WALLA WALLA - Athena and Walla Walla aren't too far apart geographically, but it's a huge step up for two former Weston-McEwen TigerScots.
Renee Baumann and Tiffany Cain begin their freshmen years at Walla Walla Community College after helping lead the Weston-McEwen volleyball team to Oregon's Class 2A state title in 2010.
The two TigerScots are now ready to represent with some Warrior intensity.
"It's a lot of work, but it's good here," Baumann said of WWCC. "It's a different pace. It's quicker. There's more expected of you. There's really not time to wait around think - you have to react."
Reacting is something Baumann does well, as volleyball is ingrained - rather like walking - for the 5-foot-8 outside hitter. She grew up with a ball in her hands, surrounded by sisters who pressed her to play.
"I've been playing volleyball since I was able to hold the ball," Baumann said. "I've worked on ball control and played with my sisters at home. I was always playing."
Cain, 5-10, discovered volleyball in the seventh grade and it made for a good fit.
"I love the intensity," Cain said. "It's awesome when you're passing and you have a great set and someone gets a hit that no one can touch. It's a great feeling when you know you terminated it and they can't do anything to stop you."
She started asking Weston-McEwen volleyball coach Shawn White for help before and after practices, trying to improve her play, skills and endurance.
WWCC coach Tim Toon noticed the talent and dedication of both girls through Baumann's sister Joyce, a 2008 WWCC player.
Cain and Renee Baumann occasionally came with Joyce to open court and play some volleyball. They also came to games with the Weston-McEwen team, as coach White brings the team to a WWCC game at least once a year.
"I keep track of Weston-McEwen," Toon said. "They have a pretty amazing tradition there. I watched them play last year and I knew they were both college players in the making."
Though longtime teammates, the two girls are quite different, White said.
Buamann is outgoing, high-energy and demonstrative, while Cain is more quiet, very focused and competitive, he said.
"Competitive" actually applies to both girls, White amended.
"We would play somebody with a big program and lots of history, and it just excites them," he said. "The idea of playing someone really big and tough makes them bring on their ‘A' game, and that's fun. They both love competition."
That intensity pairs well with their physical skills and potential.
"When we recruit, we're focused on players' physical tools - are they big enough, strong enough to play at the college level. Some high school players have already reached their full potential, so we're looking for players that can continue to grow," Toon said.
Cain and Baumann fit the bill on all levels.
"I used to joke that if I sent out a text saying ‘Open gym at 3 a.m.,' they'd both show up," White said. "They love to play the game anywhere. It's something you don't always see - a lot of players like to play in games, but not all the work that goes into it. These two just love to play."
Although the two didn't live near each other in high school, they spent plenty of time together on the court, the bus and trips to far-flung Oregon locales.
The friendship will help them adjust to college life and play.
"It means having someone I know that I can talk to and will encourage me to keep going and keep pushing me," Baumann said. "We build off each other."
Baumann spent four years on varsity for the TigerScots, while Cain arrived her junior year. Cain looked up to her classmate, she said.
"She's a great person and a great player," Cain said of Baumann. "She's always ready to play, and that's how I wanted to be."
The young women are ready for something else, too: college-level courses.
Baumann wants to pursue veterinary medicine, while Cain plans to become a nurse. Both received multiple high school academic awards and are WWCC Merit Scholars, and both see more education in their futures.
They hope volleyball fits in, but nursing school and vet med take a lot of time.
An academic focus is the third part of Toon's vision in his student-athletes.
"They're both great in the classroom," he said. "They have a winning attitude on the court and in school."
The Warriors open their 2011 season at 4 p.m. today at Whitman College in an exhibition match. Their first league matchup is next Wednesday at Blue Mountain Community College in Pendleton.
Practice intensity is ramping up as the team gels, and everyone is antsy for the season to begin, Cain said.
They're ready. Former league rivals are on teams at BMCC and Columbia Basin, which should keep an old competitive streak alive.
"We want to win our division, go to the NWAACCs and win there," Baumann said.
It's not just the Weston-McEwen duo with that goal.
"The team shares a passion for the game," Cain said.
Coach, number of years - Carolyn Papineau, fifth season.
Last year - 8-18 overall, 5-11 and tied for seventh in the Northwest Conference.
Key player graduation/losses - No seniors graduated, one player left the team: Hannah Holloran, OH.
Key returners - Jillian Davis, OH; Courtney Brewer, MB; Olivia Nielson, MB.
Strengths - Blocking, serving and large team roster.
Weaknesses - No seniors.
What do you want people to know about this team - "We've added a freshmen class of six players, several of whom will be immediate contributors. We will be much-improved defensively, and we have a maturing group of athletes who are ready to compete for the conference title." - Carolyn Papineau
Walla Walla University
Coach - Don Hepker, 27th year coaching, 10th year at WWU.
Last year - 11-17 overall.
Key losses - Torrey Haddad, S; Danielle Diaz, OH.
Key returners - Natalie Wilkening, OH; Heather McFadden, OH.
Strengths - Both outside hitters are starting seniors.
Weaknesses - Youth. Four of the eight girls in the starting rotation are freshmen.
Quotable - "All of these players have a passion for the sport and it shows when they play. They never ever give up." - Don Hepker.
Coach - Tim Toon, 19th year
Last year - 8-9 overall, 5-8 in NWAACC.
Key losses - Nikki Long, OH.
Key returners - Five returners, including Brittany Dominguez, MH/B; and Kayla Hanus, S.
Strengths - Heart, passionate about winning and working hard to improve.
Weaknesses - Ball control and error management.
Quotable - "The five returning players worked really hard in the offseason and had good success in the spring tournaments. We are once again positioned to be among the top teams in the NWAACC. The sophomores will lead this 2011 campaign but will need immediate contributions from several freshmen. They are a talented group and bringing a lot of high school success with them. ... In tournament play, we will play most matches with split squad, meaning a lot of players will get time on the court. Despite this depth-building philosophy, we should compete for the tournament every year." - Tim Toon.
Coach - Audra Cummings, eighth year at Wa-Hi, fourth as head coach.
Last year - 6-9 in Big Nine play, fourth in league,
Key losses - Seven returning seniors: Sydney Christensen, M; Stephanie Wilson, R.
Key returners - Borgan Watson, S; Chantelle Zamora, OH; Devyn Humphreys, M; Kennedy Snydar, OH; Lexie Mahan, OH; Madeline Jacobson, OH; Tianna Cummings, L.
Strengths - Good serving, solid defense, strong hitters.
Weaknesses - Consistency.
Quotable - "This team is a very competitive group." - Audra Cummings.
Coach - Kaila Rodighiero, second year, Mac-Hi alumna.
Last year - 0-14.
Key losses - Nicole Richman, MB.
Key returners - Haley Freske, H (transfer).
Strengths - Good team chemistry, 95 percent returning team, athletic.
Weaknesses - Less practice time during the school year than other GOL teams.
Quotable - "They mesh well and support each other and we are already weeks ahead compared to this time last year. The Greater Oregon League is going to be tough as usual, but the girls and myself are confident in our season. ... They look better and much stronger and they are definitely excited for the season." - Kaila Rodighiero
Coach - Lori Blanc, fourth year.
Last year - 8-6 in league, played two games at district.
Key losses - Megan Moberg, M.
Key returners - Five returning starters: seniors Abby Larreau, M; Stephanie Ferrel, OH; Annie Higgins, OH; Chantel Blanc, S; junior Alex Buley, M.
Strengths - Experience. Abbey Larreau is a four-year starter and the other three seniors are three-year starters.
Weaknesses - The league is tough and all the matches will likely be very close.
Quotable - "We always have high expectations but we want to use our experience and build on that. This team is very motivated and they have great character. They've had a great turnout all summer long." - Lori Blanc.
Coach - Shannon Turner, 10th year.
Last year - 8-4 in league, District Champions, went to state.
Key losses - Kayla Turner, S, OH; Amanda Melton, MH, MB.
Key returners - Six players that went to state, including Nicole Lambert, OH, DS; Shelby Smith, MH, MB; Darci Hall, S, RS.
Strengths - Defense, team work.
Weaknesses - Size.
Quotable - "This is a fun group of girls to work with. We don't have a lot of height, so we will rely on heart, attitude, effort and team motivation. We work hard at practice and have a lot of fun." - Shannon Turner.
Coach - Bruce Crossfield, third year.
Last year - 21-8 overall, 12-2 in league, third at District, 1-2 at State.
Key losses - Melissa Barlow, S; Sydney Gormsen, S; Maddie Grimm, DS; Sadie Slaybaugh, OH.
Key returners - Seniors Kindsey Bott, MH; Haylee Koller, S; Delaney Monahan, RS/MH; Samathana Smith, L; Erica Carlson, OH; Kayla Morgan, OH; Deanna Melvoen, S; Amanda Bingman, MH.
Strengths - Hitting and blocking.
Weaknesses - Serving.
Quotable - "I believe we rally well. Even though we lost four important players, we still have a good nucleus returning. All four of our graduates serviced us last year and we need to find six reliable servers. A number of our players played together last spring as a club team and hopefully that will pay dividends as the season progresses." - Bruce Crossfield
Coach - Angie Potts, first year at W-P but 20th year overall as a volleyball coach.
Last year - 3-10 in league.
Key losses - Genesis Pearson, M; Alyssa Hafen, R, L; Rachelle Oseth, L; Megan Withers, OH.
Key returners - Ronnie Hulce, M; Kayla Huxoll, S; Krystal Harris, S, OH; Amanda Cook, R; Rhiannon Chapman, O; Dionna Baker, M.
Strengths - Serving, quick offense.
Weaknesses - Consistency.
Quotable - "Once we're passing consistently to our target, we'll have a variety of effective options we can go to. This is going to be a fun team to watch once they hit their stride." - Angie Potts.
Coach - April Miller, first year.
Last year - 1-14 overall.
Key losses - Hillary Intinerelli.
Key returners - Nicole Brown, OH; Veronica Solis, OH; Kristen Warner, MB.
Strengths - Leadership.
Weaknesses - Youth, inexperience.
Quotable - "I am already impressed with the leadership (the returning players) are displaying, as it will be vital to our success this year. We have a lot of heart and potential, but it is going to take some work. While this ultimately may be seen as a rebuilding year, I expect the team to grow and be competitive."
Coach - Scott Schafer, fourth year.
Last year - 10-4 overall, 7-3 in league and in second place.
Key losses - Brianna Leen, MH; Kelsie Schafer, OH; Sandy Avalos, L.
Key returners - Kristianna Buell, S; Brooklyn Larson, S; Amanda Birney, OH.
Strengths - Serving.
Weaknesses - Youth.
Quotable - "We will see if we can pull it all together and compete well in our league." - Scott Schafer
Coach - Shawn White, ninth year.
Last year - 14-0 league, 32-2 overall, state champions.
Key losses - Renee Baumann, OH; Tiffany Cain, OH; LeAne Harnden, L; Jordan Reger, RS/S; Haley Freske, MB.
Key returners - Morgan Entze, S/RS; Katy West, MB; Jaymie Zimmerman, S/RS; McKayla Carlin, L; Molly von Borstel, OH.
Strengths - Defense, speed, determination.
Weaknesses - Lack of playing time as a unit.
Quotable - "We have improved greatly over the summer and are learning quickly. The attitudes and personalities of this team make them particularly enjoyable to coach and their team quickness and competitiveness will make this a very fun team to watch." - Shawn White.
Coach - Tammie Parker, 11th year.
Last year - 5-17 overall, 1-5 in league.
Key losses - Chyanne Hack, M; Niccy Thompson, OH; Claire Ely, L.
Key returners - McKayla Nitz, S; Sydney Cave, M; Ana Goodwin, DS.
Strengths - Strong work ethic.
Weaknesses - Lack of experience. There are three juniors, two sophomores and eight freshmen.
Quotable - "The team is young but they have a lot of desire and are working hard to improve their skills every day." - Tammie Parker.