Castle Rock’s undefeated volleyball team rolls into Yakima on Friday morning with talent, confidence and desire. They also boast a secret weapon.
Sophomore Parker Watts, a club volleyball player, has played an important part in the Rockets (16-0) success this season, serving as a “pseudo”-assistant coach. From challenging players in practice to being an extra eye on the sidelines, Watts’ impact is clear.
“It’s like playing against an actual team when he’s on the other side in practice,” senior Trinity Naugle said. “Every game he tells us what to do, he has pointers on everything, every possession he knows.”
With a plenty of talent himself, and experience aplenty, Watts is the perfect counterpart to coach Jeana Bayes. And a more than capable scout-team player during Rockets’ practices.
“He’s that other girl on the other team that we have to stop in practice,” Bayes said. “He’s hitting deep, across, and so our defense is moving around.”
The experience hasn’t been lost on Watts, either. The sophomore can only play club volleyball — he plays on the Cowlitz County-based ACES 18u Team — and will eventually be college-bound to play the sport, Bayes said.
After skipping football this season to avoid injury, Watts is getting his prep sports experience by living vicariously through the Trico 1A League and Southwest District champions.
“The men’s team, they’re taller, they’re faster, they hit the ball a lot harder,” Watts said. “But I’ve learned a lot from that team, and I’m glad I can share it with this team.”
Watts’ mother, Michal-Ann Watts, played at Castle Rock, Lower Columbia College and Saint Martin’s University before eventually helping start a boys’ program in the Columbia Empire Volleyball Association in 2012. She’s also served as a local volleyball official for several years.
It was her influence that led Parker Watts to volleyball, and now it’s Watts’ influence that has helped the Rockets to their second consecutive state tournament.
So has his calm nature.
“He likes to tell her, when she gets a little crazy, ‘Jeana, chill out a little bit,’” Trinity Naugle said. “He helps us stay calm.”
Bayes added: “He’s definitely brought a calm to the team. ... He’s also another set of eyes; he can point out someone who deserves an opportunity.”
The Rockets’ biggest asset heading into Friday’s first-round matchup with Coupeville, scheduled for 3:15 p.m. at the Yakima Valley SunDome, is their depth.
Watts has taken an already talented squad and helped push star middles Auna Dolan and Zoe Naugle, hitters Logann Golden and Kyndil Kirkendoll, freshman setter Ranae Holter and defensive standouts Sydney James and Rachel Anderson to new heights.
Senior Trinity Naugle would have to go back to her sophomore year to remember what a win over La Center feels like, after the Rockets fell to the Trico 1A rival four consecutive times.
This year, the Rockets topped the Wildcats three times, including a five-set regular-season finale and a sweep in the district championship.
“I’m so impressed, playing La Center three times and coming out on top, has been an amazing feeling,” Naugle said.
They’re on to the state tournament now, where Watts says he believes they’ll earn nothing but wins, citing their hard work— never once taking any credit for any part of the team’s success.
Now on to the state tournament, the Rockets are seeking their first win in Yakima since 2012, when they lifted the state crown. And while Watts doesn’t take credit for the success, there’s no denying he’s played his role.
“He’s just like a teammate to these kids,” Bayes said. “I call him a manager, but he’s really like an assistant coach in a way.”