WALLA WALLA -- One thing Walla Walla Community College volleyball coach Tim Toon has not lacked over the years is enthusiasm prior to an upcoming season.
While some concerns are evident in 2009, like a 14-player roster that includes nine freshmen, Toon expressed confidence that this team can do as well as his 2008 squad that won the NWAACC Eastern Region title and placed second in the conference championships.
"We are going to be young in a few key positions but, by the end of the year, we should be a top-five team in the NWAACC," said Toon, who is in his 17th season as head coach. "Our sophomores are strong and steady players."
Those back for their sophomore seasons are libero Megan Tompkins, setters Brandie Riggs and Sarah McLean, and middle blockers Ashley Magee and Cassie Phippen.
"Megan is a great leader and has excellent ball control skills," Toon said of his team captain. "She flies around on defense and has greatly improved her back row hitting and serving. Brandie's setting skills have improved a ton. She's very strong and fit, is a great all-around athlete, and has a competitive spirit.
"Sarah is a polished collegiate setter and has a tough serve," Toon said. "Ashley is a smart hitter and blocker, very quick in the middle, and will be a big part of our offense. Cassie's offensive skills have improved. She has big, strong hands for blocking and has a tough, jump-floater serve."
Newcomers that could step into the role of libero are La Grande's Carley Miller and Brittany Carcich out of Genesee, Idaho. Miller was twice named a Greater Oregon League all-star and Carcich was honored as Genesee's most improved, most inspirational and best defensive player last season.
"Carley possesses solid ball control and overall skill," Toon said. "She has a mean jump-float serve, and is scrappy and aggressive. Brittany has a great attitude and desire to play collegiate volleyball."
Sharsti Goff of Horseshoe Bend, Idaho, could give the Warriors another setter option while Central Valley of Spokane's Ashley Van Curler and M.J. Celentano of Nampa, Idaho, provide depth on the right side.
"Sharsti was named all-state four times and is a polished setter ready to make the jump to the collegiate game," Toon said. "Ashley is raw and waiting to explode as a collegiate player. M.J. jumps very well and will develop into an excellent player."
Former Wa-Hi standouts Corrine Holbrook and Madison Baxter, along with Nikki Long of Genesee, are potential outside hitters and Emily Toft of Spokane's University High gives WWCC a third prospect at middle blocker.
Baxter was a Big Nine Conference all-star pick on two occasions during her career and Long was an all-state choice three times.
"Corrine will switch from the middle position that she played in high school," Toon said. "She has solid, all-around skill. Madison is a dominant net player. Nikki is an impact player. She pounds the ball and is a solid blocker. Emily is an excellent jumper, and a solid hitter and blocker."
Toon expects another tussle in the NWAACC's Eastern Region.
"League play is always tough," Toon said. "We have a good shot at securing one of the top playoff spots from the East."
Walla Walla's non-conference schedule, which started over the weekend with a 3-1 record at the Chemeketa tournament in Oregon City, Ore., is a tough one, Toon said.
"Every tournament will match (us) against top-10 teams in the NWAACC," Toon said. "We will play most matches with a split squad, meaning a lot of players will get court time.
"This will be another fun year," Toon said. "We have a great group of young women representing WWCC."