PALATINE HILL -- Under first-year head coach Emily Hayes, the Lewis & Clark Pioneers will bring a mix of experienced student-athletes with a large number of newcomers to 2018 season.
The Pios open the schedule as one of the hosts for the Oregon Trail Classic tournament and will welcome in Northwest Conference mate Willamette along with Illinois Tech, Johnson and Wales, Wisconsin-Stout and Mills on Friday and Saturday.
Hayes, who was an assistant last year, has added former NWC Player of the Year Hannah Stinson and two-year Lewis & Clark student-athlete Bailee Cragun to the staff.
Six seniors return for their fourth season in the program including All-NWC selection Kortney Meyer, who switched to a different position as a junior. With a year of experience, Meyer seems poised for another All-NWC-caliber year after finishing fourth in the conference in kills per set in 2017. She is an offensive threat from anywhere on the court. Casey Myszkowski finished her junior season with a career high in kills in addition to providing a reliable block for the Pios. She'll look to continue expanding her offensive range in the middle and right side. Sam Yorke has developed into a formidable blocker in the front row and has transitioned to the right side. A setter for the majority of her career, Yorke had the second-most assists on the team last year while also recording 42 kills, 52 digs and 16 blocks. The team's leader in assists, Mikayla Lopez, returns for her fourth year as a primary setter and leader on the court. Solid on the offensive side and consistent defensively, Lopez moved to fifth all-time at Lewis & Clark in assists last season. Annika San Nicolas transitioned into the libero role last year and is a defensive rock for the Pioneers. She tallied a career high in digs and fills a key leadership role for the team. Hannah Robles transferred at the start of last season and provides key versatility. A high-quality leader as well, Robles had 101 digs last year including 13 against Willamette toward the end of the season.
Kayla Valdez and Makena Ohlmaier return as the team's sophomores. Valdez has widened her range and is a consistently positive force for the team. She had 120 digs as a first-year competitor. Ohlmaier provides a dominant block and has an ability to play anywhere offensively. She had 107 kills and 81 digs as a freshman.
Among the newcomers are two transfers, Blythe Ballesteros and Sam Hammons. Ballesteros is a gritty setter and defender who can play all over the court, transferring from Southwestern Oregon Community College. Hammons competed at Clark Community College last year and brings in versatility and experience. She'll work on the outside.
Nine freshmen join the team this year from a variety of western states. Michelle McGinn from Kailua, Hawaii has quickly stepped into a leadership role as a setter. She runs the offense efficiently and delivers a consistent ball. Out of Bakersfield, Calif., Sydney Richardson is transitioning nicely from setter to defender. She has embraced the role and should be a defensive threat. Kate Kimbro has already made improvements through the early part of fall camp and will bring strong potential in the middle. From Golden, Colo., Kimbro picked the Pios because of the unique chance to study both of her academic fields and compete collegiately. Like Meyer and Lopez, Jenna Timmerman is from Arizona and has shown all the tools to be successful at the collegiate level. She was twice an all-region selection in high school. Kendall Malone is from Denver and has been a consistent force on the pin. The former all-conference and all-state selection has been reliable throughout fall camp. Ka'anelaokapu'uwai Pakaki-Pias is from Kapolei, Hawaii where she was an all-state selection. Nicknamed Anela, she is a threat in all six rotations as a consistent passer and on the attack. From Merced, Calif., Kelsey Parker joined the Pios off a pair of all-conference selections as a high schooler. Parker is a versatile and explosive player who has been continually improving. Isabel Artiaga is an exciting addition from Moraga, Calif. and is showing explosiveness in the front and back row. At Campolindo High School, Artiaga was All-NorCal and a Coaches Award winner. Also from Denver, Mollee Chenoweth is showing leadership and improvement. Possessing the intangibles, Chenoweth picked Lewis & Clark because of all the opportunities that are available including living in Portland.
Following the Oregon Trail Classic this weekend, the Pioneers travel to Washington and Lee in Virginia to round out their non-conference schedule.
NWC matches start in eastern Washington on Sept. 14-15 before the conference home opener on Sept. 21 against Puget Sound. Lewis & Clark plays four of its next five on the road before a lengthy home stretch in October.
The regular season ends Nov. 2 and 3 with Pacific and Pacific Lutheran, respectively, at Pamplin Sports Center.