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Volleyball led by juniors, cross-country program growing as soccer removed from the fold

GRAPHIC FILE PHOTO - Sophomores Matt Oliver (left) and Nicolas Hurst (center) comprise the C.S. Lewis Academy boys cross-country team.

With the soccer team disbanded – at least for this season – athletes at C.S. Lewis Academy have more time to focus on the other two fall sports available to them.

Cross-country can benefit from this change, and the second-year program is steadily growing from the bottom up with three athletes participating this season.

"We are pretty excited heading into our second season," cross-country coach Jillian Studer said. "This year we are more prepared and equipped to do some significant training, which we've been doing for the past few weeks. It's definitely a head start from last year."

Extra practices and a growing middle school roster have led to marked improvement in these first few weeks of training, Studer said. The program returns three of four athletes on the boys and girls varsity squads and has even grown its middle school team to four runners.

Attention was often divided for some of C.S. Lewis's best runners last season as they participated in soccer and cross-country. This year, it's all cross-country for the two boys and only volleyball to keep the lone female runner away from the cross-country trails.

The boys' roster consists of sophomores Matt Oliver and Nicolas Hurst, and the only girl is sophomore Jenessa Hoekema, who is recovering from an injury sustained during basketball season last year. Ally Trowbridge, who graduated in the spring, was the only other runner on last year's inaugural team.

C.S. Lewis opens up the season on Saturday in Tualatin, followed by a trip to Oregon City on Sep. 14.

Volleyball upperclassmen lead the way

In her third season at the helm of the C.S. Lewis volleyball team, Jenna Kuiper has seen significant progress. Wide-eyed freshmen are now juniors with tangible leadership qualities, and the 2-3 Watchmen believe more wins are in the offing this season as a result of their experience.

Five of C.S. Lewis's returners are juniors. All of them have stepped into leadership roles in the early part of the season.

"I'm really excited," Kuiper said. "We've played five matches and they've already come a long way. The juniors look like they are veterans and they've been there before, and it's fun to see them lead the way. They're talking more, passing better and blocking more."

Hoekema will be playing volleyball in addition to cross-country once she is medically cleared, and the rest of the roster is comprised of three freshmen. There are no seniors on this year's volleyball team and all but one player on the roster is 5-foot-5 or shorter.

Junior Emma Foster is the tallest player on the roster by a significant margin at 5-foot-8. Her junior classmates and fellow team leaders are Kaitlyn Boettner, Chloe Huber and the Longstroth twins – Kyra and Teya.

Huber is playing the role of setter for the Watchmen and "doing well," Kuiper said. Foster is a player to watch around the net, providing the only semblance of size this team has as it stares down some lanky league opponents – chief among them St. Paul.

The focus this season, Kuiper said, is competing in and winning more matches.

"Last year we competed better, but we weren't able to close as many matches as I'd hoped," she said. "This year, with five veteran juniors, we should be able to close some of those."

C.S. Lewis plays on the road at Falls City on Wednesday night before playing a neutral site game against Yoncalla on Saturday at Eddyville Charter School. The Watchmen play Eddyville right after the Yoncalla game.

Kuiper looks forward to facing the dominant teams of the Casco League, including the reigning, undefeated state champions from 15 minutes down the road in St. Paul. She said the team will punch above its weight this year.

"I'm really looking forward to seeing how they do," Kuiper said. "I think we will be able to compete really well with about three or four teams in our conference. I'd like to see how this team competes and stays in it with some of the better teams."

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