Sandy has knocked off some traditional powers this fall

by: SANDY POST: PARKER LEE - Sandys Kayla Anderson hammers down a kill. It doesn’t seem like that long ago when the Sandy volleyball team was a bottom-feeder in the Northwest Oregon Conference. The Pioneers had to scratch and claw just to squeeze out a couple wins only a few seasons back.

Times have changed.

Propelled by a veteran core of Pioneers, Sandy has become relevant in the NWOC for the first time in years.

“A lot of these girls have put a lot of time in on their skills. Now the belief in themselves is starting to show and success is coming with it,” Sandy coach Chris Meyers said.

Entering the week, this year’s squad already had seven wins. No Sandy team has had more wins in Meyers’ 10-year tenure, and the wins haven’t just been automatics against inferior teams. The Pioneers have collected some marquee victories along the way.

Their first significant win came at Sherwood in the conference opener. The Pioneers prevailed in five sets to earn their first victory over Sherwood as a member of the NWOC. Meyers called it one of the program’s biggest wins in a quite some time.

Last month, Sandy came up with another impressive win by defeating Corbett, last season’s class 3A runner-up, in a tournament at Century.

Those wins appear even grander when you look back at Sandy’s recent history. Two years ago in 2011, the Pioneers went 2-13. In their 15 matches that season, they won a total of 13 sets.

At the time, it probably didn’t seem like a very productive season. It turned out to be very productive year for a pair of sophomores and a freshman on that team who gained some invaluable experience at the varsity level.

Two years later, McKenzie Nolin, Kayla Anderson and Alex Ford are the anchors for Sandy and have the ability to compete with anyone in the league. They have helped the Pioneers morph into the team they are now.

“I was telling Alex the other day that we will be losing a lot when they are gone,” Meyers said. “The turnaround they have been a part of has been amazing.”

Nolin, Anderson and five other Pioneers are in the final season of their high-school careers. Losing seven seniors will be a blow, but this season’s senior class has helped lay the foundation for long-term success within the program.

“One really big difference is the mindset of the girls this year,” Meyers said. “We have spent countless hours working on just believing that we are good enough to compete at this level and believing that we can overcome any mistakes we make. It is so much fun to watch these girls when they just play volleyball and don't let the mistakes or the score dictate how they feel.”

Meyers is confident the program will see seasons like this one more regularly in the future. There is some strong talent at the junior varsity level, and the younger athletes are just as promising. Meyers said there a few seventh graders coming up who would be starters on the JV squad right now, and one of them would compete for a varsity spot.

While the future of the program looks bright, Sandy is trying to focus on the present for now. The seven wins the Pioneers have claimed so far are no small accomplishment, but they want more. They think there are still some victories left to be had, and they can’t wait to prove it.

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