Another bump in the road

Talented Placer squad has high hopes despite Johnson’s back injury
By: Todd Mordhorst Journal Sports Editor
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Jarring departures are nothing new to the Placer High volleyball team. So when Kelsey Johnson underwent back surgery in June and left the Lady Hillmen without their top returning hitter for this fall, there was no panic. Coach Jennifer Wright has seen this before. In 2007, star senior-to-be Sydney McDowell moved to southern California over the summer. Placer still put together a 15-10 season last fall, falling to eventual section champion St. Mary’s in the second round of the playoffs. “We’re having to make adjustments again,” Wright said. “But I’m really pleased with the girls, how they’ve come in from the offseason. They’re a lot stronger, a lot more confident and we have a lot of options with the players we have.” The Lady Hillmen have plenty of talent left. Seniors Melissa Stoll, Shelby Madigan and Sydney Leftridge lead the way with athleticism to spare. Stoll is one of the best passers on the team and a dangerous weapon at outside hitter. Madigan is a force at the net and Leftridge is versatile enough to play setter or rack up kills in the frontcourt. “Of course it was a big blow because (Johnson) is such a great player and we all love her,” said Stoll, a third-year varsity starter. “But I think we have a plethora of talent this year, so I think we’ll be fine. Of course, we feel bad that she’s injured.” The arrival of Colleen Stafford was a pleasant surprise for Placer. A transfer from Granite Bay, Stafford brings good size and skill to the lineup. The daughter of William Jessup University volleyball coach Terry Stafford, Colleen may line up as a setter or an outside hitter. Junior setter Kelsey Lardner is back after coming on strong last season and Leftridge’s skills will give the Lady Hillmen a chance to mix things up on offense. Wright said she isn’t sure if her team will play a one or two-setter system this fall. Senior Brea Prior brings good size to the front line and junior Carly Fox is valuable as a libero. Junior varsity products Mariah Dvorak, Melissa Manning and Heather Johnston add talent and depth to a team that will look to contend in the tough Pioneer Valley League. El Dorado returns league MVP Cora Harms after going undefeated in the PVL last season. Colfax is loaded with four three-year varsity players and is anxious to reclaim its dominance of the league. “We definitely want to get league and hopefully go on to sections,” Madigan said. “I think we’re coming together a lot better on the court this year.” Placer will miss departed seniors Mandy Wagner and Emylee Brodhead, who gave the Lady Hillmen one of the tallest tandems in the area on the front line. But the 2008 Placer squad will look to capitalize on its great quickness and versatility to get the job done. “I would say that we’re going to make up for everything that we supposedly lack in height through out speed and agility,” Stoll said. “I think we can be the forerunners (in the PVL) and hopefully take it.”