Shirley Brown, like any volleyball coach, would rather reload each new season.

But with four of last season’s starters lost to graduation, and another now in Florida, it’s back to the drawing board for her Woodrow Wilson squad.

And she’s not exactly unhappy with the thought of rebuilding.

“You better believe it’s unreal. We’re rebuilding, but we’ll be OK,” Brown said. “We’ll start four freshmen, and they’re working hard.”

The Flying Eagles graduated All-State middle hitter Anne Patterson, hustling setter Emily Earnest, libero Makayla Wykle and left hitter Laura Jarrell.

Another hitter, Alexis Simpson, missed much of last year with an injury and then moved in the offseason.

That leaves Woodrow with just two seniors, setter Alex Lilly and defender Mercedes Robinson. Neither has played varsity before.

Fortunately, three juniors and a sophomore do have experience and some starts under their belts.

Libero Haley Bristow is a solid passer, and very good at finding the setters.

“Haley wants perfection. She has her nose to the ground,” Brown said. “She’s an all-around good player.”

Sarah Mestrovic is the Flying Eagles’ primary setter. She was timid last year, when she was more often used on defense.

“When this year started and Sarah realized, ‘I’m the setter. I’m it,’ she did a 360-degree turn as far as doing what she’s supposed to do. She’s turned into an amazing setter.”

Left hitter Adriana Thomas isn’t tall — just 5-foot-5, to be exact — but she hits hard and plays solid defense.

Brown said, “Adriana is another hustler. She gives it everything she’s got. She’ll play all the way around.”

A fourth junior, Rosalyn Andrade, is up from the JV team and will add depth at outside hitter.

Tyjhea Grandjean, a 5-10 sophomore, must stand tall at middle hitter. She saw some action as a freshman.

“We’re expecting a lot out of Tyjhea,” Brown said. “She’s strong, and she’s been working harder.”

Junior Alex Richards, a middle hitter, will add depth along with seniors Lilly and Robinson.

Brown is high on her freshmen. Dejaha Morris is 5-8, but will start at middle hitter. She jumps and blocks well, and “her arm reach is unreal when she jumps.”

MacKenzie Coulter is a 5-7 outside hitter who hits from the left, while Yasmyn Oglesby, whose mother Leslie Pannell once played for Brown, can play anywhere in front. She’ll start on the right due to her strength at hitting and blocking.

Freshman defender Makayla Walton should also see action.

“We have our work cut out for us,” Brown said. “The freshmen are having to learn where to go, when to transition and learning coverage.”

Woodrow scrimmaged defending state champion George Washington and got drilled 25-6 in the first game.

“The girls were scared; panic was on their faces,” Brown said. “We talked to them and told them it was a fun game, and that it doesn’t count. We were looking at them to see what they could do.

“GW won the next two games, but it was 25-18 and 25-20. We just have to get the girls to understand they have a lot of talent, they just have to use it.

“We’re working hard, and by midseason, there will be a big difference from what you see now.”

Brown will be assisted by two former players, Sharon Pinardo and Bre Knapp.

The Flying Eagles will host their annual season-opening tournament Saturday, starting at 9 a.m.

Teams will include Capital, South Charleston, Riverside, Spring Valley, George Washington, Greenbrier East, Cabell Midland, Westside and Woodrow’s varsity and JV teams.

— E-mail: dstillwell@register-herald.com

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