GHC volleyball revival attracts local talent

The revival of the Grays Harbor College volleyball program has included a few logistical headaches.

“The problem is we haven’t had a volleyball team in five years,” said GHC coach Christine Nelson. “We’re really starting from scratch. We have maybe 10 balls and no uniforms.”

What the Chokers will have when they take the court next September is top area players.

Only a few months after announcing that the volleyball program will return following a five-year absence next fall, the Chokers have already attracted a good share of local talent. Nelson, who doubles as GHC’s women’s basketball coach, has already received commitments from nine players.

Those include Hoquiam High seniors Chelsy Stewart and Tiffani Dhooghe, who played for Nelson last season at HHS (she has since resigned the Grizzly job), plus Aberdeen High standouts Alahna Weber and Heather Dublanko.

“Staying close to home and playing for Christine,” Dhooghe responded when asked about her decision to play for the Chokers.

Weber, who was approached to continue her volleyball career at Pacific Lutheran University, also expressed a desire to remain close to home.

Two Choker basketball players, Montesano High graduate Tasha Dotson and Raymond alum Mallory Maneman, have announced their intention to also participate in volleyball next fall. Caitlin Haisman, a 2012 Elma High grad, has also signed with the Chokers.

Of the high school recruits thus far, only Stewart intends to play multiple sports at Grays Harbor. A three-sport standout at Hoquiam, she will also join the Choker women’s basketball team.

“It’s really been pretty easy recruiting,” Nelson noted. “There are a lot of kids in the area who want to play volleyball. I thought it might be more difficult recruiting. I know the people around here are excited to bring back volleyball.”

Nelson is continuing her recruiting efforts throughout the Northwest and is supervising an open gym program Monday nights at the college. She said the success of the Grays Harbor Volleyball Club youth program should give the college a good pipeline for local talent.

Grays Harbor College dropped volleyball following the 2008 season. It was reinstated, athletic director Tyler Gaston acknowledged, in part to fulfill a federal Title IX requirement that a college’s athletic participation numbers reflect the gender ratio of its student body population. The majority of GHC students are female.

The Chokers will play most of their home games on Wednesday and Friday nights at Aberdeen High School’s Sam Benn Gym. Since much of the Northwest Athletic Association of Community College scheduling is at least blocked out the preceding fall, they are still scrambling for non-league games and are not currently entered in any early season tournaments.

Aside from earning a couple of NWAACC tournament berths under the leadership of current Montesano High coach Debbie Gibson, the Chokers traditionally struggled in volleyball when the sport was originally offered.

Even with a start-up program, however, expectations are relatively high when the Chokers return to the court.

“I think we have some solid players, so it will be decent this year,” Dhooghe said.

“The great programs have great talent and kids who work hard and play together,” Nelson added. “I think it helps out having some of the top talent in our area. I think we’ll surprise some people.”