Lexi White finished with 23 assists on Thursday night, as the McKinleyviile girls opened the new volleyball season with a straight-sets home win over a busy Fortuna team.

The Panthers won 25-14, 25-16, 25-19.

“Everybody got some playing time,” McKinleyville head coach Janis Grondalski said. “We’re still working out the kinks, but they all played well.”

The matchup was the third in three nights for the Huskies.

For McKinleyville, this year’s team features five returning players and six moving up from the JVs, and the head coach likes what she’s seen so far.

“They’re molding into a team,” Grondalski said. “There isn’t an individual that sticks out. They have the talent, they have the ambition, and they have fun and mold well together.”

The senior class of White, Rian Heenan, Hailee Henry and Hannah Bolton will be looked to for some leadership this season, but many of the younger faces have wasted no time settling in.

Junior Cameron Heenan, who played with the team as a sophomore, had a big night in Thursday’s win, playing great defense in the back row to go with four kills and no errors.

Likewise with junior Ashley Alves, a cousin of Olivia Alves, a senior a year ago who is back as an assistant coach this fall.

The younger Alves impressed in her varsity debut, finishing with five service aces and four kills, as well as contributing with some strong defense.

“They’re doing what they need to do,” Grondalski said of her players. “The seniors are leading this team to a higher level. They push each other.”

The Panthers will be busy next week, traveling to play Brookings-Harbor in Oregon on Tuesday, before returning home to host St. Bernard’s on Wednesday and then traveling to Healdsburg for a weekend tournament.

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Ray Hamill writes at humboldtsports.com, where you can read lots more about sports in Humboldt County.