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Despite young team, Wildcats seek to be the best through commitment to the team

Last year the Wilsonville volleyball team was 7-7 in league play, 7-12 overall. COREY BUCHANON - The Wilsonville Wildcats return this season seeking to be the dominant force in their league. After an up and down season, they fell in the play-in round to Mountain View. This season, the Wildcats are already off to a solid start. They're 2-1 right out of the gate, and will take their winning record to league foe Sandy High School on Tuesday, Sept. 12.

Returning for the team will be all-league honorable mention and team captain Madison Schmitt. Head coach Nathan Blankenship praised her leadership skills, and the strengths of her teammates.

"Captain and starting setter Madison Schmitt leads the team with the maturity of a senior, keeping the team focused and driving the offensive system," Blankenship said. "(Sophomore) Kennedy Juranek brings a deep volleyball skill set to the offense as a setter and blocker, allowing WHS to run an effective 6-2 offense and aggressive 3 attack offense.

"(6'1 sophomore) Lindsey Hartford is a massive outside weapon and huge defensive block. Playing well over the net, she is the key offensive and defensive player on the net. (sophomore) Grace Thompson is a gifted defensive player who brings both a fantastic server receive consistency that keeps the team in system, and a superb 'read' on the play that allows her to cover a huge defensive are and lead our defensive systems," Blankenship continued.

The team is predominantly sophomores and juniors, with five of the former and six of the latter, and the lone senior Schmitt leading the court. Even though the team is still fairly young, Blankenship still has the team's sights set on the big prize.

"Although we are still in a building year, with new coaches and a new program, we will be on the hunt for a league championship with a goal to make it to Liberty HS and the state finals this year," Blankenship said. "Our goals are simple: to be the best team we can be, play with integrity and great sportsmanship, and to the highest caliber with goals to compete and win at the highest levels of the high school volleyball environment."

To achieve these goals, the coaching staff of Wilsonville's volleyball program are asking their athletes just one thing, to buy in wholeheartedly to the idea of team first.

"The new program brings a new methodology that asks (at times significant) change from our athletes," Blankenship said. "Our key will be to swiftly move as a team with full commitment to these common techniques, offensive and defensive systems, and to remain team focused throughout, with the knowledge and acceptance that we compete, win or lose as a team."

Looking ahead in the Northwest Oregon Conference, the results thus far in the season indicate that Wilsonville can hang with the best of them.

"La Salle and Sandy have a good track record and will be tough competitors this season," Blankenship said. "With the recent closely contested match with La Salle, Wilsonville has shown clearly that we are contenders to win the league. This said, I make it a practice to never underestimate any opponent, as our first match showed against Parkrose, every team will come out with their best and each game must be played with the full realization that any team can beat any other on a given day."

Blankenship again reiterated the program's potential for the rest of the season.

"Wilsonville has a very good opportunity to do very well this season, and if we execute our plan, the Wildcats have a very real shot to make the state playoffs," he said.

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