitsap fans are used to. But according to coach Gordy Bushaw, it could become that team very quickly.

With the Central Kitsap volleyball team’s first state trophy coming just two seasons ago, it comes as some surprise to see the Cougars struggling through the early portion of the 2008 season, compiling a 3-7 overall record (1-1 in Narrows League play) following a 3-0 (25-12, 30-28, 25-16) win against Shelton on Thursday.

But Bushaw’s not too worried.

“We played well (Tuesday) night (against Bellarmine Prep), but we’ve been a little bit rocky,” Bushaw said. “We’ve got some pretty talented kids. I knew our team would be as good as our passing and defense.”

As the season has progressed, the team has improved on its passing and defense dramatically, a trend Bushaw expects will continue. But he said he also expects a few growing pains along the way.

“It’s a lot of new kids,” he said. “We have three sophomores playing a lot. They’re doing well, but there’s a little break-in period.”

CK graduated six players from last year’s team including one of the state’s best in libero Reese Dever. Also gone are Angela Spieker, the school’s assist record holder, as well as Lauren Forney, Katrina Hill, Katie Lintz and Nolan Winger.

But with a bevy of new faces replacing them, including sophomores like Asha Hill (Katrina’s little sister), Alexis Wesley, Bria Hanson, Hayley Setting and Jesse Lynch, Bushaw is optimistic.

Perhaps most key are liberos Jordan Crowster and Naomi Stocks.

“We don’t expect these kids to be Reese,” Bushaw said. “What we’re looking for is improvement. It’s big reason our start has been a little slow, but it’ll pick up.”

Racheal Diehl is one of the biggest key returns, leading the team with 11 kills in the win against the Highclimbers. Natalie Pfaff is another returner Bushaw said will need to continue to play at a high level.

“She played quite a bit last year, so she has some experience,” he said. “She’s playing well. She had a great match (against Bellarmine) in every respect.”

Even players like Hill, who stands just 5-feet-7-inches, are looking strong early. Hill plays in the middle.

“She’s not at that height, but we really like her in the middle,” Bushaw said. “She’s a good all-around player.”

The Narrows League will be tough again, but Bushaw said his team should stay competitive.

“My guess is it’s going to be Bellarmine or Olympia this year,” he said. “Also, Stadium and Wilson are also supposed to be really strong.”

Against Bellarmine, CK fell 3-2 (25-21, 25-23, 21-25, 20-25, 15-13).

“We were in a position to win it,” Bushaw said. “We just didn’t make plays at the end.

“I think what happened to us in most every game we’ve lost is we’ve given up a big rotation,” he continued. “I think we will be a better team immediately when we start cutting out errors and cutting big runs down to three or four points.”

With a lot of new faces, Bushaw said the team will be even stronger in the future.

“This is a good sophomore class,” he said, also pointing to a strong junior high class. “And we’ve got a very good JV team too.”

But that doesn’t mean he’s writing off this group.

“I think we are gonna be pretty good,” he said. “If we play like we did (Wednesday) for a while, then we’ll be pretty good.”

CK hosts Sequim Monday at 6:30 p.m. in a non-league match.

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