NASELLE — The Comets bring back nearly their entire team from last year, a group that is on a mission after falling short of the State tournament last year.
“I’m really excited,” said Taylor Gudmundsen, who shared last year’s Columbia Valley League MVP honors with Bailey Williams-Wallace of Three Rivers Christian. “I can feel things coming together. Last year was the first year of varsity for a lot of players.”
Libero Lily Harman has a similar outlook. “Last year was a transition year,” she said. “This year, I think we’ll put it together. We have more than enough talent.”
Gudmundsen is a near-automatic setter who also contributed 48 service aces last year, one every four attempts. While Naselle experimented with a 6-2 system late last year, they will be back to a 5-1 this season, meaning Gudmundsen will have all the setting duties. The setter dump, a surprise tap across the net on second contact, is an extremely efficient weapon for her, and one for which she knows how to pick her spots; she had a very high .336 hitting percentage in 2016, the last time Naselle was in the 5-1 the whole year.
Holly Disch brings a combination of height, leaping ability, and wicked velocity. She often completely dominates a game, and finished the season with a .374 hitting percentage. Disch played the middle last year. Coach Rebekah Wirkkala plans to mostly play her on the outside this season, though at some points in the rotation she will put her in the middle to confuse teams in their attempts to hit away from her.
At libero, Harman is another star fending off strong offensive attacks and sparking the team with precise passing. Her communication skills are also crucial. Playing in the back, she has a straight-on view of the court and the defense. Gudmundsen has superb court vision of her own, but as a setter is usually looking up or behind her, focused on the ball and her hitters, and relies on Harman to instantly communicate what she is seeing. “Lily has a lot of jobs,” Gudmundsen says. “A lot of people think ‘oh, a libero just kind of passes,’ but she does a lot. She talks to me and tells me where holes in the defense are.”
Hailey Weston, despite being limited at times by a shoulder injury in her first year as a starter last season, showed she can hit the ball hard. She was All League last season, making her one of the CVL’s top-15 players. Wirkkala describes her as a versatile hitter: “She can tip it, place it, and hit the ball hard. She hits it where there’s a hole.”
Kenzie Glenn was another All League player; with Glenn, Weston, Disch, Harman and Gudmundsen, the Comets return four All-Leaguers plus the co-MVP, all for their senior years. Glenn and Jackie Steenerson will play the middle. Jackie Steenerson showed promise in her sophomore year. With a typical sophomore-to-junior leap, she could become a major threat. Steenerson is developing a slide-jump serve, a move that allows the server to disguise her intentions. Sophie Scrabeck is an athletic outside hitter.
For depth, the team has an athletic group of younger players including Hollie Haataia, Kylie Tarbochia, Emma Colombo and Peyton Dalton. They also add Lilli Zimmerman, a senior who was at Roots basketball camp the last three volleyball seasons. Zimmerman brings raw strength and height.
Harman, who had an extraordinary playoff run with the seventh-in-state team of 2016, sees a team with all the pieces necessary to get back to Yakima. She said her teammates have tried to learn from last year’s playoff disappointment. “We’ve talked about what we should have done. We were a bit sluggish. We needed better serving. And we know it starts right here in these practices, getting in the condition we need to be in.”