White Buffalo volleyball kicks off TVC play Thursday

by: PHOTO BY LON AUSTIN/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - The Madras High School volleyball team celebrates a point during a match with Crook County in Prineville.Although the Madras High School volleyball team hasn’t posted a win in a countable match toward its record, White Buffalos’ head coach Rhea Cardwell isn’t worried.

In the team’s 3-0 loss to Ridgeview on Thursday, Cardwell said the score didn’t indicate how her team played.

“I was actually very pleased with how we played,” Cardwell said. “Our passing and serving were both improved from what it was before, and we’re continuing to build our fundamentals.”

Cardwell’s scale for judging how well the team passes, which is typically the first contact after the opponent’s serve, is on a scale of 0-3, with 3 being the best.

A score of 2.2 is considered excellent, and the Buffs passed at a score of 2.19 in the Ridgeview match, something Cardwell was very satisfied with. The team had been passing in the 1.8-1.9 range in earlier matches.

Also, the Buffs improved their serving substantially, improving its serving accuracy to 92 percent, opposed to being in the high 80s for most of the season.

“Those are the two most fundamental things in volleyball, serving and passing, and we have made big improvements in those this season,” Cardwell said. “Now we just need to get the ball to our hitters and focus on that part of our offense.”

The nonconference schedule for the Buffs has been nothing short of brutal. Every team they have played, in either regular matches or tournament matches, went to the playoffs last season. Crook County, who the Buffs have played twice, is the defending 4A state champion and could very well do it again this season. Banks, Cascade, Sisters and Ridgeview all advanced to the postseason, with Banks and Sisters making it to the quarterfinals last year. Cascade and Ridgeview lost in the play-in round last season.

Cardwell said playing this type of competition gives the team an idea of what they might see later in the year, and lets them see what they can become.

“It showed us some things we might not see in our league matches,” Cardwell said. “We could go the entire league schedule and not see that type of play, but when we get further into our season, we’ll have that experience to use.”

Cardwell expects her team to play well in the Tri-Valley Conference, and TVC begins Thursday for the Buffs in Estacada, perhaps the toughest gym to play an away match in.

Cardwell isn’t worried about how tough the gym may or may not be, though. She has confidence in her team that they’ll be able to rise above all of that and not let it bother them.

“You just have to play volleyball how you know how,” Cardwell said. “It’s going to be interesting to see how we respond to that type of pressure and how they approach it.”

Juniors Keely Brown and Elle Renault have been a couple players that have performed well over the course of the nonconference schedule, Cardwell said. Brown, who shifts between left-side hitter and opposite (right-side hitter), has been a jack of all trades for the Buffs, and has contributed on both offense and defense.

“She has improved in all phases of her game,” Cardwell said of Brown. “Offensively she doesn't pack a big punch, but keeps it in play and doesn't commit errors, and volleyball is a game of errors, so she helps keep us in sets.”

Renault, who spends most of the time setting for the Buffs, has been an emotional leader of sorts for the team.

“She's my burst of passion and excitement on the court,” Cardwell said. “In several instances, she has been instrumental in helping our team fight through adversity.”

The Buffs picked up some wins in pool play matches during the Mountain View tournament Sept. 7, and there Cardwell said the team showed its true potential.

“We can move forward and use that experience to our advantage,” Cardwell said. “I expect us to have a great season in league this year.”

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