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Junior Power: Sarah Baugh and Delanee Nilles lead NK volleyball, soccer teams
Baugh could hold Vikings' keys to state tourney
POULSBO — Sarah Baugh has a way of dominating a volleyball game.
The junior outside hitter and setter is the Vikings’ vocal leader on the court. As one of a handful of players who compete year round on club teams, her teammates listen to what she has to say.
“Naturally, she really has that leadership role. She knows what she’s talking about,” senior captain Bryana Bohl said.
As a sophomore, Baugh led the North Kitsap High team with 220 kills and 249 assists, earning her the title of Most Valuable Player in the Olympic League and leading the Vikings to a 17-2 record and an Olympic League Title. This year Baugh returns, hoping to lead her team to its first state tournament berth.
“She’s critical to our success,” North Kitsap volleyball coach Tim French said.
Baugh began playing volleyball as a sixth-grader at East Bremerton’s Peace Lutheran School. She showed a natural talent for the sport and soon started playing with the Kitsap Juniors select team. From there, she moved on to Seattle’s University Place Volleyball Club, playing on the under-15 team at age 13.
“The competition on the other side of the water was so different,” Baugh said. “It opened everything up.”
As a freshman at North, Baugh played both volleyball and basketball. Last year, she put her jump shot on the back burner to focus on sets and spikes. When she’s not wearing the Viking purple, Baugh competes with the Edmonds-based Washington Volleyball Academy, traveling to tournaments across the country.
This year Baugh will be looking to draw the attention of college scouts. She’s already increased her exposure by attending camps at schools like Stanford and Washington State University. She hopes the upcoming season at North will help make her case.
“That’s the biggest year, at least for volleyball players, for looking at colleges,” Baugh said.
During the academy’s fall break, she’ll be North Kitsap’s chief threat at the net.
“The challenge is to utilize her the best way we can,” French said. “There will be a lot of teams kind of keying on her. We need to keep the balance so other teams can’t just focus on her and shut us down.”
Finding that balance could be tough. Seven of last year’s players graduated in the spring, including middle blocker Claire Torstenbo and outside hitter Taylor Ottomano, the squad’s tallest members and two of its top three weapons up front.
“Those aren’t easy shoes to fill,” French said. “The challenge this year is to fill that void. It’s gonna happen. It’s just gonna take more time.”
Backing up Baugh this season will be Bohl, a right side hitter known for her defense and a killer serve. Last year, Bohl racked up 56 aces during the regular season.
“She’s a very good all-around player,” French said of Bohl.
This year’s squad also includes senior defensive specialist Melissa Beggerow and junior middle blocker Indigo Williams, players with veteran experience who were part of last year’s success.
The Vikings will compete against smaller schools this year, as they move from the 3A class to the 2A class. Most of their regular-season opponents will be the same as last year’s, but postseason play will pit the team against some new competition. The biggest challenge right now is getting players to gel.
“It’s a matter of getting used to each other and getting comfortable,” Baugh said.
Once that happens, the Vikings hope to make another run at the state tournament.
“I think people will be in for a surprise when they see us,” Baugh said.
Nilles leads by example
There are plenty of reasons why the North Kitsap High School girls soccer team should make a run for the state tournament this year.
The biggest reason — and not just because of her 5-foot-10-inch frame — is junior Delanee Nilles.
“She’s a big impact player that a lot of players look to to be going hard in every game,” said junior Lindsey Foster, a captain on the Viking soccer team.
Nilles, who plays center midfielder, has been a force for the Vikings since her freshman year, when she amassed 14 goals and 10 assists. Last year she scored nine goals and assisted on 14, helping North go undefeated in the Olympic League and 11-1-2 overall before ending the season in the district playoffs.
This year, Nilles will again be at the center of the Vikings’ attack.
“She offers two things,” head coach Dee Taylor said of Nilles. “During the game, she’s clearly a playmaker. When the ball is at her feet, good things happen. And she’s set high standards for herself. So she brings that intensity to our training sessions and everybody benefits.”
Nilles started playing soccer at age 5, but only recently began to specialize in the sport. She grew up playing basketball, softball, track, volleyball and soccer, but has pared down her athletic activities in the last two years.
“When I was little, I played all the sports,” Nilles said. “Soccer is just what I liked best, so I kept playing it.”
As a freshman at North Kitsap, Nilles also played varsity basketball and ran track. Last year she gave up basketball, and this year track may take a backseat to spring soccer.
Nilles also plays club soccer year round for Issaquah’s Eastside FC and is part of a state-wide pool of finalists for a national U17 team. She has a good chance of playing for an NCAA Division I school when she reaches college, Taylor said. Nilles has begun looking at universities, and will likely commit to one by next spring, she said.
In addition to her dominant play, Nilles brings a helpful attitude, Taylor said.
“She knows she’s talented,” Taylor said. “But she’s also a really good teammate. There isn’t the ego.”
The greatest beneficiary of Nilles’ 14 assists last year was Siara Byers, who led the Olympic League with 23 goals in 2009. Byers graduated from North in June, leaving the team with a big spot to fill on offense.
“It kind of sucks not having her up top,” Nilles said of Byers. “But we have a lot of people stepping up who will fill the role.”
Perhaps the best candidate to become the Vikings’ new scoring threat is junior forward Ashley Cole, who enters her third year on the team. As a freshman, Cole contributed three goals, and last year she added five scores and eight assists.
“I expect her to have a breakout year,” Taylor said.
Adding to the Vikings’ strength in the middle third of the field are Foster, who Taylor called “one of the smartest players on the team,” and senior Elya Le, who was named to the Olympic League’s All League first team each of the past three years.
“She’s very game-smart,” Taylor said of Le. “She’s one of our leaders.”
Anchoring the Viking defense is senior Ashleigh Marcelino.
“She’s a key. She kind of holds our defense together,” Taylor said.
The roster also includes a well-stocked bench, Taylor said. That’s something he believes will help the Vikings continue to compete in years to come, hopefully getting them past the district playoff level and into the state tournament.
“We’re much deeper this year than we were last year,” Taylor said. “We’ll be different, but we’ll be good.”