WENATCHEE — Morghan Funk is still adjusting to her new surroundings in Wenatchee.
The senior setter moved from Spokane last year, and after spending most of last season playing at the junior varsity level, she landed one of the two setter positions for the Panthers.
Funk and junior McKenzie Madland have perhaps the toughest job on a team with high expectations and rife with turnover.
The Panthers offense will flow through the duo this fall, and it’s up to them to read the scenario and get the ball in the right spot, at the right time and to the right player.
It’s a process that started during the summer and will continue to unfold as Wenatchee works toward a fourth straight state berth.
“I’m just trying to still build relationships with each one of them and learn what they like to hit, where they’re comfortable and stuff,” Funk said last week. “Because that’s the best thing I can do to make sure they’re successful and we’re successful.”
Seventh-year coach LeAnne Branam likened the setter position to quarterback because of the position’s complexity and said it takes time to adjust to the next level.
“The biggest adjustment for them has been the speed of the game,” Branam said. “Everything happens faster, girls are actually expecting you to put the ball in a certain place on a set. Whereas when you’re at the JV level, or a lower level, you’re jus kind of setting the ball to set the ball.”
Wenatchee already has some ingredients for another dominant year in Big Nine play.
Senior hitters Kiana Black and Rachel Leiber were staples for a team that went 9-1 in league play last season and showed unrivaled athleticism in Big Nine contests against Eastmont and Eisenhower.
Black and Leiber are the only returning varsity starters and both have the ability to ignite the Panthers with big plays. A big part of the setters’ role will be to feed Black and Leiber and let their talent do the rest.
While it’s good to have the pair on the court, there’s also a lot riding on their performance.
“It’s one of those things where we do have to rely on them so much, they have to come out prepared every single game to play as hard as they can,” Branam said. “There’s not really the opportunity for them to have an off day, which is a very stressful job to know there’s that pressure on you, but they both take pressure very well.”
But as the reloading process has progressed, there are plenty of positive signs to buy in and believe the Panthers could continue their postseason streak.
Funk, Madland and the team as a whole showed clear signs of improvement in a close five-set loss against the Cadets last week, and Branam said the team’s done a good job of developing chemistry.
It’s unclear whether this year’s Wenatchee squad can live up to the lofty expectations set by consecutive winning seasons, but it seems to be headed in the right direction.
“We’re still trying to figure out the flow between the setters and the hitters,” senior Ali Marboe said. “It’s coming along, it’s getting there. We have good setters, we have good hitters, but once we get it, I think we’re going to be solid.”