Eastern High School's volleyball team is the preseason favorite to win the Interhigh League championship, but the girls will have to accomplish the feat without a home court.

The Ramblers, who return five players from last year's team that lost to Wilson in the tournament final, are still without a gym, which is being rebuilt after a fire destroyed the building a year ago.

The key returning starter for Coach Claudia Giles is Tracy Manning. She is a three-sport athlete and last year made first-team all-Interhigh in both volleyball and softball. Eastern also has Lavette Gray, Monica Griffin, Ellen Diggs and Donna Thomas.

The Ramblers will use school-supplied bus tokens to travel by Metro to practice at either Benning-Stoddert Recreation Center or Phelps Vocational High School. Regular-season games will all be played as away events.

"We don't have a practice site right now and I have to build confidence in more ways than one," Giles said.

Coolidge, coached by Saundra Griffin, has four returning veterans in Yolanda Alexander, Kim Johnson, Lalita Johnson and Shirelle Sommerville. Alexander, a first-team all-Interhigh performer last year, may be the shortest high school volleyball player in the country at 4 feet 6.

Sommerville had an excellent tournament last year and will be joined by newcomers Nicole Edwards and Tessa Whitley.

Wilson has lost most of its championship squad. Besides three-time most valuable player Tina Churchill, Coach Ellen Covington lost through graduation Petrina Hitch and Sui Wong, who helped the Tigers go 12-0 last year.

Covington will rely on newcomer Pahn Luong to replace Churchill. She also will have Mei Pingli, Joyce Davis, Lisa Epps and Lourdes Martin as newcomers.

"It's going to be rough, but Pahn is working hard to replace Tina. We are going to work together. We are going to strive to be 12-0, but we should do well," Covington said.

Theodore Roosevelt returns Bonnie Jackson, who played on the Rough Riders' squad that lost to Dunbar in the Interhigh tournament finals two years ago.

Coach Arthur Linder attended a clinic this summer at George Washington University and will try to apply that knowledge to returnees Monica Christian, Pat Saunders, Chandra McGowan and Terry Newman.

"Teamwork and fundamentals will get us in the playoffs," McGowan said.

Anacostia Coach Thomas Hargrove has high regard for returnees Patrice Bowman, Tawanda Gladden and Monique Williams. He feels that these three players must perform well if the Indians are to make the playoffs.

"They have to come through for us," Hargrove said. "For us to do well, they have to be on top of our game. We are hoping to make the playoffs. We like to think we can make it again."

It may be a long season for Dunbar, because four girls from last year's squad aren't returning. Coach Elaine Matthews must rely on Cheryl Holston, Roshell Pelzer and Theresa Jones.

Kyra Walker and Lora Williams are the only returning players for Spingarn. Teresa Henry will anchor the Ballou squad. For H.D. Woodson, Tracy Ennis is the key returning player. Coach Clayton Harriston of McKinley again will rely on his basketball team to field a volleyball squad.

Cardozo will field a team for the first time and Nancy A. Berry will be its coach.