The Siuslaw Vikings girls volleyball team expects to elevate its game this season, despite a notable drop in height.
The Lady Vikings open their season Thursday at North Bend. First serve is 7 p.m.
"We're a lot shorter this year, but I think what we lack in size we make up in quickness," fourth-year coach Jon Hornung said. "And because we're quicker, we've been working on speeding up all of the sets.
"We will keep teams off balance with our pace."
Gone is Siuslaw's vaunted height advantage of recent seasons, with the graduation of 6-footer Makenzie York, 5-10 Alyssa Richards and 5-8 Falon Borgnino.
"We return a large portion of our team from last season," Hornung said. "We've made a few changes that I think will make us more competitive than we previously were."
Outside hitter Mia Collins, a 6-foot senior, will be a major presence for the Lady Vikings.
"Mia is a force to be reckoned with, and I think a lot of teams will key in on her, which will allow (5-8 senior right side) Elissa Hurley to get a lot of open hits," Hornung said.
"We filled the gap left by Mak with Desi Tupua, who's a freshman and has been showing a ton of improvement since we started working with her over the summer.
"Opposite Desi is Delaney Foglio, who has continued to surprise and I'm expecting her to have a great year.
"Zoe Alberte is still anchoring the setting position, and we're planning on having her assume the role full time rather than taking her out in the front row."
The Lady Vikings also have strong supporting players in sophomore libero Hayden Muller, junior defensive specialist Lindsey Long and junior outside hitter Kya Blake.
"Hayden and Lindsey have been stellar, and Kya has been doing really well," Hornung said.
Siuslaw should kick it up a notch on both offense and defense this season.
"Our offense is a lot more consistent than we've been in years past," Hornung said. "And teams will have a hard time putting the ball away on us."
It still will take something of a quantum leap for the Lady Vikings to compete for a title in the Sky-Em League.
"The league is going to be rough this year, just like it was last season," Hornung said. "It's safe to assume the major programs — Marist, Cottage Grove and Marshfield — will be restocked, even if they graduated some of their main contributors.
"Junction City came on strong last season compared to previous seasons and I assume they will continue to improve."
But Hornung remains optimistic.
"We have a great shot at being competitive," he said. "Especially at home, where we tend to rise to our competition."
2019 SIUSLAW VARSITY ROSTER
2019 SIUSLAW SCHEDULE
Siuslaw drops hard-fought Sky-Em League opener at defending league champion Cottage Grove, 3-2.
Siuslaw entertains Newport in home opener at 7 p.m. Friday at Hans Petersen Memorial Field.
Siuslaw heads to Cottage Grove to take on the defending Sky-Em champion Lady Lions.
Vikings coach goes 1-on-1 with his players, turning around a game and perhaps a season.