Since Debbie Landrie returned to the Ellensburg High School volleyball program in 2013, it’s been her goal to create a culture.

And in her seventh season back, she’s seen the progression of it, with 44 girls alone showing up to tryouts.

“That’s what we been working on, that’s what we been working on,” Landrie said on Tuesday. “You know, with 44 girls trying out, that’s nice, the only problem is I hate cutting.”

Landrie has led the Bulldogs to state every year since 2014 and has won four straight district championships. EHS placed third at state last season, and second in 2015.

EHS returns a plethora of key players, but it lost its biggest commodity and lone graduated senior — Tia Andaya. She was a three-time Central Washington Athletic Conference Player of the Year and a two-time 2A All-State team selection (2017, 2018). Andaya is now vying with Gonzaga University.

“Yeah, it’s hard because she had the leadership and she was so dependable as a hitter and a setter. She was always there,” senior Shauny Fisk said. “But I think that we’ve had some girls step in and step up in leadership roles and becoming more accountable on the court.”

Landrie hosted an open gym through the summer until the end of July, and the team participated in two tournaments at Gonzaga and Central Washington University. EHS took three teams to the latter. It won the tournament at Gonzaga for the first time, defeating 4A schools in the process.

Even without Andaya, Landrie feels EHS picked up right where they left off after last season’s success.

“You can’t fill a Tia,” Landrie said. “That’s just not going to happen. But these other girls have a lot of experience. And like I said, they all played club into July. Because when we went to camp in July, they just finished up with their club season. So, they put a lot of time into their offseason, and it’s showing.”

The Bulldogs will sport eight seniors this season: defensive specialist/libero Fisk (CWAC first-team), who recently committed to CWU, outside hitter Grace Oldham (CWAC second-team), middle blocker Payton Lyyski (CWAC first-team), defensive specialist Leah Stueckle, setter Maia Valencia (CWAC honorable mention), setter Morgan Whitemarsh, defensive specialist/setter Emma Oldham, and outside hitter Rose Vazquez.

“The fact that we’re so close this year helps us on the court because we know our strengths and weaknesses and how to work with each other,” Grace Oldham said of the seniors.

Landrie was exuberant about a few of the newcomers, especially freshman hitter Abby Harrell.

Sophomore outside hitter Reaghan Naboychik was a surprise in the CWAC last season as a freshman. She was second on the team in kills (162) and carried a 35.9 percent kill percentage.

Returning as a junior is middle hitter Alice Bennett. She appeared in 53 sets and record 37 blocks behind team-leader Lyyski (44).

EHS is riding high expectations into 2019 and is optimistic it will be right back in the mix of the state’s best.

“It’s going to take a lot of holding each other accountable, a lot of hard work in the gym,” Fisk said. “But I think something we do have is that we’re all really good friends and we all really like each other, so we have that going for us.”

Ellensburg will host the Heidi Sullivan Memorial Jamboree at 5 p.m. on Sept. 5.

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