Brittany Regli was impressed with the summer turnout for Emmett High volleyball open gym. When that number doubled when fall camp officially opened, the first-year Huskies head coach was blown away.
“We had some excitement building all summer but when 45 girls turned out for fall tryouts we were really surprised,” Regli said. “We have a luxury this year of fully filling rosters on all three teams and are able to generate a lot of excitement and competition in practice.”
Those practice intangibles will be a crucial component of success for the program as the year progresses. The 2018 Huskies volleyball team finished seventh in the nine-team Southern Idaho Conference last fall with a 3-15 overall record. They also graduated six seniors off the varsity.
They also, however, had some very young players contributing major minutes who will be the nucleus of this year’s team. A team which will remain young with only four seniors on the 13-player varsity roster.
Graycee Wilkerson, a sophomore, was an honorable mention All SIC selection at outside hitter as a freshman. She is one of two sophomores and two freshmen who join five juniors providing depth that Regli sees as crucial moving forward.
“Absolutely we are young, “ Regli said. “We have a lot of talent, however, and as we continue to work the growth that we are seeing and expect to continue to see will go a long ways in determining the season success. We have thirteen girls on the roster that can all play and provide great depth and each have strengths. As we work to improve on the little things together I think this team has tremendous potential. We are thin in experience in the setting game but that’s coming along.”
Among the seniors, Malena Ratcliff returns at the libero position, Brooke Roehr at outside hitter, McCall Maxfield at middle hitter and Kiley Ricker is up from junior varsity as an outside hitter.
The junior class will be contributing libero Jazzy Jenkins, and hitters Brighton Griffen, Bella Leaby, Nicole Sowle and German exchange student Pia Klaus.
Raelee Welsh, a setter, joins outside hitter Wilkerson from the sophomore class. The freshman pair of Cora Young and Tessa Farnsworth bring club experience with them.
The energy and excitement that the varsity team is showing in practice is mirrored by a strong turnout for both the junior varsity and freshman teams.
“There is no doubt a lot of energy and willingness to learn and improve when all three teams are working together,” Regli said. “The turnout and support for the program right now is awesome.”
Regli is not blind to the challenges that the Huskies will face playing in one of the strongest 4A conferences in the State. She comes to Emmett after a year as the head coach at Marsing but the five previous years she was an assistant at Kuna.
“There is no doubt that the big three will be strong again,” Regli said of Middleton, Kuna and Bishop Kelly which finished 1-2-3 a year ago. “After that, however, I think it will be very competitive.”
The nine-team league had four teams at the top last year, Vallivue registered an 8-8 campaign in the middle while four teams – Ridgevue, Emmett, Caldwell and Nampa – battled for the final three spots in the District playoffs. Emmett earned the seventh seed but fell in the consolation semis in a five-set marathon with Ridgevue.
Middleton went undefeated in conference and took third at State a year ago. Kuna placed fourth at State and was second in the SIC. Columbia surprised third-seeded Bishop Kelly with the final State spot from District III but the Knights return two All-SIC first team selections.
One format change this year will make the growth that a team is able to achieve during the season a bigger factor in the District tournament to reach State. Instead of playing a full home and home double round robin within the SIC, only a single trip through an eight game schedule will determine seeding for Districts. Emmett will play only Nampa, Vallivue and Caldwell twice, with the first meeting being a non-conference encounter. Both favorites Middleton and Bishop Kelly come to Emmett in October.
“We don’t really look at the season as a single challenge,” Regli said. “We tackle each match, each game, each practice, each serve, as a competitive point in itself. Small victories along the way eventually add up to larger victories in the long run. We are working at building an expectation of success and that starts one point at a time.”
The first point will be determined Wednesday, Aug. 28 at Nampa High with first service scheduled for the varsity about 6:30 p.m. Emmett’s first home match will be Sept. 12 when Vallivue comes to town.