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Woodland volleyball (copy)

Nicole Guthrie (3) and the Woodland Beavers are eyeing bigger things than a league title this season. 

Unfinished business.

It’s become Woodland volleyball’s motto this year after missing out on the state playoffs last season for the first time in five years. The disappointment came after the Beavers sealed their first Greater St. Helens 2A League title since 2005.

They were stunned by Hockinson in the first round of the district playoffs and couldn’t recover in a five-setter against Washougal. It was a shocking conclusion to one of the best regular seasons in Woodland memory.

Unfinished business.

That’s what’s left for the returners this season, and what a crop of returners they are. Elyse Booker toppled the school record in digs her junior year and will likely set a nearly impassable mark by season’s end. She earned league MVP honors, and she returns as the key to the Woodland engine.

Taylor Foster, too, holds the school record for blocks and kills, breaking both in a season-opening bout with La Center.

“Our whole thing is we want to play to win, not to not lose,” Foster said. “This year we have our mindset to play our way, the right way, and play together as a team.”

But that touches partly on how dynamic this Woodland team can be at their best. That quick summary neglects to mention sophomore Emma Swett, who earned captain honors her freshman year and has only grown as a setter and middle blocker in the heart of the Beavers’ attack. Junior Nicole Guthrie and senior Olivia Andersen, too, are key weapons that make Woodland difficult to defend.

“Our season didn’t end the way we wanted to last year, and we just want to come out with fire all season,” second-year coach Danielle Hutton said. “We have a lot of depth, too. That’s something we didn’t have a whole lot of last year. We have so many options all the way across the net.”

The Beavers are just two years removed from a state runner-up finish. They enter 2018 as defending league champs. All that’s left is — you guessed it — unfinished business.

Here’s some other storylines to watch as 2018 progresses:

HOW GOOD IS CASTLE ROCK? The Rockets rolled through the regular season undefeated last year, the season ending in a sixth-place state finish after an extremely difficult draw in the 1A State Championships. They lose star Auna Dolan and talented Trinity Naugle, but have one of the best defensive squads in the state. Logann Golden is ready to flourish alongside Zoe Naugle, Sydney James and Rachel Anderson. Coach Jeana Bayes knows how to keep this team from having a down year.

WHO TAKES THE CENTRAL 2B? Four of the past five 2B state title games have featured at least one Central 2B League team. The 2016 game featured two C2BL squads. That’s what makes this league so intriguing around the state. Among the favorites this season to take home the crown are some familiar faces: Mossyrock, Kalama, Toutle Lake, Wahkiakum and Napavine. The Vikings are defending champions, the Chinooks won in 2016, Napavine stole 2015 and Toutle Lake brought home 2014. With no dominant team of the bunch, the league — and subsequent district tourney — should provide plenty of fireworks.

CAN MARK MORRIS MAKE THE JUMP? The Monarchs looked really good in a season-opener against Kelso. They boast some interesting weapons throughout the lineup, and a nice middle duo of Andee Whitman and Maddie Whitman. But the Greater St. Helens 2A League is awfully tough, and the Monarchs finished in the cellar last season. Don’t be shocked to see first-year coach Talia Hamer lead the Monarchs to a few upsets this season.

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Sports Editor

Joshua is the sports editor for The Daily News. He joined the staff in January 2016 after working at The Bellingham Herald. He is a Western Washington University graduate and native of the Puget Sound region.

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