By David Pan Enterprise sports editor
Ashley Allen is back home.
The 2005 Jackson High School graduate is taking over the Timberwolves, a volleyball program on the rise. Last year, the Timberwolves finished eighth overall at the Class 4A state tournament.
The Timberwolves return seven players from last season, including first-team, all-league selection Leigh-Ann Haataja.
“She’ll be a huge contribution to us in the middle,” Allen said. “She is a solid athlete, a hard worker and really understands the game. … She’ll really open up on offense. She also will be a threat in the back row. Her passing is coming along really well. I’m excited to have her everywhere on the court.”
Haataja is shifting from the outside to middle partly because of the arrival of Miah Diirell, a transfer from Edmonds-Woodway.
Also returning is sophomore Haley MacDonald, a left-handed setter, who can really deliver the ball, according to Allen.
“She’s just fantastic,” said Allen, who currently is a personal volleyball coach at Nevillizms, a company run by former Olympic coach Bill Neville in Bellevue. “She’s got the experience.”
The other two seniors on the roster are Malisa Marasigan and Kristin Ryan.
“You look at the roster and we’re young but very experienced,” Allen said. “It’s great we can really focus on what needs to be done as a team instead of individuals and their skills.”
One of the younger players is sophomore Emmy Allen, the younger sister of the head coach. It isn’t the first time the two have been in coach/player situation.
“We work hard to make sure in the volleyball arena our relationship is from a coach-to-player standpoint,” Ashley Allen said.
The focus in practice has been on serve-receiver.
“We’ve got a lot of very solid athletes,” Ashley Allen said. “We have good hitters. It’s just being able to convert that into our offense. We’re working with the girls on how they work together to be effective.”
The first-year Jackson coach encourages her players to be proactive in finding solutions to problems.
“I really want for them to figure it out for themselves,” Ashley Allen said. “I am constantly trying to tell them that they’ll remember it better if they can find a solution to the problem. … I can’t be on the court with them. They need to be able to figure it out.
“They are a solid group of athletes. Jackson is lucky to have them.”