Buffs stay undefeated in Tri-Valley Conference

The Madras High School volleyball team continued its perfect run through the Tri-Valley Conference with a win against Gladstone on Thursday, and then turned in an impressive performance at the Seaside Invitational on Saturday.

The Buffs lost to Banks, one of the best team in 4A this season, in the opening round of bracket play, and head coach Rhea Cardwell said her team played pretty well.

“It wasn’t our best showing at a tournament in terms of consistency, but we had some moments that I was really proud of,” Cardwell said. “We have been working on reducing our unforced errors, and we were able to do that for the most part.”

The tournament was full of good competition, Cardwell said, and the Buffs played Cascade, the state’s No. 1 rated team in the OSAA power ratings, very well in a two-set loss in pool play.

“Our passing against Cascade was great; I was really proud of how we did,” Cardwell said. “We had some long rallies with them because we didn’t have a lot of unforced errors. We played them extremely competitive.”

The Buffs took two sets off both Tillamook and Sweet Home to finish pool play with a 4-2 record on sets, which paired them with Banks in the bracket round.

The progression from the beginning of the season, which saw the Buffs losing eight straight matches, to now has been something Cardwell is especially proud of.

“We have had consistency, so that gives me confidence moving forward,” Cardwell said. “In practice, we focus a lot on our transition work and control drills, and if you can keep the ball in play, sooner or later the other team is going to make an error. All the best teams do that, and I saw some of that during the tournament.”

Cardwell has built the Buffs on being fundamentally sound in every aspect of their game, and as the season continues, she feels the team is putting the pieces together in order to make a playoff run and be a quality all-around team.

“Sometimes you have a team that makes a ton of errors, but they can have a high enough energy level to play well,” Cardwell said. “When the energy is down, though, those errors come through. Not seeing the errors has been awesome. We can build on this.”

Junior middle blocker Alexis Urbach, who is usually known for her play on offense, turned in the best weekend of defensive play she has all season, Cardwell said.

“We want her to have that skill set because the best players are the one that are well rounded,” Cardwell said. “Defense is harder to play than offense, and it was totally awesome to see her take big strides defensively.”

Keely Brown and Elle Renault were two other players Cardwell thought played well during the tournament.

“Elle just has no fear and gets to it out on the floor,” Cardwell said. Renault had 10 aces during the tournament. “Keely was solid defensive for us, too.”

The White Buffalos beat Gladstone in straight sets 25-12, 25-20, 25-14, and Cardwell said her team passed with confidence.

With three league matches remaining, and a tough road match with second-place La Salle Prep looming, completing an undefeated run through the Tri-Valley Conference is doable for the Buffs, but they can’t be taking things for granted this late in the season with playoffs on their mind.

“I think we have a solid chance of running the table, but La Salle at their house is going to be a challenge,” Cardwell said. “We are going to have to work hard and be at the top of our game.”

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