In the middle, the Oregon volleyball team will have its deepest blocking pool ever under coach Jenn Grulke.
Oregon is returning eight players from last year’s squad that went 13-21, finished sixth in the eight-team Badger West Conference and qualified for a Division 1 regional championship in the WIAA. Oregon lost to Burlington in straight sets in the regional championship game.
The Panthers will be led by senior outside hitters Coco Barnett and Maggie Templeton, both of whom were all-conference honorable mention last season. Templeton led the Badger West in solo blocks last year with 62. She broke Oregon’s single-season blocks record with 83 and finished fourth in the conference.
One of the Panthers’ strengths will be blocking at the net.
“We have four big blockers who should challenge opposing hitters on every swing; the defense behind this block is fast and serious,” Grulke said. “We’re also a very versatile group with hitters able to attack from anywhere along the net; we are excited to run a quick attack.
Grulke said Templeton offers big block and fast offense.
Barnett recorded 147 kills and finished seventh in conference blocks last year and is attracting recruiting interest from Division I colleges.
“She’s huge at blocking and has continued to improve her offense,” Grulke said of Barnett. “She’s a court leader.”
Other winners for the Panthers are senior setter Hannah Council, senior outside hitter Sara Janecek, senior outside hitter/defensive specialist Maggie Ast, senior defensive specialist/libero Ava Gerlach Schwarz, second-year defensive specialist/libero Gretta Schriever and second-year middle tackle Sophie Tsai.
“Our seniors are going to step up and make big plays. They have been in difficult situations before and know how to react,” Grulke said. “I think our outside (hitters) will have a bigger presence this year. With our ability to execute a quick attack and the strength of our midfielders and opponents, we expect more outside attacks to open up as we hold the midfield.
Council, which finished eighth in the conference in assists (310), 3.9 per set last season, also had 119 digs and 28 aces.
Grulke said the Council is a great leader who commands the court.
“She’s got a good float serve that works well on the court,” Grulke said of Council.
Janecek had 155 digs and 133 kills last year.
Grulke said Janecek had a heavy outside swing and solid serve.
The Panthers will rely on Ast, Schwarz and Schriever for backline defense this year. Ast had 128 digs and Schwarz 107 digs last season. Schriever was called up to the varsity by the junior varsity team last season. She played in 22 sets and had 43 digs and 19 aces.
Three other newcomers who will contribute at center blocker and hitter are junior McKenna Carroll, junior Maya Rudy and senior Spanish exchange student Naya Perez de Benito.
“She played a lot of volleyball in Madrid and brings great intensity to the pitch,” Grulke said of Perez de Benito. “She’s a great competitor.”
Madison Edgewood and Sauk Prairie tied for the Badger West title last year.
“There is no one in our schedule that we can ignore. Each opponent presents their own unique challenges and it will be up to us to tackle the task at hand,” Grulke said.
Sat 27 August
Oregon at Invitational, 9 a.m., Belleville High School
Tuesday August 30
Oregon at Sauk Prairie, 7 p.m., Sauk Prairie High School
Thursday 1st Sept.
Oregon at Milton, 7 p.m., Milton High School
Thursday, September 8
Oregon vs. Reedsburg, 7 p.m., Oregon High School
Sat 10 Sep
Oregon at Invitational, 8:30 a.m., Middleton High School
Tuesday September 13
Oregon at Portage, 7 p.m., Portage High School
Thursday 15 Sept.
Oregon vs. Baraboo, 7:15 p.m., Oregon High School
Thursday September 22
Oregon vs. Mount Horeb, 7 p.m., Oregon High School
Sat 24 Sep
Oregon at Invitational, 9 a.m., Monona Grove High School
Thursday September 29
Oregon at Monroe, 7 p.m., Monroe High School
Sat 1 Oct
Oregon at Invitational, 9 a.m., Reedsburg High School
Tuesday, Oct. 4
Oregon vs. Watertown, 7 p.m., Oregon High School
Thursday 6 Oct.
Oregon vs. Edgewood, 7 p.m., Oregon High School
Sat 8 Oct
Oregon Conference Tournament at Badger West, 8:00 a.m., Mount Horeb High School