There are a lot of new faces on this year’s Emmett High volleyball team. That includes a new varsity head coach.
Jordan Dickeson comes to Emmett from Vallivue where she was an assistant last year so she has at least some idea of Emmett volleyball assets. But she is also very aware of some of the height and hitting power that has departed from the last few seasons.
All Conference hitter Graycee Wilkerson graduated and center hitter and blocker Cora Young has moved out of the District for her senior season. Each had been members of the Huskie varsity since their freshman seasons.
There is no replacement for that height and experience coming back but Dickeson says she likes the enthusiasm and the “scrappiness” of this team.
The U of I graduate knows that in high school sports a solid defense can often overcome a talented offense — particularly in volleyball where long rallies can lead to offensive errors and points.
“We will need to be on every ball,” Dickeson said. “It’ll take a lot of grit and I think these girls have that. Solid defense and consistent serving will have to be where we shine.”
Essentially five out of six starters are gone from a team that just missed advancing to the State tournament after finishing in the top half of the Southern Idaho Conference in the regular season.
Returning is senior libero Tessa Farnsworth who has been part of the varsity team since her freshman year. As the libero she rarely leaves the court as she roams for defensive returns. Farnsworth is also one of the Huskies top returning servers.
Junior Gracie Hemphill saw a lot of action as an outside hitter and defensive specialist last year as a sophomore. While she gives up about six inches of height from her predecessor at the outside position, she is tremendously skilled and wily at the net.
Gracie’s sister Shelbie saw quite a bit of action last year as a freshman and will be a centerpiece of the offense now as a sophomore setter. Senior Hailee Allen will also provide depth at that position.
Seniors who will be seeing a lot more action this year and counted on to provide some of the offensive spark and power are Sierra Carr, Emmy Webb and Karissa Carter.
Kellann Steppe saw plenty of playing time as a varsity blocker a year ago and is expected to provide a front row presence again this year as a junior.
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The balance of the varsity roster will be filled primarily by juniors and seniors coming up from the 2021 JV team. Also joining the varsity squad will be an exchange student from Slovakia that Dickeson says has considerable playing experience in her homeland and will bring some added athleticism to an already pretty athletic bunch.
Two of the top four teams in the SIC in 2021 are no longer part of the 4A division this year. Nampa and Middleton were bumped up to 5A virtue of increased enrollment. That doesn’t mean the road to State will be easier, this year, however.
While the Bulldogs and Vikings moved up, former 5A power Skyview of Nampa has moved back down. The Hawks have put together an elite volleyball program with numerous players already signed to play at Division 1 programs in college.
“They are in a class of their own,” says Dickeson. “Skyview is definitely hands down the league and State favorites at the 4A level going in.”
The Hawks have won the last two 5A state titles without losing a set and return several all-state players, though graduated Idaho Gatorade Player of the Year Eden Bower.
So aside from Skyview, which will participate in four national or regional tournaments outside Idaho this fall, Dickeson sees Columbia as another big challenge.
“Columbia has a lot of talent back and they won district last year,” Dickeson recalls. “After those two I think the other teams all lost a lot of seniors.”
That includes perennial power Bishop Kelly which has a handful of State title trophies in hand but failed to make the field last year. Vallivue beat Emmett twice in the District tournament last year to deny the Huskies a State ticket.
Ridgevue, Caldwell and Emmett should be very competitive and whomever progresses most in achieving team chemistry could emerge as a dark horse come tournament time in October.
There was a tremendous turnout for EHS volleyball this summer so the Huskies will field three very full teams. New coaches also will hold down the leadership at each of the younger levels. Sarah McCann will be calling timeouts and rotation changes for the Junior Varsity and Emmett grad Jessica Lyter will handle those duties for the Freshmen.
GAME CHANGE NOTE: The Emmett vs. Ridgevue volleyball game scheduled for Aug. 30 in Emmett has been moved to Ridgevue in Nampa. New bleachers for the EHS gymnasium scheduled to arrive in July have not been delivered yet so the teams will likely swap home and home dates.