When John and Cynthia Reopelle took over as coaches of Yelm High School’s volleyball teams four years ago, they had a few very specific goals— make strides, create a credible program and foster a team to compete fiercely.
This year, the Tornados are hoping to continue making progress and are vying for a postseason seat, which would be a big move for a program that hasn’t seen much contention in recent years.
“If we’re going to make a run, it would be nice this year because we have a talented junior class, there’s the seniors who have been with us for four years and then you sprinkle in two or three sophomores who have stepped up,” said varsity coach John Reopelle
The top team currently includes eight seniors, two juniors and three sophomores. Returning the likes of seniors Kailin Lasher, Kara Fourre, Cloie Sweet and junior Natalie McLaughlin will be important to the team’s success this season. And with the continued support of 5-foot-9 mid-right front Mya Phelps and 5-foot-7 outside hitter Jaelynn Carrier, both sophomores, the team is likely to look better than it did last year.
“They’re getting better and better,” Reopelle said. “The volleyball is a lot better than it used to be. It’s just that we’re in probably one of the toughest 3A leagues in the state.”
Last season, the Tornados went 2-12. A pair of 3-0 wins against Timberline (2-12) gave the young team a boost, but it wasn’t enough to scratch the surface as far as team goals went.
Now, after a successful summer league in which the Tornados walked away with a fourth-place finish, Reopelle said the team is looking to leverage their tenacity to give that extra push they need to win games and follow through.
“These girls out here can do things that they couldn’t do three years ago and their skill set is higher than the girls they replaced,” he said. “The growth has been fun to watch … They’ve never given up on us. They’re great kids.”
One notable loss to this team is Maya Davis, a recent graduate who was a powerhouse offensively from the middle.
“We’ll see if these other girls can step up and fill those shoes,” Reopelle said. “She was a tough server and she got a lot of kills all across the net.”
The team’s first matchup will be against North Thurston this Thursday, Sept. 12. The Tornados will host the Rams for a 7:15 p.m. matchup.
“We play great defense and North Thurston is really tall with a lot of hitters. But they’ll have to hit a lot of good balls, ‘cause we’ll keep the ball in play until they make a human error,” he said.
This weekend, the Tornados will also host multiple 3A and 4A schools for a volleyball tournament. Puyallup, Ferndale, Ferris, Seahome, Central Kitsap and 3A state-champs Mount Spokane will be among the teams attending.
“There’s no slouches coming. We’re probably the lowest rated team in the tournament,” Reopelle said.