ILWACO — The Fishermen looked like a volleyball program on the rise last season. Though they were only 5-8, it was still their best season in many years, as they made the playoffs for the first time since 2001. In the playoffs, Ilwaco fell just short of a huge first-round upset, losing 3-2 to Kalama. The team then beat Morton-White Pass in an elimination game before falling short in five sets to a strong Toutle Lake team.
In some ways, though, Ilwaco is starting over again this year. The team has a new coach, Michaela Eastham. They lost a lot of talent to graduation, including middle hitters Makenzie Kaech and Madeline Jacobson, whose strong spiking game was crucial to much of last year’s success. But the team returns some talented players who played major roles in their improvement last year.
Ebby McMullen, a second-team All-League player last year who has played many positions under past coaching regimes, moves to the middle this year. “Ebby can play anywhere, and that’s where she fits best on this roster,” Eastham said.
Jaymie Patana came over from Prineville, Oregon and brought added intensity to the team last year. She sees the excitement from the end of last year carrying over into this year. “We did a little better in summer volleyball this year,” she said. “We beat some teams we haven’t beaten in the past.”
Patana’s play is marked by diving stops and excellent anticipation. She had a strong playoff run. She set last year, but this year she will play libero, allowing the team to take full advantage of her defensive skills. Eastham said Patana has the team’s highest percentage of accurate passes. Ariana Bell, another strong defensive player, will likely start in the back row.
Faith Simonsen will be the setter in Eastham’s 5-1 system. She made Honorable Mention All-League last season.
Sophia Marsh also made honorable mention last season in only her sophomore year. Freshman Alyssa Marsh will start right away. A left-handed hitter, she will play right outside hitter, where lefties can have an advantage against blockers.
Patana sees Eastham working hard to improve the team, and giving attention to everyone at practices. “She focuses on (coaching) everybody,” Patana said.
Eastham has watched extensive film of Ilwaco from last season. “I saw that they needed some work on basic hitting form, and how to approach the ball,” she said.