The Emmett volleyball team caught fire late last season, and nearly found itself in an unlike State tournament position. Close but no go. That experience may be what gets the Huskie spikers over the hump and into one of the eight coveted spots at the State Tournament in Post Falls at the end of October.
“I am really stoked about this team,” coach Brittany Gamble said after a high intensity practice last week. “We have some strong returning players and have really come together as a unit over the summer. We have really high goals after the strong finish we had last year.”
The Huskies played in the middle of the pack the early portion of last season but put together a run in the District tournament. Last season was a sputtering season anyway with COVID issues that caused delays of up tow two weeks between some games. Emmett actually played five games in the final week of the season, losing four and taking a sixth seed into the tournament.
Apparently the busy week wiped away the cobwebs before Districts. The Huskies dropped their third match of the season to Bishop Kelly to open play and create a win or go home scenario for the next week. A sweep of Caldwell set up five-set victories over Ridgevue and Bishop Kelly to power the Huskies into a state play-in game in Burley against Shelley. The Huskies came up short against the Russets but came home with a renewed drive to flip that script this year.
Gamble has the luxury of having experience back at all positions, though a handful of talented seniors did graduate.
“We are very strong defensively,” Gamble said. “We got a lot of young experience last year and the communication and sense of each other on the court has improved dramatically over the summer.”
That defense may be experienced but still young. Returning liberos include junior Tessa Farnsworth, sophomore Gracie Hemphill and are joined by freshman Shelby Hemphill.
Senior Raelee Welch returns at setter and she can get some relief from the younger Hemphill as well.
The front line for the Huskies will certainly have some pop and block. It begins with All-SIC hitter Graycee Wilkerson. A starter since her freshman season, Wilkerson is being repositioned a little in a reworked offensive attack to better utilize her athletic ability. While she can be deadly at the net, she has the ability to spike from the back row and Gamble wants to use that versatility in her senior season.
Senior Victoria Feasal is sliding inside to a middle blocker position and senior Trinity Sammons and junior Cora Young help form not only a defensive wall but a formidable series of options for the setters to seek out.
“We are truly thirteen players strong this year and that is because they have worked hard and built a lot of trust in each other,” Gamble said.
The third year coach points to the surge in volleyball interest as a compelling factor in the potential fortunes for Emmett this season. “We had a tremendous turnout of girls this fall, Gamble said. “We had 64 girls at tryouts two weeks ago. Unfortunately we had to cut 13 players even though we are carrying our max allowable on each of the three teams.”
Is State a reasonable goal? Gamble thinks its not out of reach.
“This conference is always so strong,” she said. “Middleton and BK are always reloading and Columbia has a lot of returning talent. Nampa has their big girl back inside for one more year. Vallivue has been our nemesis for the last couple of seasons with tremendously competitive matches. Ridgevue is very scrappy and Caldwell will fight you to the end.”
There are two and a half berths to State from District III and the Huskies will have to embrace the momentum they concluded last year with if they intend to be in Post Falls, October 30th. Don’t bet against them.
Emmett will open the season with a jamboree round robin at Kuna on Tuesday and then opens match play at home on Thursday with a league matchup against Caldwell. Cole Valley comes in on Aug. 31 and Ridgevue visits on Sept. 2. The three-match homestand then puts them on the road to Pocatello to participate in the two-day Peg Peterson Tournament at Highland High on Sept. 3-4.