There's good reason to see potential in the 2010 edition of Trapper volleyball. After all, seven players come back from the roster that achieved those things last season. Hitters Mayara Conilho, Randi McInerney, Danielle York and Jessica Denney all saw significant net time a year ago. Libero Valerie Lesu and defensive specialists Ashton Hudspeth and Megann Legerski similarly saw their share of action along the back row during the 2009 title run by the Trappers. All will be expected to play big roles for Northwest this season.
Conspicuously missing from that list was standout freshman Paula Barros, who turned heads last season despite playing much of the year with an injury. Barros departed the Trappers' program over the summer and took her game to Texas-Brownsville for the season.
In her absence, the Trappers will look for some of the team's six freshmen to step forward and help pick up the slack. One of the likely candidates might be Suriname native Sandrina Hunsel.
“She's new to the sport of volleyball,” Siqueira said of the 6'2” Hunsel, who only began playing volleyball two years ago. “She's a very, very powerful hitter. She's got tremendous potential. She's just a raw talent.”
Another new face expected to contribute immediately was 6'3” middle hitter Gabriella Fabri, a Sao Paulo, Brazil, native. The injury bug bit early on Fabri, however, leaving the new Trappers' season in question.
“She hurt her knee the first day of practice,” Siqueira said. “She decided to play and see how the season goes, but we won't be counting on her as much as we wanted to.”
Also new to the Trappers' program are a pair of setters. Sophomore Allison Hart transfers into Northwest College after playing last season for national tournament qualifier Seminole State College. Trapper freshman Phoibe Fetu followed in Lesu's footsteps, coming to campus from Hawaii.
“Phoibe was a late signee for us, but she has great hands and she's able to hit if we need her,” said Siqueira. “We were happy to be able to pick her up as late as we did.”
Other new faces to the Trappers' program include Rexburg, Idaho, freshman Gianesi Tarafa, Hardin, Mont., native Laura Uffelman and Bremerton, Wash., signee Cailey Washington. All three will be hitters along the Trappers' front line.
Another summer signee, Lauren Buseman from Eager, Ariz., is expected to take a redshirt this season. Buseman is a middle hitter and blocker.
The nation's pollsters appear to agree with Siqueira regarding Northwest College's potential. The Trappers were tabbed the No. 25 team in the nation in the pre-season NJCAA volleyball poll.
Despite that ranking, the Trappers were picked to finish just third within Region IX North.
Whatever combination of players finds its way onto the floor for the Trappers will have to mesh quickly. Northwest College's early-season schedule does not afford the luxury of a learning curve.
The Trappers begin the year next weekend, Aug. 27-28, with an appearance at the College of Southern Idaho tournament. While Northwest dodges a matchup against the preseason No. 1 CSI squad, they will face three teams ranked in the top 11 of the preseason poll in No. 3 Salt Lake, No. 4 Miami-Dade and No. 11 North Idaho.
Northwest also plays unranked Eastern Utah and Snow College at the event.
“That tournament is always a wake-up call that shows what college volleyball is all about,” said Siqueira. “There's some very good volleyball teams there, and that's the level we want our program to be at.”
Northwest also has a tough appearance at the Salt Lake Community College tournament and the CSI Top 10 tournament early on its calendar. All of that is to set the stage for Northwest's goal to defend its regional crown.
“Casper and LCCC are tough. Central signed a good freshman class,” Siqueira said. “The competition gets harder year after year in Region IX and the girls need to understand just how tough it is. Our freshmen need to step up and play at a sophomore level for us.”
Of course, that sort of development is expected to take a little time.
“Our goal is improvement,” said Siqueira. “We expect to make improvements as we go along and learn from the top 10 teams we play. We want to compete at that level so that we'll be prepared when conference play starts.
“Our growth and consistency are the keys to our season. We have a lot of room to improve right now as a team, but these girls are extremely coachable.”
Those wanting a sneak peek at the Trappers this season can take advantage of a preseason scrimmage being held at 4 p.m., Saturday, in Cabre Gym. Northwest will face Montana State University-Billings in that scrimmage. The first regular-season home game for NWC comes on Tuesday, Sept. 7, when the Trappers host Sheridan College.