When it comes to Three Rivers League volleyball, there's been a great contrast between the programs at Uniontown and Pleasanton high schools in recent seasons.
Both teams begin their season Saturday when the Three Rivers League holds its pre-season tournament at Pleasanton.
Uniontown, 34-7 last season, has been one of the league's dominant programs. Pleasanton has struggled in recent seasons. finishing in single digits in the win column.
However, both teams will go into Saturday with no wins and no losses and an equal amount of optimism.
"After being towards the bottom of the league for as long as I can remember, including my previous two years coaching, I fully expect to be one of the top teams this year," Pleasanton head coach Danny Looney says. "We have always had trouble with getting enough quality athletes out for volleyball with only around 13 players out each of the last two years. We have 23 out this year and it is already providing good competition in practice."
Uniontown head coach Jackie Hall has 28 players out, including four seniors. There are nine returning letter winners, five of whom were starters.
"We're looking for another exciting season," Hall says. "The expectations are high for the team. We're looking forward to opening play this Saturday."
Seniors Jessie Camac, Tiffany Poyner and Jessica Harrison and juniors Jacy Ermel and Tayler Shook are Uniontown's returning starters. In addition, senior Megan Schnichels and juniors Hope Jurgensen and Jessica Murrow and sophomores Hayden Rathbun and Lauren Rockhold are expected to bring depth to the team.
Pleasanton returns a three-year starter in senior Johnnea Saulsberry, who was an All-TRL selection last season.
"She is our floor genera and keeps everyone going," Looney says.
Senior Megan Lowe is also expected to be a team leader for the Blu-Jays. She spent part of the summer playing in Hawaii and Australia.
Senior Brytnee Streeter is a returning starter and junior Teal Baker has transferred in from Jayhawk-Linn. Sophomore Karesa Lewis, whom Looney says is the team's best passer and blocker, will also return for what will be just her second year of high-school volleyball.
Looney also expects senior Alyson Straton, who was a part-time starter last season, juniors Ashley Newell, Melanie Sowards and Codi Byington and sophomore Lindsey Conn to battle for starting spots. Senior Alexis Howell and sophomores Hannah Streeter and Lauren Baker.
Both teams also play again Tuesday. Uniontown will go to Girard for a triangular that also includes Erie. Pleasanton will head to Frontenac for a quadrangular that also includes Galena and Neodesha.