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Ravens poised for another run at SPSL North 4A title | Prep volleyball
Playing a volleyball team with one great setter is enough to give most opposing teams fits.
Having to play a team with two top setters, both proficient at getting to the ball and setting up hitters, can be a nightmare.
This season there are likely to be a lot of fitful nights for coaches and players in the South Puget Sound League North 4A as they prepare to play Auburn Riverside and setters Carson Heilborn and Lexi White.
"Our key is that I have probably two of the best setters in the state," head coach Christine Leverenz said. "It's amazing, I have people begging me for one or the other. They make average hitters look amazing."
Last year the Ravens amassed an 11-0 record and a first-place league finish. The team cruised through the postseason to the state 4A tournament where it took home a seventh-place finish.
Although outside hitter Brenna Bruil – now playing at Whitworth University in Spokane – was chosen as the league's co-MVP, much of the credit for the team's success lies with all-SPSL first teamers White – a senior this year – and Heilborn – now a junior.
"Last year nobody thought we'd do that well," Levernz said. "We didn't have a Brooke Bray, although Brenna (Bruil) was great, but we just had a bunch of great hitters because I have great setters. They make it difficult to figure out who people should key on."
Although Heilborn and White play the same position, Leverenz said, they both bring different skills to the team as players and off the court leaders.
"They're both great on the court," Leverenz said. "Carson is more the quiet leader. Kids look up to her because she's so athletic and works so hard. She's got that balanced personality. Lexi is competitive; she doesn't like to lose and she pushes people. Sydney LaValley is probably my most vocal leader. They're a real good balance."
"Carson is taller, so she is definitely a ball hitter. Her strength is the front row," said White, who has a full-ride academic and athletic scholarship to Missouri University of Science and Technology, a Division II school. "My strength is the back row and defense. We can set in the back row and hit in the front row. We're like the dynamic duo. We set each other and it works really well. Just having both of us on the court, it works. In defense we have a good setter in both rows."
"We love setting each other so we'll set front row and back row." she said.
White added that both she and Heilborn – the team's co-captains along with senior LaValley – are comfortable in the leadership roles they've hammered out.
"Carson is definitely quieter," White said. "She's nicer. Leverenz refers to me as the mean captain. I'm not mean, but I make sure people get what they need to do done."
With a season like last year's in the book, and the bulk of the team returning this season, Leverenz said, she doesn't think this year's Raven squad will sneak up on anyone.
"I think the word's out," Leverenz said. "I think my setters got the word out. They played well during club season, so everybody knows they're the toughest part of our team."
But not the only part of the team.
In addition to the dynamic duo, the team also returns LaValley, an all-league second teamer at libero last season, and a strong core of hitters, including junior Precious Atafua, who was chosen to the all-SPSL North 4A second team last year.
"I think the word is out about Precious," Leverenz said. "She's a stud, she has just really evolved over the summer, gotten leaner, stronger and faster. She's really going to give us some presence on the court and some ball control. And definitely the ability to terminate the ball. She hits really hard."
And it doesn't stop there for Auburn Riverside.
"I've got some other hitters that can really just hit," Leverenz said. "We're working on the ball control part."
Leverenz said she's expecting good things from sophomore hitter Kiana Drumheller, who played junior varsity last year.
"She's going to be pretty talented and hits a heavy ball," Leverenz said. "And (sophomore) Roxy King, she's another outside hitter than can really hit."
With all that talent and a winning attitude on and off the court, Leverenz said, she's confident her team will again compete for a league title.
"There are certain kids on my team that just have an air of confidence, not cockiness, but confidence," Leverenz said. "And I think that permeates. Precious is super smooth and calm. One game is not more important than another to her. I think Lexi and Carson are like that too."
"We definitely want to go to state and do well," Heilborn said. "We'd like to do better than we did last year, but just making it there is great. I think that we'll be up there at the end of the year, definitely. If we work really hard this season to get to state, then I think we'll do well."