What could have been a rebuilding year for the Centralia College volleyball team ended up being hampered by postseason turnover, leaving the Trailblazers in much the same place they were 12 months ago.
Despite only having one sophomore register a statistic last fall, nearly all of Centralia’s freshmen left the program after the season, leaving head coach Susan Gordon with only three players set to return for this campaign.
“This year is a little bit more, because the freshmen we had last year, I didn’t bring back,” Gordon said. “We let them go and we’re just relying on a lot of the freshmen to come in. We’ve got some really good incoming freshmen. Hopefully we can keep them for two years and they don’t transfer out.”
One big piece for the Blazers comes back in the form of Toledo alum Kate Demery. The former Riverhawk found a spot as Centralia’s starting libero in 2021, leading the team with 79 digs.
Now, Gordon has to find a whole lot new in her lineup, but at the very least she knows who’s going to lead her defense.
“She’s a very quiet leader, but she just brings calmness to the court,” Gordon said. “You always have those hyped-up people but she just brings calmness, like ‘Hey, it’s okay, keep working hard.’ And when everything’s going good, she’s still even.”
Centralia product Faith Waterfield and Tacoma native Zaria Harris are also set to return.
Beyond them, Gordon’s bringing in a large freshman class that will be expected to contribute immediately, and she’s treating them as such. Starting last Monday, her new Blazers have gotten a crash-course in the demands of the next level of volleyball, with just a week and a half now to start to figure things out.
“It’s been a little rough to start,” Gordon said. “Not a whole lot of people came into the season in shape, so it was a little rough; they were a little sore, not able to move very well. But by Thursday, Friday the soreness was starting to wear off and we were starting to move a bit better.”
In that new class, the Trailblazers added a couple of late local additions in W.F. West’s Maggie Busse and Tenino’s Malika Slassi. Gordon said that Bussee will slot in at the right pin, while her staff is still trying to figure out where they want Slassi — who did a little bit of everything for the Beavers — to focus and specialize.
The entirety of Centralia’s offense is set to be freshmen, led by setter Katelyn Hunsaker out of Buhl, Idaho. Gordon said she doesn’t expect it to click right away when the Blazers take the court against Lower Columbia on Aug. 26, but that she does think it’ll come together over time.
“I think we’re going to be a team that starts slow, just because all these girls are from all over the place,” she said. “There’s nobody who really knew anyone prior to getting here, so just getting to feel comfortable with their teammates is going to take awhile. Learning their teammates and running an offense is going to take awhile, because we don’t know anyone, we haven’t set our hitters, getting that rhythm down. I believe we’re going to be a team that starts off slow, but has a lot of potential toward the end.”