It's not about winning a state championship, Jodee Scott insists. It's not even about claiming another Southern Sky Conference title.
No, the Ashland High volleyball team is thinking small in an effort to make it big.
"What the girls have talked about is just doing their best every day and seeing what happens," said Scott, entering her third season as head coach. "Then you can look back at the end of the season and there are no regrets because you know you've reached your full potential."
Four years removed from the their magical run to the big-school state championship in 2005, the Grizzlies are motivated and appear well-equipped for a similar rise to power following three straight top-four finishes. The Grizzlies are senior loaded, feature one of the top middle blockers in the state in senior Niki Small and received a fortunate break over the summer when former South Medford High starting setter Callie McCoy transferred to AHS.
Naturally, expectations are high, but that's usually the case when it comes to Ashland volleyball. This year's squad aims to transcend those expectations by focusing on the now.
"Last year we skipped ahead," said Small, Ashland's only returning SSC first-team all-star. "Mentally we were like, 'We'll be there, we'll be there,' and we didn't even focus on the little stuff before. So I think mentally we need to prepare for every game like it's our last."
The Grizzlies' newfound focus will be put to the test starting tonight against Roseburg. The nonconference match starts at 7 p.m. at Ashland Middle School.
Small, who recently signed a letter of intent to play for Northern Arizona University next year, leads a senior class that's eight players strong and includes Hayley Ross, a second-team all-conference outside hitter in 2008. Ross, Hannah Stocking and Ila Sturges, all seniors, will handle most of the hitting duties for the Grizzlies, while senior Elizabeth Westmoreland, junior Sadie Shelton and sophomore Piper Cantrell will be responsible for back row defense.
That leaves the setter position, a conundrum that Scott was still trying to solve late last week. McCoy has more match experience, but fellow senior Drew Van Vleck knows Scott's system after backing up Kiley Pinder last season.
"I think it's a good situation to have them both vying for play time throughout the season and know that it's always an option for them, so no one can really settle down too much," Scott said.
The Grizzlies start the season with four straight matches against 6A foes — all former Southern Oregon Conference rivals — then take part in the Rogue Valley Classic on Sept. 26. The Southern Sky Conference regular season begins three days later when the Grizzlies host Klamath Union.
"I think we're coming together really well, especially the way that we're communicating and working together," Westmoreland said. "It's just a really close group. Everyone likes everyone on the team. That's kind of a bold statement, but I think it's true and I think that's going to helps us this year."