SPORTS PREVIEW | Spartans begin volleyball season with a sideline switch

Kyra Easley elevates to hit the ball past fellow Spartans Emilia Dronkert and Adrienne Fountain at volleyball practice this week.  - Brian Kelly | Bainbridge Island Review
Kyra Easley elevates to hit the ball past fellow Spartans Emilia Dronkert and Adrienne Fountain at volleyball practice this week.
— image credit: Brian Kelly | Bainbridge Island Review

Bainbridge Coach Julie Miller will have a bit of a family reunion when her volleyball team opens the season Friday evening.

The Spartans are set to play the Central Kitsap home, and in front of the other bench, they’ll see the Cougars’ new first-year coach.

A familiar face, for sure: Michelle Miller — Julie Miller’s daughter and a former assistant coach for Bainbridge.

Spartan Coach Miller said her team was up for the challenge that Central Kitsap, a 4A school, will pose.

“It should be fun. They are always really good,” Miller said. “For us, it’s kind of a good barometer to see how we are, because they always compete really well.”

As far as the mother-daughter match-up, Miller said no bets or wagers have been made.

“It’s just really fun to see her come into her own. I know I’ve learned a lot from her,” Miller said of her daughter, a former All-State player who played volleyball for the Spartans all four years before graduating in 2005.

“It will be fun to see what kind of happens.

“We’ll both be happy with each other, no matter what. I think,” Miller added with a laugh.

The Spartans themselves are reuniting this year with a fewer familiar faces on the varsity squad. The team lost nearly a half dozen seniors to graduation. Miller lost of her both setters, and both of her middle blockers.

This year there are just four seniors on the squad.

Lauren Sheehan and Emma Burgess were starters on last year’s team, while Kyra Easley saw quite a bit of playing time in the back row during the last season.

Hannah Wagner is a junior and returning starter.

“We really only have three starters returning that actually played a lot,” Miller said.

“We’re pretty inexperienced, so it’s kind of getting everybody up to that varsity speed. Kids don’t realize how fast it is in the Metro League. It’s way different.”

Despite the team’s relative youth — five juniors and three sophomores fill out the roster — the team does have its strengths.

“I think camaraderie is big for these guys,” Miller said. “We’ve got good leaders.

Our outside hitting is strong. Our libero is really good.”

Last’s year team had the state tournament as a goal, and went to the playoffs before finishing with a 13-7-0 record.

The team has been working on blocking, passing and making improvements on reading where the ball will go so the Spartans can put up a solid block.

“We need to learn to do things the right way first, and then worry about all that other stuff later,” Miller said.

A younger team has meant a few adjustments for Miller on the coaching end of things.

“Each team is so different, personality wise. Philosophy wise, I try to let it be the kids’ thing,” Miller explained. “And I’m there to kind of facilitate. I’m trying to make them successful in what they do, but each team has such a different personality that you just kind of have to feel it out.”

Miller expects the Spartans to be competitive in every match, and that they give themselves a chance to win.

“I want them to improve their skills, improve themselves as a teammate, make sure that they work really hard in every game and give it their all,” she said. “And that’s pretty much all you can do. If the other team is better than you, they are better than you. There’s not much you can do.”

Bainbridge begins Metro League play on Friday, Sept. 20 at Ingraham High.

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