Volleyball season brings fresh faces, lofty expectations

Lady Eagle Megan Shultz (19) stretches to block a spike during a game last year. A junior setter this season, she is expected to make significant contributions on the court.  - File photo 2008
Lady Eagle Megan Shultz (19) stretches to block a spike during a game last year. A junior setter this season, she is expected to make significant contributions on the court.
— image credit: File photo 2008

Klahowya welcomes coach Dragan Karadzic; CK eyes trip to postseason.

As summer slips into fall, volleyball nets are going up around the greater Silverdale area. While Klahowya, Central Kitsap and Olympic have each had varying degrees of success over the past few years, all three schools are optimistic as the 2009 season tips off.

The Lady Eagles have a new coach in Dragan Karadzic and CK brings back longtime coach Gordy Bushaw, who looks to guide the Lady Cougars back to the playoffs.

This week, the Central Kitsap Reporter explores the possibilities in 2009 for both Klahowya and Central Kitsap. A season preview of Olympic will appear in the Sept. 18 edition.

Klahowya: First-year coach brings new set

of standards

The Lady Eagles have nowhere to go but up.

Coming off a 2008 season in which it went winless, the team has a new coach and a nucleus of players who appear ready to turn things around.

The head man is Dragan Karadzic, a former assistant at the University of Illinois in Chicago who has coached at the high school level for the past 20 years. Karadzic, who moved to Washington with his wife five years ago, helped Eastside Catholic to a second-place finish in the Class 3A state volleyball tournament as an assistant in 2008.

He’s ready to bring that success to Seabeck.

“We are hoping to raise the low level of expectations that appear to have existed in the program,” said Karadzic, who also coaches at the club level for the Olympic Premier Volleyball Club and holds several administrative positions with the Puget Sound Region, the local governing arm of USA Volleyball. “We have been preaching about creating a ‘gym culture’ — being as efficient and effective in everything we do … I know that if you set high expectations, young players have an inherent desire to achieve them and progress is made.

While the first-year coach has a steep hill to climb, he is confident progress can be made and is already seeing growing enthusiasm amongst a group of players who have yet to experience a winning tradition.

Karadzic called KSS a “young team” — it has three seniors — but believes the players are hungry to learn and improve. The remainder of the 10-player roster is comprised entirely of juniors.

“Right now our biggest strength is the enthusiasm that is evident in the gym,” Karadzic said. “There is a healthy desire evident amongst the players to come to the gym and improve.”

With losses come distractions — and perhaps a lack of focus — so Karadzic has spent much of the preseason emphasizing to the players that the onus in on them to create change. He said the coaching staff uses neither fear nor punishment to enforce the rules, so it’s up to the players to show up, work hard and stay disciplined, something that’s been a work in progress.

“It will take a little while for all of our players to grasp how important it is that they themselves are responsible for setting the bar high and working toward it,” Karadzic said. “Our goal is to empower the players to, as Gandhi said, ‘Be the change that you want to see in this world.’”

Karadzic expects Samantha Ellis, a senior outside hitter, and Megan Shultz, a junior setter, to make significant contributions on the court.

Filling out the roster are seniors Samantha Martin and Keira Parker and juniors Holly Crowe, Janica Durbin, Alyson Ormerod, Emily Pruiett, Sabrina Schultz and Meagan Spiegel.

“I have stated more than once that I hope Klahowya will be my last coaching job — and that I will spend many years here,” Karadzic said. “I am committed to creating a healthy program at the school and am confident we will be able to achieve that goal.”

Central Kitsap: Is the state tournament

within reach?

Coach Gordy Bushaw welcomes almost an entirely new set of faces. Yet the veteran coach is as optimistic as ever, saying a berth to the postseason — even state — is possible if the team comes together.

“It’s really looking pretty good,” said Bushaw, who enters his 28th season. “I think everyone can play, so we’ll have plenty of options.”

CK’s top returners are juniors Asha Hill, who moves from middle hitter to outside hitter, and Alexis Wesley, a 6-foot middle blocker who Bushaw said is a stronger player than she was last year.

Other than Hill and Wesley, however, the Lady Cougars have little varsity experience. It will be up to players such as seniors Cailey Washington and Aubrie Olaes to pitch and help Hill and Wesley.

“She’s like a completely different player than she was last year,” Bushaw said of Washington, a 6-foot outside hitter who should vie for a starting position. “She is motivated and has really stepped it up.”

Newcomer Tricia Vantino, a sophomore, could start at setter, which would “be the first time in a long time” a sophomore has started at setter for CK.

Bushaw said he also expects big things from libero Naomi Stocks, who moved from junior varsity to varsity midway through last season, and Dakota Cavinaugh, a 5-foot-8-inch outside hitter who is solid up front.

“We’re absolutely talking about making the playoffs,” Bushaw said. “We’re talking about getting better everyday. We think this team has a good chance to make it to state.”

To do that, Bushaw said, the squad also will look to Trinity Pech, Michelle Schaeffer, Kiana Huston, Alexandra Perrault and Brianna Brennan, all of whom should see at least some playing time.

Bushaw predicted traditional powers Gig Harbor and Olympia will remain near the top of the Narrows League, although he said CK has a chance to hang with both.

“I think we’re going to be able to give those teams a run,” Bushaw said.

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