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Led by Frank Maynard and other volunteers, the Madras High School volleyball team put on a youth skills camp last week.

PMG PHOTO: ANDY DIECKHOFF - Matty Buck, who will be a senior captain on the Madras High School volleyball team this year, goes to hit a ball using one of the team's new AcuSpike machines during a youth skills camp at MHS on Thursday, Aug. 11.

The Madras High School volleyball team held a youth summer camp last week for players grades 6 through 12.

The skills camp ran from Monday, Aug. 8, to Thursday, Aug. 11, at the MHS gym. It was run by Frank Maynard, the high school volleyball head coach, with other volunteers — including some parents and a former White Buffalo player — helping to run the show.

The MHS alum in question was Alexa La Pier, who was a senior and a key part of the Buffs' team last fall.

La Pier, who also swam for MHS during this past winter, is soon headed north to Seattle to start a college nursing program. In her final few days in Madras, she wanted to give back to the volleyball program one more time.

"I love volleyball, and I love what Frank (Maynard) is doing with the program, so I wanted to come be a part of that," said La Pier.

As it turns out, she was part of a camp that was bigger than she, or anyone else, might have expected before the camp started.

"It's a big turnout," she added. "It's a lot more than I've seen in the past few years." Nearly 50 players from middle and high school showed up for the four-day camp.

For a high school team that struggled to get wins a year ago while trying to establish a new culture around the program, extra time — and extra bodies — on the court could pay quick dividends in the coming weeks.

PMG PHOTO: ANDY DIECKHOFF - Madras High School head coach Frank Maynard feels optimistic heading into Year 2 with the White Buffalos.Already, the camp has Maynard feeling as optimistic as ever about his team heading into the fall season.

"Every day, they've been interested, they're playing hard, they're coachable," Maynard said of his campers.

"They're getting more and more experienced in the way we do things," he added, noting the team's already-improving communication on the court. "Still some glitches, but very much positive."

The coach is not the only one who is feeling good going into the new school year.

Maija Poland, who is entering her junior year at MHS, projects to be a big part of the Buffs' team this year — literally. Poland, a middle blocker, is the tallest member of the team and should spend a lot of time at the net for Madras this season.

Poland, who was the starting center for the MHS girls basketball team that took third place at state last winter, said that her summer has been mostly focused on basketball.

However, she has been attending the open gyms for volleyball as often as she can, and last week's camp helped her to reorient her focus back to her fall sport.

One of the best byproducts of the camp, according to Poland, is the increased communication on the team.

"There's a lot more talking between the team," said Poland. "A lot more communication. I am definitely (more excited) because now we know who we'll be playing with a bit more," she added, noting that this was the first time she had played with some girls in the incoming freshman class.

It's not just the players that are improving within the MHS volleyball program, either. The team is also upping its game in the equipment department.

Following a successful summer fundraiser at Desert Peaks Golf Course by Madras Volleyball Programs (MVPs), a nonprofit run by Maynard, new AcuSpike machines were donated to the team by the MVPs organization. Those machines were on full display during the camp, and it's upgrades like these that could pave the way to more success for Madras volleyball going forward. The team will also have new uniforms thanks to the golf fundraiser.

As for the proceeds from the camp last week, the high school team will be able to buy 24 new balls for practicing.

But that's just where the money is going.

The most important thing to come out of last week's camp, however, is a healthy dose of optimism around Madras High School volleyball.

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