Melissa Julien will make her debut as head coach of the Virgin Valley High girls’ volleyball program when the Lady Bulldogs open their season Friday and Saturday at the Las Vegas Invitational.

Julien takes over a team that graduated a majority of players from last year’s squad that finished 19-18 overall and was third in Sunrise League play. The Lady Bulldogs qualified for postseason, reaching the 3A South Regional quarterfinal round before being eliminated.

The Lady Bulldogs will be young and inexperienced this season with only four players returning from last year’s varsity team – seniors Maleena Felshaw, Sydney Ludvigson and Jaylee Whipple and junior Areli Ponce.

Those four will be joined by senior Taylor Marshall and juniors Sage Bundy, Aurora Couch, Shalee Feltner, Juanita Garcia and Alyssa Ponce to round out the 10-player varsity squad. The junior varsity team will carry 11 players and the freshmen 12.

Julien will be assisted by Kellee Horlacher at the varsity level with Nikki Cardon, Kortney Tobler and Conrad Allen coaching the younger teams.

Virgin Valley will also be playing in a slightly different Sunrise League this year than last after the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association (NIAA) realigned over the summer. Gone are longtime members Tech and Del Sol Academy while Sunrise Mountain returns after two years in the Sunset League.

Tech was moved up to the larger 4A classifications in all sports while Del Sol Academy slides over to the Sunset League to compete with Pahrump Valley, Mojave, Western, Democracy Prep, Somerset-Losee and Valley.

The Sunrise League will be loaded once again this season with defending state champion Boulder City and state runner-up Moapa Valley expected to challenge for the top spot. Chaparral and Somerset-Sky Pointe will also make things interesting.

Virgin Valley will play at Pahrump Valley on Aug. 28 before hosting 1A Pahranagat Valley of Alamo on Sept. 4 at 6 p.m. It will be the first contest for the Lady Bulldogs in the new VVHS gymnasium that opened in January.

The Lady Bulldogs will travel to Panaca on Sept. 6 to face 2A Lincoln County and to Las Vegas on Sept. 12 to play 4A Spring Valley before opening up league play at home on Sept. 17 against Sunrise Mountain.