Fall sports are back at Selah High School — on a limited basis, anyway.

The first scheduled events for the football, volleyball, girls soccer and cross country teams aren’t until March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But since Yakima County recently moved into phase two of the state’s Safe Start plan, dozens of Selah High athletes have been able to practice in small groups since late October.

The past few weeks have served as the “summer program” for the programs, who were patiently waiting for the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association to allow in-person coaching to resume.

“The kids are excited to be back out there, and so are the coaches,” said Vikings head football coach Scott Ditter. “Some guys have different things going on this fall — like work and family commitments — but so far I’ve been pleased with the turnout. It seems like everyone is just happy to be out doing something again.”

Selah High football coach Scott Ditter (right).

Ditter’s team has been practicing Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays since Oct. 26, hosting two sessions so they can keep the players properly distanced. Practices consist of numerous small-group skills stations, with five or six athletes per coach. 

Ditter admits that it’s hard for the athletes not to be allowed to engage in full-team scrimmages yet, but everyone is making the most of the opportunity.

“You just have to get through it,” he said. “Everyone in our league is in the same position, so we’re just trying to stay positive. At least we’re getting to play.”

The Vikings had a small 2020 graduating class, so this year’s juniors and seniors already have plenty of varsity experience. Come March, the team will be leaning on its five senior team captains: Rollin Levon (RB/LB), Kyle Luke (WR/CB), Anthony Huitron (WR, secondary), Braden Albin (OL) and Heath Yochum (QB). Senior linebacker Jeremy Fife will also play a key role.

“I like our guys this year, and I think we can be competitive in the CWAC,” Ditter said. “We’ve been competing at a high level for the past five or six years, and we’re bringing back a lot of experience. We have great team leaders, and you need that if you’re going to make things work.”

The Vikings are scheduled to start the season March 5 against Prosser, and will face fellow league stalwarts Ellensburg and Othello after that. Grandview, East Valley and Ephrata are the three remaining teams in the new CWAC, which lost Toppenish, Wapato and Quincy to redistricting. Those three schools are now playing in Class 1A.

Despite the tough start to the schedule, Ditter remains optimistic.

“It’s going to be a matter of staying healthy,” he said. “We’ll be right in the mix, but it’s going to be a very competitive group.”

Volleyball Practice Gets Underway

The Selah High volleyball team also has been back to practice since Oct. 26, staging small-group sessions like the football team. Head coach Becky Gause said the safety protocols have taken some getting used to, but her team has been coping well.

“It’s been pretty tough, but we’re just thankful to be back in the gym able to do anything at all,” she said. “We’re doing a lot of station work and small-side scrimmages. It’s not ideal, but everyone has been doing well considering all of the restrictions.”

Gause explained that the girls are limited to playing 2-on-2 scrimmages (versus 6 v. 6) due to COVID-19 safety protocols. The entire program was divided into groups of five or six on the first day of practice and they have remained with that same group ever since.

Each pod is allowed to use eight assigned volleyballs, and there is no sharing of equipment between groups. Players must wear masks while they warm up and stretch, but they can take them off during drills and scrimmages.

“We’re still getting in some valuable court time,” Gause said. “We have also spent a lot of time talking about our offensive and defensive philosophies. That’s been really good for our incoming freshmen so they can see how we do things here in Selah. They’re also getting to know some of the older girls, which is a big part of our summer program.”

This year’s team leaders will be seniors Addison Scott, Sydney Wells, Sandra Hrle and Madi Ditter. Sophomore Taylor Kieser also saw significant varsity time last season and is penciled into the starting lineup. 

Kieser was recently named to the 2020 AVCA Phenom Watch List, while Scott is a 2021 Under Armour All-American. Gause said those nominations are a testament to the hard work both girls have put in with their club teams.

“Taylor has worked extremely hard in the offseason and she’s going to help us a lot,” the coach said. “And Addison has been with us for four years and continues to get better all the time.”

Gause thanked her assistant coaches Erin Smith, Veronica Sanchez and Taylor Russell for their help in running a successful “summer program.” The entire staff is looking forward to March, when live competition is scheduled to resume.

“I feel really good about this group,” Gause said. “They are dedicated and they’re all hard workers. They put in a ton of time outside of the high school season to improve their game, and that’s always been one the strong suits of this program.”

New Soccer Coach

The Viking girls soccer program has a new coach, but he’s already well known to Selah soccer fans. 

Josh Koreski, who has coached the boys program for the past three years, took over this spring for longtime coach Todd Martin, who stepped down in February after leading the Vikings to the Class 2A final four last November.

This year’s squad features returning all-leaguers Chloe Andrews, Alexia Rodriguez-Burdeaux and Maya Hall, along with sophomore playmakers Allison Moultray and Brooke Reiber. Ashlyn Morford, Jayden Horton and Hollie Hyatt also played key minutes during last year’s final four run.