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Madras volleyball loaded with talent, new coach looking to take team to the next level

by: BILLY GATES/THE PIONEER - First-year head coach Rhea Cardwell (center) goes over a performance chart with the Madras High School volleyball team during Monday's practice at Madras High School.The Madras High School volleyball team finished in a tie with Estacada for the Tri-Valley Conference championship last season, but they would rather not share this season.

In order to do that, first-year head coach Rhea Cardwell said her team is going to have to get used to working on fundamentals — a lot. And so far, she likes what she sees.

“I thought the girls did a very good job during our drills,” Cardwell said after the team’s practice Monday afternoon. “Our control drills worked out really well, and I was able to add some more advanced series to the drills than I thought I was going to.”

Cardwell said there are some drawbacks of breaking down fundamentals to such a small level, and then piecing them back together and applying them to a game situation, but she said it’s a process that simply takes more time and repetitions.

“We’re going to go over these fundamentals and breaking them down every practice during daily doubles,” Cardwell said. “By the time that’s done, I think we’ll have a team that’s on its way to being very fundamentally sound.”

by: BILLY GATES/THE PIONEER - Madras' Shelby Mauritson, last season's Tri-Valley Conference co-player of the year, spikes the ball during Monday's practice.Cardwell stressed that not just the varsity team will be a fundamentally sound team, either. Her goal, as she has said all along, is to get the entire program to the point where she feels comfortable with how they perform.

At last season’s Class 4A state tournament, where the White Buffalos beat La Grande in five sets in the quarterfinals on their way to a fifth-place trophy, Cardwell was recruiting for Clackamas Community College, and definitely liked what she saw, and is seeing the same thing from the team this season.

“There is a lot of athletic talent and potential on this team,” Cardwell said. “But we’re looking at building on those skills, breaking some bad habits, turning those into perfect habits and really taking off.”

Returning to the team is a league co-player of the year and two other all-conference players. Junior outside hitter Shelby Mauritson, who shared top player honors with Estacada’s Rachel Lowe, along with second-team selections Alexis Urbach and Elle Renault will form the core of the team, from both a leadership and performance standpoint.

“Those girls are really going to have to step up for us,” Cardwell said. “I’m especially looking at Alexis to do that, not just because she has the skill to be in a leadership role, but she’s kind to everyone and will take players under her wing. She’s coachable and cares about her teammates.”

Along with the trio of all-conference players returning to the lineup, juniors Keely Brown, Karlee Simmons and Taylor Sjolund, along with sophomore Maya Hoaglin, are players Cardwell thinks can make an impact for the Buffs.

“Taylor has an excellent attitude, but is just a little unsure of herself right now,” Cardwell said. “And we’re going to work with Karlee at libero a bit and see how that turns out. She’s going to be another person I look toward for leadership, but right now the coaching staff just has to convince her she’s good enough to do it.”

Working Simmons at libero makes sense, since her sister, 2012 first-team all-conference libero Lauren Simmons, racked up more than 1,000 digs during her career at Madras High School.

The White Buffalos begin the nonconference schedule Aug. 30, at the Summit Jamboree, then have their first official match Sept. 4, at home against Crook County.

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