Nelson starts volleyball season right with win over Clackamas
For the Adrienne C. Nelson High School volleyball team, which is looking to make a splash in Year 2, the season could not have started much better.
The Hawks pulled out a three-set victory over rival Clackamas on Tuesday, Sept. 6, prevailing 25-16, 25-13, 25-12 on the Cavaliers' home court. It was the season opener for both schools, and the match also doubled as the start of play in the Mt. Hood Conference.
For many of the Nelson players, that Clackamas High School court used to be their own home. When the new school opened last year in Happy Valley, there was an exodus from the Clackamas volleyball program over to Nelson — and a new rivalry was immediately born.
"It's definitely really weird," said Nelson senior hitter Kali Lukovich, who played at Clackamas for two years before Nelson opened. "At the start of everything, we were like, 'Yeah, we're family!' But that immediately changed the first game — we were rivals. We're trying to be nice, but we're also here to win. And we know (they) want to win, too, so it's just a game of who wants it more."
For Zoe Szczesniak, Nelson's senior libero, matches against Clackamas have an added significance for the Nelson team. As with any rivalry, there are bragging rights on the line every time these two schools meet.
"There's just a little more meaning behind it," Szczesniak said. "You used to be on that team, I guess, if that makes sense. It feels like it's a must-win thing. Whenever you're playing friends or people who you know, it's like you have to win or else. If I'm going to feel OK talking to them afterward, I want to be the one who won."
Last season, those bragging rights were split down the middle. Nelson won the first-ever matchup of the two schools on Sept. 13 of last year, and then the Cavaliers got their revenge at home on Oct. 12. The Hawks, then, become the first of the pair to win on the other's turf.
"This is our rivalry, so it's definitely a big game for us," said senior middle blocker Madalynn Abraham. "To take home that win, and to play how good we did, it really sets our season up. Our goal is to be No. 1 — we want No. 1, and we will accomplish it. So, I think this win set off a good start to the season."
When Abraham says that Nelson wants to be No. 1, it's a teamwide goal that extends past the rivalry, past the conference and all the way to the state tournament. Perhaps it's more than a goal. According to Abraham, it's more like a mission.
"We've come up with a mission statement that's on the back of our shirts," she said. "What we want to be is 'ambitious, competitive and intense.' These are the things that are going to help us get into that (No. 1) spot. The competitiveness, everyone going after every ball, just doing everything we can to get to that point."
"I want to make it as far into the state tournament as possible," added Szczesniak, "as well as getting No. 1 in our conference, which is our whole program's goal."
Lukovich was even more forceful with her prediction:
"We're going to Liberty (High School)," said Lukovich, alluding to the final site of the state volleyball tournament in Hillsboro. "We're going to state."
The Hawks will rely on a senior-heavy team to get them there. In addition to Lukovich, Szczesniak and Abraham, the other seniors on the team include hitter Kaylie Christopher and defensive specialist Shanah Denham.
"I've played with (most of those girls) for so long, and it's nice that we've grown — but it's so weird for all of us to be seniors," Lukovich said. "At tryouts, most of us were crying. They were like, 'OK, seniors, go over here.' And we (thought), 'There's just no way this is our last year.' So, we want to make a really big impact. Especially being a really new school, we want to get our name out there before we leave."
After taking down their rival in the season opener, the Hawks are well on their way to getting their name out there.
Nelson followed up the win over Clackamas with another three-set win over Sandy on Wednesday, Sept. 7, this time at home in Happy Valley. With the victories, the Hawks move to 2-0 in the Mt. Hood Conference after defeating the Pioneers 25-17, 25-23, 25-18. Nelson will play in the Tualatin Tournament this weekend, Saturday, Sept. 10. The Hawks' first opponent is Lincoln (4-1, 3-0 PIL), and the match begins at 10:15 a.m. at Tualatin High School.
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