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Knights finding strength in numbers on volleyball court | Prep sports feature
Whenever she steps on the court, Newport senior Casey Schoenlein is the center of attention.
At 6-foot-4, the outside hitter for the Knights' volleyball team stands head and shoulders above the competition and garners more than her share of stares from opponents and spectators in awe of her stature. She was named to a prestigious nationwide watch list before the season began as a top-60 prep senior and already owns numerous honors from her time as a Knight.
But in 2013, Schoenlein is but one of the many reasons Newport finds itself with a perfect conference record and among those expected to contend for a 4A state title.
"That probably makes Casey the happiest," head coach Steve Trachy said of the depth on this year's team. "We have a bunch of people working hard with her."
Fellow seniors Anna Crabtree, India Gants and Kristina Mills were the only other returning players from last year's varsity squad and the Knights have counted on a number of underclassmen to contribute early in their careers.
Schoenlein said last year's team, which finished with a 1-2 record at state and off the podium, was not as tightly knit as this year's group, a closeness that has led to a newfound sense of purpose.
"Last year, that may not have been one of our strengths," she said. "Now that we trust each other and work well together, I think we're all a lot more confident."
That confidence played itself out brilliantly during the conference slate, with the Knights winning all 10 of their league matches and posting eight sweeps to take the top seed to Saturday's conference tournament.
Steve Trachy, who has been with the program is various capacities for more than three decades, took over head coaching duties this year for the first time in several seasons while another coach who also teaches at Newport worked to earn National Board Certification. After coaching the junior varsity team last year, Trachy said the most noticeable trait of this year's team is their ability to relish their time together in the moment.
"The girls have a lot of fun with each other," he said. "We have goofy down pretty well."
Trachy said middle blockers Isabel Mosier and Avie Niece, both sophomores, have been another critical piece of the team and allowed Shoenlein and Crabtree to flourish.
"They've had a real impact," he said.
Newport's only loss of the year came in its second match, 3-0 to Kentwood, and the Knights own wins over each of the seven other teams in the tournament.
The Knights open at home against Roosevelt and will then face the winner of another first round match between Ballard and Bothell.
Each of the teams that makes next week's championship match will earn a spot in the 4A state tournament, while the third place finisher will need to beat the third place team from Wesco for the district's third and final berth.
After a near-perfect season thus far and with a team that has grown closer with each win, Schoenlein said the Knights are poised to play their best volleyball down the stretch.
"I think we can make a run in state," she said. "If we keep improving, there is no reason we can't."