COC sophomore Elizabeth Gannon digs the ball during a practice at College of the Canyons Thursday afternoon. Cory Rubin/The Signal

2019 Canyons women’s volleyball preview

College of the Canyons has had consistent success in recent seasons, and this year looks to be no different. The team looks slightly different physically, however, as the Cougars add a significant amount of height.

Coach Clay Timmons said that it’s the tallest group he’s had in the last five years, which makes it easier for Canyons to run the rotations that work best.

“We have a lot more height, which is going to be great for blocking, especially,” said sophomore libero Elizabeth Gannon.

A returning player with significant height is Grace Ferguson, a 6-foot-2 Saugus alumna who was second on the team in kills last season with 218.

“Personally I’ve just been working on getting faster and stronger and getting up as much as I can and being available to the setter every chance I get,” Ferguson said.

Ferguson will be leading an equally tall group of incoming freshmen.

Maxine Osunanmi is a 6-foot-2 outside hitter from West Ranch High School and 6-foot Kayla Titner comes to the team from Canyon High School.

“She’s been working really hard in here and trying to get a little bit quicker and change direction faster and really good attitude, so we’re stoked about her as a freshman,” Timmons said of Osunanmi.

Bree Kelley, a 2016 Canyon grad, is 6 feet tall as well. Kelley took a brief hiatus from volleyball, but decided to join the team after missing the sport.

“She’s working her butt off, too, and it’s cool to have somebody a little bit older with a little more life experience in here to round things out,” Timmons said.

COC has height up front to help with blocking, but it also has quality defense in the back, starting with Gannon, who led the team with 444 digs last season.

Saugus grad Kayla Tait will accompany her in the back row with primarily a defensive role, but is also a capable hitter and can contribute offensively when called upon.

“Kayla is really good,” Gannon said. “She came in and she’s our, like, No. 1 (defensive specialist) for us pretty much and she is a really good all-around player. She is good at mainly passing, but also, she can get up there and swing if we need her to. She’s doing a really great job.”

Although the Cougars had a strong regular-season finish, going 18-8 overall and claiming second place in the Western State Conference, South Division, they fell in the first round of the 2018 playoffs.

This season, the goal is to surpass that finish and strive for a trip to the state playoffs. Timmons sees a lot of potential in the team, but time will tell what it can be.

“We kind of knew who we were last year and didn’t have the same amount of potential,” he said. “This year, we’ve got, I think, much more potential and just a little bit more to finding our identity before the beginning of the season.”

Canyons begins the season on Wednesday at Los Angeles Mission College at 6 p.m.

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