The Columbia Basin Volleyball Conference had a busy off season.
The CBC will no longer have an East Division and a West Division as the two sides have joined. The move was made because Wahtonka moved out of conference, joining with The Dalles to form a Class 4A school called The Dalles Wahtonka Union High School.
One of the best players in the conference is out for the season with a knee injury.
Tragedy struck the conference when one of it's players died in a car accident Aug. 1.
A new coach took over at Pilot Rock in Robin Deter and at Culver in Wendy Thompson.
In recent years, Culver, Pilot Rock, Sherman and Weston-McEwen have dominated the conference and while there have been changes to the conference those teams are picked as the favorites again by coaches.
"Weston-McEwen will be the team to beat," Deter said. "They return a lot, but there are four or five teams that will be pretty strong."
Weston-McEwen returns nearly it's entire team, having lost just three players to graduation.
"You have to look at Weston, Culver and Sherman as the favorites," said Heppner head coach Teri Gentry. "I think the conference will be competitive."
Culver new head coach Wendy Thompson was unavailable for comments by press deadline, but several coaches around the CBC feel as if Culver will be a strong contender.
"Culver returns a bulk of it's team," Townsend said. "I expect Culver and Weston to be very strong."
The Heppner Mustangs would like nothing better than to forget about last season.
Injuries amongst other things slowed the Mustangs to a 2-11 CBC record last season, but a healthy squad along with several key returnees has coach Gentry excited about the upcoming season.
"We're going to try some new things this year," Gentry said. "This is a hard-working group of girls that are driven."
The Mustangs will turn to senior outside hitter Shannah Rietmann, who earned CBC first-team recognition last season.
"She is a great outside hitter and we anticipate good things from her," Gentry said.
Senior Madison Bailey sat most of last year with a knee injury, but will do a majority of the setting this season. Senior Blair Keithley will be a setter and seniors Linsey Mitchel and Chelsea Britt will play middle for the Mustangs.
Juniors Kelsey Britt along with Laurie Murray and Chelsey Betsinger will see action as well for the Mustangs.
"The juniors will the void left behind by the players that graduated," Gentry said. "We have some high expectations and we just have to continue to work hard."
If the Pilot Rock Rocket's plan for another CBC district volleyball appearance, they will do so without senior Allison Robles.
Robles, who earned first-team CBC honors last season, suffered a season-ending knee injury during the off season.
"Allison was a big part of this team," said Deter, who has coached off and on at Pilot Rock as an assistant for the past seven years and takes over for Susan Hisler. "She had surgery and is questionable for basketball and softball at this point."
The Rockets will turn to seniors Hannah Kirk, Rachel Howard and Jennifer Ulrich to make up for the experience left behind by Robles. Howard earned first-team CBC honors last season.
"We will rely on the seniors a lot," Deter said. "We're young and I am counting on them to lead the younger girls."
Juniors Haley Kannard, Christian Kinney and Tabatha Gambill will see plenty of time along with a group of seven sophomores: Valerie Hall, Andrea Pedro, Ashley Sampson, Becky Schiller, Stefka Waite, Christina Barkley and Kelsey Walker.
"We have some young athletic girls, but it will take time for them to develop," Deter said. "Our preseason schedule will be valuable to us because we need to get the girls playing time."
Pilot Rock graduated Jessica Byrnes, Jo Pedro, Khami Gorbett and Kylie Bronson from last year's (7-6 CBC) varsity squad.
The Sherman Huskies won the CBC West Division title last season with a 13-0 record and cruised through the Class 2A state playoffs before losing to Santiam Christian in the championship game.
Sherman graduated Britney MacNab Marci Bird, who were both named to the Class 2A all-state tournament team, but the Huskies return junior Erin Funkhouser. Funkhouser was also named to the Class 2A all-state tournament team.
"We graduated five great seniors and are turning to some younger kids to fill the holes," head coach Townsend said.
Seniors Anna Moore and Audrey Mabe saw significant time last season.
"We just want to try and improve as the season goes along," Townsend said.
The Stanfield Tigers lost three players to graduation, but the Tigers return CBC second-team senior Nancy Sandoval.
Sadoval along with seniors Kim Keene, Kim Davis and Bridgette Packard will carry the load for the Tigers. Juniors Amanda Morris and Catherine Zielke will also see time along with sophomores Beatrice Rivera and Jessica Erwert.
Stanfield graduated CBC first-team hitter Cara Kammerzell along with Nicole Mills and Chandi Walker from last year's (2-11 CBC) squad.
The Umatilla Vikings have more on their minds than just volleyball.
The Vikings are trying to come together, using volleyball as a tool, to heal the wounds of the passing of their teammate Chrissie Forshee, who was killed in a car accident Aug. 1.
"Obviously, this is a tough issue for us to handle and grasp," said Umatilla head coach Blythe Wardwell. "Practice has been tough because this is the first time the girls have really come together since the accident occurred."
Forshee would have been a senior, but coach Wardwell is looking for seniors Katie Henry, Austin Harvey and Allison Parish to lead the team.
"My seniors will provide leadership," Wardwell said. "We're pretty young, so I hope that the seniors can help the younger girls develop."
Juniors Rosa Campos, Mandi Villanueva, Ashley Combs, Rikki Pine along with sophomores Daniela Campos and Aleah Phillips are making the jump from the junior varsity squad to the varsity team.
"I expect the younger group improve their skills," Wardwell said. "We have to be a strong passing team and use our preseason to develop."
Umatilla graduated seven seniors from last year's (1-12 CBC) squad.
The Weston-McEwen TigerScots return two CBC first-team players from last year's (12-1 CBC) squad that won the CBC East Division.
Seniors middle hitters Kayla Johnson and Kayla Paredes dominated the CBC last year and second-year head coach Shawn White expects both to be productive again this year.
"The Kaylas had strong seasons a year ago and if they stay healthy they should be strong again," White said. "We graduated just three seniors and I think our experience will be key."
Senior Darcy Thompson and junior Susanna Bonifer will do most of the setting. Bonifer is also a right-side hitter and senior Becky Baker will provide middle hitting along with Paredes.
Junior Jordan Alford, has overcome a knee injury and will provide hitting from the left side along with Johnson.
"I think our hitting and blocking will be stronger than it was," White said. "This is a gutsy team that likes to play hard."
Seniors Vicki Post and Tasha Flory saw time last season and sophomores Joyce Baumann and Wendy Baker will see more time this season.
The TigerScots have played to the top of the CBC for past four seasons and coach White said the team has goals to win the conference.
"This is a easy going group," White said. "They are fun to work with and I feel this team will be competitive."
2003 CBC standings
East Division CBC
x-Pilot Rock 7-6
West Division CBC
x-advanced to playoffs