Sports -- August 31, 2006

Published on Thu, Aug 31, 2006
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by Jack Kintner

Coach: Girls’ volleyball season looks ‘promising’

Last summer Blaine head volleyball coach Nikki Halberg took nine varsity players to the Reno, Nevada, volleyball festival.

“There were 100 teams just in our division,” she said, “and we played some very tough competition, teams that play all year, that sort of thing.”
She said the venue was a good one for team building and intense practice, as if being in a desert hotel with a large swimming pool and a beach volleyball court set up beside it wasn’t a good way to spend a week in June.

“The girls enjoyed it, all right, but they really did focus on the work, playing three matches each morning for five days. They learned a lot,” said Halberg.

This year’s edition of the Lady B’s, Halberg’s second as head coach, has some promising talent among the underclassmen as well as five solid senior performers led by the pint-sized but battle-hardened setter Melissa Galbraith, a long distance runner who never seems to tire.

Outside hitter Alisha Fisher is back at 100 percent after knee problems from a court injury last season. Middle hitter Adrienne Greer is a team player but as one of the tallest girls she’s also about focus, and winning. She’s joined by middle hitter Janelle Rouse of whom great things are expected.

Track star Julie Meeker is another outside hitter who will play behind Fisher at the beginning of the season, at least, but look for her to move into her own spot before long.

Two other promising younger players are sophomores Veronica Rooney and Natasha Place, both of whom will start on the varsity and who could kill slugs at 50 paces with their kill shots. The squad’s rounded out with the speedy Jessica Wallen, Sam Probadora and Megan Stewart.
“We look solid,” said assistant head coach and scorekeeper Laura Nelson, a woman who does not mince words and hasn’t said that about Blaine volleyball for quite a while. She and coach Halberg have been drilling the girls mornings and then switched to afternoons this week as school, alas, started on Wednesday of this week.

“This team is a lot quicker than what we’ve had in the past,” Halberg said, obviously pleased with her line-up and her team depth. “One thing is that we have more people that not only can attack but want to,” she said, indicating that the killer instinct, the desire to play well and fairly but also to finish off the opponent is no longer a problem.

Reno taught them what real competitive hard-core volleyball is about as they faced saber-toothed opponents across the net at a time when most of us are still cleaning up from breakfast.

Before they were done they were regularly pasting pick-up sides of boys from a Yakima baseball team in town for a tournament and handily staying in the same hotel, willing to be cannon fodder for the Killer B’s smoking their shots in the desert heat.

“They’re communicating, too, and that’s essential,” Halberg said, adding that neither she, her staff nor the team are at all intimidated by this year’s new league.

“The old league was already tough, so yeah, bring it on,” said the Quincy native who played basketball in college for the Wildcats at Central Washington University. “What we learned in Reno, above all else, is that when you play some really tough, competitive teams you rise to the occasion.”

The season begins Tuesday evening at the Volleyball Jamboree at Meridian high school.

Records were made to be broken

The last Blaine football team to go to state made the trip in 1995, the year new head coach Jay Dodd graduated. Blaine defeated Kings in the first round 28-7 before running headfirst into Ridgefield and losing 41-14.

In those years Blaine’s basketball dynasty was in its heyday. In the last 20 years Blaine’s been to the show 14 times and has placed in 10 of those tournaments.

Blaine’s played in five title games, winning in 1999 and 2000 when Luke was still wearing number 13 but dropping contests in 1998 to Elma 98-89 and to Hoquiam in 1939, 35-22.

The fifth title game the Borderites played in was set up by squeezing past Langley 7-6 in the first game of the state tournament and then mashing Eatonville 39-8 to make it to the Kingdome, where they handled Grander 20-7 to become the 1978 1A state football champions.

For purposes of comparison, the Prosser team that Jay Dodd helped coach for the last four years has gone to state 18 out of the last 20 seasons and has earned three championships out of the seven title games it’s played.

“That was with linemen who sometimes weighed only 160 pounds,” Dodd said, who assisted at Prosser under the legendary Tom Moore.
This team that was saved from certain oblivion in an effort led by coach Dave Fakkema over the past few seasons has had something ignited inside them. It’s not just John Dudley who’s smiling all the time.
They’re ready for the tough, disciplined approach Dodd brings to the gridiron.

If Fakkema taught them that yes, they could actually play this game, Dodd is teaching them to play it well.