Girls desire block party

Bryan Veginski

Washington is anxious to begin the 2008 season.

When the volleyball is hit into the air for the first time Saturday at the Limestone Tournament, it will mark the beginning of Chuck Heinz’s tenure as head coach.

Heinz takes over this fall for 15-year volleyball leader Dawn Davis, whose final season in 2007 produced a 19-16 record.

The Lady Panthers will be armed with plenty of height to try to combat Mid-Illini Conference attackers such as Metamora’s Angela Rego and Shannon McGlaughlin of Morton.

After practicing since Aug. 13, Washington wants to see players across the net from other teams.

“We’re dying to play a game,” Heinz said. “We’ve got quite a bit of prep time, which has been nice.”

With height and good leapers, the Lady Panthers desire to make opponents alter their plans.

“Blocking is probably our strength,” said Heinz. “I think we’ll rely heavily on that.”

The defense still has a little work to do, and Heinz would like to see the serving get more consistent, with an emphasis on location.

Senior Sarah McCoy is back at middle hitter after leading Washington a year ago with 63 blocks. She was a second-team all-league selection.

Shauna Friedmansky, who is 6-foot like McCoy, also is lined up as a MH as a junior.

McCoy and Friedmansky are challenging each other to see who can get the most touches.

Playing the right side, senior Jaymi Holloman has improved her attacking and Heinz hopes she can shut down opposing outside hitters.

Three players — seniors Jamie Fussner and Kelsey Doglio and junior Lindsey Boyer — are battling for the setter position.

Fussner and Doglio combined for 303 assists as juniors. Fussner’s 35 aces paced the girls.

“They have a good working relationship,” said Heinz of the trio. “They push each other, there’s no jealousy.”

The rest of the slots are open, including defensive roles.

Also part of this year’s squad are: seniors — Ashley Ernst, Kacy Woith and Kayleigh Skaggs; juniors — Allison Thome, Kaitlyn Wright and Moriah Peterson and sophomore Lexie Barra, who also measures 6-0.

Woith ranked second in ’07 with 113 digs.

The Lady Panthers lost Whitney Lavaux and Tessa Barra, Lexie’s sister, from last year’s team.

Lavaux led Washington with 202 kills  and 180 digs in a first-team all-conference campaign. She was the school’s career record holder in digs with 389.

Barra was No. 2 for the Lady Panthers in kills and blocks as a senior.

Washington was fifth in the M-I with a 6-8 mark last season.

“Metamora is the team to beat,” Heinz said of the defending champion Redbirds.

Morton, the runner-up, won the previous three conference titles, and Heinz said Dunlap’s junior class is exceptional.

With a Tuesday match at Metamora, followed by a trip to the Jacksonville Invitational, the Lady Panthers will face some top competition early.

“We’ll have a good indication of what we need to work on,” said Heinz.

The schedule is unchanged in ’08 with tournament appearances also on tap at Macomb and Bradley-Bourbonnais and a non-conference meeting at Richwoods.