By Brian DeShazo

The Wenatchee World

WATERVILLE — First-year head coach Melissa Flaget hopes to bring renewed consistency to the Shockers volleyball program, which struggled to a 4-12 record last season. A senior-heavy Waterville squad shocked the region with a surprise run to the 2B state tournament in 2015, earning a stunning upset of undefeated Warden in the district championship game.

“Our goals this year are just to set systems in place so that the program can sustain itself,” Flaget said. “We’ll begin working on techniques that we want to try to keep progressing through each year.”

After moving from Oroville with her husband, a former Shockers’ boys basketball coach, Flaget served as assistant for four years under longtime Shockers head coach Jill Moomaw. She also coached the Waterville Junior High School volleyball team after gaining prior coaching experience in Oroville.

Flaget noted that simply establishing open gym sessions after the conclusion of the spring sports season should help her athletes develop their skills at the high school level. She added that maintaining and expanding summer volleyball opportunities like this summer’s training camp, hosted in Waterville by Gonzaga head coach Diane Nelson, is a priority that she hopes will build depth within the program.

Despite having only four returning varsity starters on this year’s roster, turnout is high enough to support a full junior varsity schedule. Flaget said the team would try to pick up C-squad games as well.

While she noted that 12 varsity players would be ideal for 6-on-6 drills in practice, the team plans to carry only nine players on the varsity roster to begin the season.

“We have a very large freshman group that accounts for much of our turnout,” Flaget said. “It’s important just being able to work with them before we put them into a high school game because the ball moves much faster at the varsity level.”

Flaget expects two freshmen to see significant early playing time on varsity, but senior Justine Clements will move over from right-side hitter to setter to provide leadership and experience at a crucial position on the court.

“Early on we’re just seeing what pieces we have and what we can build.”

The Shockers will preview six of their eight league opponents in the non-league schedule. In each case, except that of a rescheduled road tilt with Liberty Bell in Winthrop on Sept. 30, only the second meeting will count toward the league standings.

Waterville-Mansfield hosts Lake Roosevelt at the Shocker Dome in a non-league match Sept. 12. The Shockers lost a pair of heartbreaking five-set matches to the Raiders last season.