TRUCKEE —It’s been awhile since the Truckee volleyball team entered a season as anything but defending state champs.
That demotion does not sit particularly well with this group of Wolverines.
“I think they have some feelings of redemption from last year,” said Truckee coach Erika Murphy, whose Wolverines were upset by Chaparral in the Division I-A state semifinal last year, preventing them from winning a fourth consecutive state title.
“This year we have six seniors, and they were part of our championship group in middle school, so they are a group of winners,” Murphy added. “They like to win, and they definitely can dig deep and decide a match.”
Last year’s Truckee team finished 23-10 overall and was riding a 14-match winning streak into the state tournament. The Wolverines had just defeated South Tahoe for the third time to claim the regional title.
Instead of contending for the four-pear, however, Truckee players watched as South Tahoe heated up at the right time to knock off top Southern seed Faith Lutheran in the semifinal round and Chaparral in the championship match.
Truckee opened its 2013 campaign at the same venue where its 2012 run ended — Galena — for the High Sierra Tournament. Perhaps it was the bad taste left from last year’s final loss in that building, but Murphy said the Wolverines were “on fire” to start the tourney, which featured large schools from Nevada and California. They beat three large California schools on the first night, Del Oro, Ripon and Del Norte, and finished 4-4 overall.
Truckee’s standout player, last year’s Mount Rose League MVP, Mackenzie Redner, proved that she’ll again be among the state’s top talents. The senior outside hitter blasted 51 kills in the tournament on 141 attempts. She followed up with 20 kills in three sets against Spanish Springs on Tuesday.
Along with senior All-League outside hitter Lauren Peak, and more height across the board this season, Murphy expects the Wolverines to have a formidable offensive attack.
“I think both Mackenzie and Lauren are going to be very powerful this year,” Murphy said, adding that both seniors boast versatility and skill. “One of the things both of them can do is hit on the run. If the ball just gets chucked in the air, both of them can hit it on that second contact and they can turn and hit. They don’t need to have the perfect set. They’re very agile in the air.”
Redner, the tallest player on the team, is joined by fellow 6-footer Elizabeth Costa, who returns for her senior season after moving back to Truckee recently from Kansas. Murphy said Costa is still “getting up to speed” after sitting out a year of volleyball. Senior first-team All-Leaguer Chelsea Mohun takes over at setter, while senior second-team All-Leaguer Rebecca Berelson holds down the middle. Junior Tori Simpson is libero with senior Heather Lade in the back row.
Murphy said she made sure the Wolverines had plenty of depth — 13 players total, or at least three players at each position — so she will not have to pull any players up from JV for the postseason. Aside from the aforementioned players, Truckee’s roster include juniors Kari Murphy, Taylor Stevens and Katherine Englert, and sophomores Katie Fisher, Mo Lebel and Anais Fay. And there’s plenty of talent in the works.
“We look very good. We have three strong groups — freshmen, JV and varsity. We had a real good turnout this year,” Murphy said.
Truckee’s schedule has a different look this season, as the NIAA scrapped the mixed-division pod system. Instead of playing Division III schools such as North Tahoe and Incline in the Mount Rose League, the Wolverines will face only DI-A opponents from across the North.
Among those foes, Murphy expects Dayton and Fernley to be the teams to beat, while defending champion South Tahoe cannot be overlooked either (although Truckee defeated South Tahoe 2-0 in the High Sierra Tournament).
Dayton, which returns its big hitter in Madison Foley, is off to an 8-0 start. The Wolverines get their first look at the Dust Devils in a league match Tuesday in Truckee.