New era for MI volleyball

By Matt Phelps

Mercer Island High School placed eighth at the Washington state girls volleyball tournament last year.

The achievement was the goal of a group of players that competed together for nearly four years. This year the team has lost three of the best players on that squad but has replaced them with height and youthful talent.

``It is really hard because those girls were not only good teammates but good friends,'' said Islander senior Gillian Page. ``But this is an amazing group of girls with a lot of potential.''

Dino Annest, who has been coaching for 12 years, including seven as the Islanders' head coach, said that this year's team has intimidating height.

``It is just crazy to have girls at the high school level who are two and three inches taller than me,'' said Annest. ``This is the tallest team I have ever had by a longshot, and they have a ton of energy.''

The coach said that he usually averages one or two girls over 5-feet 10-inches. This year he has six girls over 5-feet 10-inches, and two over six-feet tall.

``Over half of our team is 5-10,'' said senior Maryn Juergens. ``We're huge!''

Annest admits that height can be a waste if the player doesn't have enough agility.

``If you can't move, everyone can pick you apart,'' said Annest. ``These girls can move.''

The Islanders will have to move fast during the postseason. Last year the team was forced to wage epic comebacks during the playoffs due to injuries, fatigue and slow starts. Annest said that depth is the least of his worries this season.

``I can take any six of these girls and put them on the court and I will have confidence in the lineup,'' said Annest. ``During the playoffs last year we played three best-of-five matches on the second day. This is huge because I can get them a rest. (Some of the girls) last year played the entire time.''

Despite being the preseason, the Islanders are focused.

``(The) Issaquah (Eagles) will be our biggest competition and they are our first goal,'' said Page. ``We want a banner.''

The games with the Eagles will be relatively early in the season. The first was yesterday (after Reporter deadline) and the second will be at Issaquah on Sept. 28. Issaquah returns all but one players form last year's squad that won 3A KingCo.

``They are going to be faster and very hungry,'' said Annest.

The Islanders will also have to be on the lookout for rival Newport High School, and a team that made great strides last season, the Liberty Patriots.

The Islanders beat the Patriots last year, but not by much. Annest says that they will be a year a older and a year wiser.

The biggest weakness of the team is the perceived youthful inexperience. But with all the players having played some club volleyball, that weakness maybe a non-factor.

Islander sophomore and three sport athlete Amanda Nield, sophomore Abby Trimble, who is 6-feet two-inches, the hard hitting sophomore Liz Miller and newcomer freshman Janelle Chow are the future of the volleyball program and will take a big role in the fate of the team this year.

``We have a lot of team chemistry,'' said Juergens. ``But all 12 players are going to have to come together.''

The experience of last year's postseason run is invaluable, said Annest.

``We know what to expect in the postseason and we wont be intimidated,'' said Page. ``We can pass that knowledge down to the younger players. They are young but hugely talented.''

Page and Juergens were named captains and the choice came easy.

``For the first time we didn't even have to vote on who was going to be captains because it was so obvious,'' said Annest. ``They do more than I expect and they are leaders from start to finish.''

Head coach: Dino Annest (12 seasons at MIHS, 7th season as head coach)

Assistant coaches: Allison Campbell, Taryn McDonald, Juli Rinehart and Allison Rindlaub.

Last year's team record and accomplishments: 12-3 regular-season record, second in 3A KingCo and eighth in state.

Key athletes not playing this year: Callie Webster, Jackie Calabrese and Chelsea Spiro.

Key athletes: Gillian Page (Sr) and Maryn Juergens (Sr).

Athletes on the rise: Amanda Nield (Sp), Abby Trimble (Sp), Liz Miller (Sp) and Janelle Chow (Fr).

Strength: Depth and well rounded.

Weakness: Youth.

Keys to a good season: Stay healthy and maintain learning curve.

Big games on regular-season schedule: Issaquah, Liberty and Newport.

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