ONTONAGON COUNTY - Both high school volleyball teams in Ontonagon County are under the guidance of new head coaches, and, while both Ontonagon and Ewen-Trout Creek are in a bit of rebuilding mode, the teams are embracing fresh starts.
Megan Tucker, who played four years of volleyball at Ontonagon before graduating in 2004, returned to her alma mater last year as JV coach.
Now, she'll lead the varsity Gladiators.
"Realistically, we're trying to start new and rebuild," Tucker said.
"We're starting a lot with fundamentals, the basics, trying as much as we can to get a strong offense and defense. We're learning but I do get the vibe that it's going to be a big turnaround."
The Gladiators lost 3-0 to L'Anse Thursday and had opened the season with a 3-1 loss to Ironwood, but sandwiched in between, they beat Watersmeet 3-1, tying last year's win total in the process.
Ontonagon has six seniors, led by Brooke Turin, who plays both outside hitter and back-up setter to impressive sophomore Logan Preiss.
Jennifer Stewart is also one of the team leaders, and adds a strong presence at the net.
Of the 11 players on the roster, three of them are middle blockers, but Tucker is still looking for someone to emerge in the back row.
New Ewen-Trout Creek coach Amber Pearsall is still learning about her team after only being on board for a few weeks - she literally met the team on the way to their first preseason tournament - leading both the nine players on varsity and eight players on JV.
"I have a great group of girls and they've been receptive to my coaching strategy. It's been a positive all around, but a little bit of a special situation in creating a roster for both varsity and junior varsity," said Pearsall, who has coached middle school volleyball downstate and is now a P.E. teacher at E-TC.
While player roles are still being determined, Pearsall is looking to Molly Niemi and Marlene Lannet in particular to play big roles on varsity, leading the five seniors and four juniors.
E-TC is the defending Porcupine Mountain Conference champion, but graduated many of the key players. The Panthers started the season with 3-0 losses to Wakefield-Marenisco Tuesday and Bessemer Thursday.
The two new-look Ontonagon County teams have the first of two rivalry meetings at 6 p.m. Tuesday in Ewen. The second meeting will be on Oct. 15 in Ontonagon.