Gold diggers -- BHS volleyball preview

BHS volleyball team captain Kristina Purdom spikes one at practice this week.  - ROGERICK ANAS/Staff Photo
BHS volleyball team captain Kristina Purdom spikes one at practice this week.
— image credit: ROGERICK ANAS/Staff Photo

Varsity volleyball coach Julie Miller stands on a wooden box with a smile on her face.

Looming over the net, she slams volleyballs down onto her 2002 squad, in one of the many drills that make up the team’s daily practice.

One after another, there is a dig-set-slam progression that continues with an impressive success rate. Yet a few misguided balls here and there reflect some of the cobwebs that accumulate over summer break.

Perhaps it is the fulfillment of a dream – like taking batting practice all day – that lifts Miller’s cheeks to a grin.

More likely, it is her confidence in her team.

“I want to go to State this year,” said Miller, now in her sixth year as coach of the Spartans. “I think we can do that.”

After cleaning up within their division last fall – the team missed the state tournament by a single match – the Spartans were moved into a much tougher grouping for 2002.

The new Metro League division will pit them against such powerhouse teams as state champions Seattle Prep – whom they play at home on Oct. 9 – and Bishop Blanchet, a home match on Oct. 23.

“We’re the only public school in our division this year,” Miller said, “and the other schools have a big advantage.”

Local talent

That advantage, Miller said, is the pool of talent from which the private schools in the division can draw.

Most of the Catholic schools have active feeder programs in their primary schools that churn out experienced players, while other schools have active recruiting efforts that draw from as far away as Bellingham.

By contrast, the Spartans will rely almost solely on home-grown island talent.

The core of this year’s group comprises five returning players: captain and three-year veteran Kristina Purdom and sophomore Michelle Miller covering the outside; seniors Laura Bartunek and Ashley Bice filling the middle and setter positions respectively; and junior Allison Theis as the do-all “utility” player.

New to the team are sophomores Sara Braun (right side hitter) and Samantha Nelson (back row specialist), and senior Valerie Veatch – a transfer student and the one exception to the homegrown trend – playing middle.

Purdom, described by her coach as a “fiery personality and a great competitor,” is optimistic about this year’s team.

“Our biggest challenge will definitely be learning to work as a team,” she said, “but we all get along really well.”

Added Bartunek: “It’s really important for us to trust each other. When you go to the net and call something, your teammates have to trust what you’re saying and react.”

Michelle Miller, who joined the varsity squad as a freshman last year, said, “We’re more quiet than last year’s team for sure, but I think we’re just more focused.”

Some of that focus may be attributed to a summer’s training camp held at the high school, in which all of the team participated.

Unique to the camp was the inclusion of a team from Brazil, which brought a new perspective to the American version of the game.

“The Brazilians are very relaxed and they have a lot of fun with (the game),” coach Miller said. “It’s not so structured, where you have to do this and you have to do that. They’ve all been doing it since they were very little, so they know it very well.”

Most of the players are confident the team can place in the top three of the demanding conference.

Miller is keeping her eyes fixed on an appearance at State.

“I think (that) the group I have (is) very athletic and very competitive,” she said. “We have a great possibility to do that.”

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