The 2022 volleyball season was one to forget for the Centralia College volleyball team.
Finishing with a lowly 1-26 record, the Trailblazers won just seven sets all season, losing in straight sets in 22 matches.
With that season now in the rearview mirror, new coach Ceanna Larson didn’t shy away when asked about her expectations for the program with her at the helm.
“It’s such a great college. They offer really strong academic programs. I think location wise, you have access to so many phenomenal athletes,” Larson said. “In my opinion, there is no reason this program shouldn’t be built up into a championship program.”
While making that big of a leap in one season is unlikely, Larson is excited to use this upcoming season to set the program’s foundation.
“My expectations for the girls (this season) are to just come together and work hard,” Larson said. “And to start developing and establishing the traditions that we want to establish, the expectations within our program that we want to establish … that’s kind of our building block from here.”
Larson spent the last four seasons with Blue Mountain Community College, a fellow NWAC member in Pendleton, Oregon, but never faced Centralia while coaching there.
Prior to their first practice together, Larson never had the chance to see Katelyn Hunsaker, Maggie Busse, and Malika Slassi, the three returners from last season.
Joining those three is Ayzha Fuller, a sophomore from Orem, Utah, and seven freshmen, including Centralia alums Peyton Smith and Evie Rooklidge and W.F. West alum Morgan Rogerson.
“We’re all getting to know each other all at once,” Larson said with a laugh. “Right now is very much just trying to get to know the girls, let them get to know me and my expectations and how I run and teach things.”
Larson said she has been impressed with the group of athletes she has so far, saying that they have quickly bought into the idea of chasing improvement every day.
“The girls have just been great. I think we’ve got some really good kids in our program. They’re hard workers, they’re taking in everything I’m throwing at them like sponges.
“We keep talking about how we’re gonna improve that one percent every practice and just strive to be better and better every day, and they’ve really bought into that.”
While hopeful that focus and buy-in will lead to greater success on the court, Larson is also looking forward to establishing a greater footprint in the community.
“I really like to do lots of camps and clinics and kind of give back and grow our sport,” Larson said. “I’m excited to hopefully be a part of offering that to some younger kids that wanna get into volleyball before middle school.”
Helping Larson is assistant coach Emily Mora, the former W.F. West coach who Larson says has helped her acclimate to the area.
“She has really great ties here,” Larson said of Mora. “I think that she has been a wealth of knowledge for me in helping start to establish some of those connections instantly that might’ve taken me a little longer than two weeks.”
While Larson has only been in town for about two weeks, there isn’t much time before CC takes the court for its opener.
The Trailblazers first matches will be on Aug. 26, as they’ll face Lower Columbia and Umpqua at the LCC Round Robin Tournament. They’ll then host Chemeketa in their home opener on Aug. 30.