Juanita and Lake Washington each have new varsity coaches on board in Alyx Fuller and Alyssa Flowers, respectively, and both squads have a hunger to notch some 3A KingCo victories.
Last year was admittedly rough for both teams, but they’re hoping to turn things around this fall.
Senior outside hitter Carly Bacher said it’s been intense and fun right out of the gate and the girls are putting in tons of hard work in practice.
“I hope to help bring my talking abilities to the team and hopefully get some kills,” said Bacher. Fuller noted that Bacher is a natural leader who’s always making sure all her teammates are good to go in practice and at matches.
It’s Bacher’s third year on varsity and she enjoys the family atmosphere around the program.
“I just really learned how to work as a team,” she said of her four years — one on junior varsity — as a Rebel.
Bacher is joined in the captain’s seat with fellow seniors Belle Jordan and Guen Smith, both also outside hitters. Fuller noted that Jordan and Smith bring both tough and aggressive qualities to the squad.
Jordan also started on JV and enters her third year on varsity.
“I’ve learned about what Rebel family is really about and how we all come together as a community. It’s not just on the court, but off the court too,” said Jordan, adding that the volleyball squad is a friendly bunch that has also bonded with the football squad to run fundraisers.
Jordan’s got some invaluable advice for all players in the Rebel program.
“Put in the work now and every single touch on the ball is definitely gonna pay off. You might start off on C team, you might start off on JV — no matter where you start, there’s always room to build,” she said.
Fuller comes to Juanita from LW, where she spent three years as the JV and C team coach. She played high school ball for Mountlake Terrace and also got in plenty of club action.
She says her strong squad — which also features returning senior Jayla Kidd at middle and outside hitter — aims to work hard, stay positive and have each other’s backs. Juanita has some height in junior middle Victoria Anderer (6-foot-2), junior opposite/middle Patricia Mancini (6-0) and freshman setter/opposite Ashley Schroeder (5-10).
“I hope to help build the game of volleyball with this program, specifically varsity, just build a family and a love of the game of volleyball. Life is hard sometimes, and have this be their happy place and a positive place to go for them,” Fuller said.
From freshmen to seniors, coach Flowers likes what she sees on the court. She’s been around the game for years and played high school ball at Skyline and college ball at Pacific Lutheran University.
“Anything with volleyball is where you’ll find me,” said Flowers, who adds Kang coach to her life as a math teacher at the school.
Along with playing solid volleyball, Flowers wants her players to treat each other with kindness and respect and cares about what type of young women they become. Leaving a stellar legacy at LW is also part of the plan.
Renee Leewens, a senior libero and captain, jumps into her third year on varsity.
“It’s been awesome getting to know everyone, seeing everyone grow,” she said. “When we’re on the court, it’s amazing ‘cause we all come together and we celebrate each other’s successes. When Chloe (Charles) gets a kill, we all just go crazy, it’s a great community to be a part of.”
Speaking of Charles, the 5-11 freshman outside hitter already feels at home with the high school squad. She said her teammates have been helping her become acclimated to her new digs.
“I’m most excited for our home games. Our crowds are crazy,” said Charles, who began playing the sport in seventh grade.
Her teacher and coach “came up to my parents and she was like, ‘This is her sport and she needs to continue.’ I also fell in love with the sport the first time I started playing, so I wanted to get better and I just kept going,” Charles continued. She added that when her teammates are cheering, it drives her to succeed.
Elise Hani (middle at 6-3) and Chloe Murakami (outside) are other freshmen that Flowers said should make an impact this season.
Other top returners are senior captain and libero Mallory Erickson, junior middle Makenna Smith (5-11) and junior middle Isabel Macpherson (5-11).
Flowers said that Erickson and Leewens are first-rate passers and have different leadership styles: Erickson is more vocal than Leewens, but both are equally effective in paving the way with full voice or by example.
Leewens said that being a defensive specialist can be painful at times when diving for balls, but she enjoys her role.
“I get adrenaline if I get a good dig,” she said. “It really hypes me up, and by me getting hyped up, it hypes up the rest of my team and we play overall better. It’s fun.”