Volleyball preview: King's Way Christian seeks redemption

Volleyball team uses heartbreak of 2011 as inspiration in 2012

By Paul Valencia, Columbian high school sports reporter


photo Kings Way volleyball player Erin Sprowls at practice, Wednesday, September 12, 2012. ()

The King's Way Christian volleyball team has a new classification, a new league, even have some familiar faces in new positions.

It is a new season.

Yet, 2011 still provides all the motivation.



Players to watch

Alyssa Carnes, jr., La Center; Cheyenne Cunning, sr., Seton Catholic; Larissa Hamilton, sr., Skyview; Brindl Langley, sr., Camas; Karlee Lubenow, sr., Prairie; Megan LaFond, sr., Union; Nicollette Nesbitt, jr., Woodland; Erin Sprowls, sr., King’s Way; Korrie Stephenson, sr., Ridgefield; Dalaney Tuholski, so., Heritage; Brooke VanSickle, fr., Battle Ground; Jenna VanZutphen, sr., Hockinson.

League overviews

4A GSHL: The Skyview Storm have won five consecutive league titles. They won’t give that streak up without a fight. They’ll get one, too. Actually, maybe they’ll get a couple fights. Union is always right there. And, with reclassification, Camas is in the 4A GSHL. The Papermakers made it to the 3A state tournament last year. Heritage always seems to get better as the season progresses.

3A GSHL: Prairie began the year ranked No. 1 in the state by the Seattle Times. They are No. 4 now, but the point is, there are a lot of people who believe the Falcons have it in them to make a run at a state title. The rest of the league will have to step up its game in order to challenge Prairie.

2A GSHL: R.A. Long and Mark Morris have been atop the league. But Hockinson looks to be in the mix this year, too. Oh, and then there is the new team in the league. Don’t be surprised to see a loaded Ridgefield squad make the move from 1A to 2A and do a lot of damage.

1A GSHL: The 10-team Trico League is split into two divisions. The strength looks to be up north, with Woodland, Kalama and Castle Rock. The Rockets finished second in state last year. The south has two newcomers to the league. Seton Catholic, third in state last year, and King’s Way Christian, undefeated last year, have opted up from Class B to 1A.

That's the word all three captains of the 2012 squad described it. The Knights were perfect, record-wise, last year but a scheduling error led to playing one more match than the rules allow. They were disqualified from postseason competition just prior to the state tournament.

"We went undefeated, and all of a sudden, 'You can't go to state.' It was awful," senior Sarah Landstrom said.

Then she quickly turned to 2012.

"We're ready to come into this season and shake it off," she said.

"No one wants to hear that they can't go to state," added senior McKenzie Davis. "At the same time, God has a plan. It wasn't what we wanted, but we all pulled together as a team. We bonded. We're definitely going to come out as a new team this year."

King's Way, which used to be a Class 1B program, used the reclassification process to opt up to the Class 1A for the 2012-13 and 2013-14 school years. They also moved to the Trico League. They know it will be a more difficult task to reach state, facing larger schools, greater competition.

But after what happened last season, going to state is the ultimate goal.

"The girls responded well to what happened," King's Way coach Josh Armstrong said. "They realized everything has a reason. We're using this year to build on our growth from last year. And yes, we did set a goal of state or bust."

For some, it took some time to get over 2011. Perhaps there is no getting over it. It was a tough penalty. But the Knights understand they cannot change the past.

"I didn't think I had anything left," said senior Erin Sprowls, a 6-2 hitter and one of the best players in the region regardless of classification. "Now, we've grown up. We're putting every ounce of energy into every practice, every game."

As senior captains, it is the job of Sprowls, Landstrom, and Davis to look ahead, not back.

"I want to go out with a bang. I want my last year to be the best it can be," Sprowls said. "If you put your heart into it, you can play as good as you want."

The Knights will need to be better than last year to battle for a berth to state.

"It's going to be a lot harder, but I know we can do it," Landstrom said.

"It's a lot more competition than we had previously," Sprowls added. "We're going in with open eyes. We're beginning to get our strategy. We're putting people in different positions. We're experimenting. We're using our best options out there."

In the past three years, Landstrom has gone from outside hitter to setter and now is the team's libero.

"She plays wherever the best fit is for the team," Armstrong said.

Davis led the team in kills last year. Now, she's the setter.

"This is big-time volleyball, and the girls have responded," Armstrong said. "They all work hard, and they trust me to put them in the right position."

It is now up to the players to make it happen, even against the bigger schools.

"I'm pumped. The higher you can go, the better it is. I love competition," Davis said. "Regardless of classification or league, we're going to try to do this for our school, our family, and God."

"We're bringing a fresh start," Landstrom said. "We've overcome a lot of challenges from freshman year to now. We're just ready to kick butt."