Wilsonville volleyball: Wiepert, Wildcats continue remarkable run
The Wilsonville High School volleyball team hates losing — which is why the Wildcats so rarely lose.
Wilsonville racked up yet another win Wednesday, Oct. 19, as the Wildcats swept Milwaukie 25-9, 25-12, 25-12. The victory improves their league record to 15-0, while the team's overall record remains an unblemished 25-0.
That perfect record is a bit misleading, though. In fact, the Wildcats have dropped a few matches during pool play at weekend tournaments; however, by OSAA rules, those contests are not counted in the team's official record as full matches.
"It's an asterisked undefeated season, which is actually great for us," said Wilsonville head coach Scott Thompson. "The girls know what defeat feels like — and they don't like it."
That distaste for defeat has spurred the Wildcats on throughout the season as they have pushed their way up to the No. 1 spot in the OSAA rankings.
"We have an expectation to win every match," Thompson said. "We've got some lofty goals."
To help them reach those objectives, a number of players have stepped up all season long. Perhaps none have been as impressive and impactful as senior hitter Makenna Wiepert, who is committed to playing college volleyball at the University of Texas—San Antonio starting next year.
"Makenna Wiepert is going to college to be a Division I setter," Thompson said. "(Outside hitter) is her second position; this isn't her natural position. Her development and her ability to put balls away has been a little surprising.
"I knew she was good, but I didn't know she was that good."
This Wildcat team is much more than just one player, though.
"The whole team has brought up their game," Thompson said. "I feel like I've got 12 players who I can put in interchangeably. Tonight, we put in 12 players and had them playing different positions."
Thompson prefers his players to be versatile, saying that he wants "volleyball players" rather than athletes who can only play one position.
"Kaylee Dresser is a great example," Thompson added. "I've been playing her at opposite and middle in the biggest matches we'll have this season, and she's comfortable either way and happy with either one. That's what we're looking for."
The coach's life becomes much easier with players who are so willing to do anything and everything to help the team win.
"This team, from day one, has wanted to get better every day and every practice," Thompson said. "We have this mantra of 'What are we going to get better at today?' Every single player has that attitude."
The team also has benefited from being such a close group of friends.
"This is one of the closest teams I've ever coached," Thompson said. "They care about each other on and off the court, and they're good friends. It's been fun to watch them grow. I think we're a much better team today than we were a month ago."
Part of the reason for the uptick over the past month is that the team has gotten tougher, Wiepert said.
"We've really learned how to grit out a match," the senior explained. "That's been really huge and beneficial for us."
That toughness has been a necessity. The Wildcats have been forced to play without some of its top players at times, including Emma Alewine, Olivia Lyons and Ashlyn Hartford. While Alewine is back in action, both Lyons and Hartford are done for the season.
According to Wiepert, those injuries have been a big motivating factor to the rest of the squad.
"We've had a really big reason to fight," Wiepert said. "We have a big heart, and we're willing to do what it takes to win."
Added Wiepert: "We've had younger players stepping up. We believe in them, and they believe in us. It's going to be a fun postseason. It's definitely not how we planned it, but we're excited."
With the state tournament coming up soon, the Wilsonville team might be forgiven for starting to think about the finish line. The Wildcats aren't taking the bait, though, instead focusing only on what is right in front of them.
"That's something we talked about as a team," Wiepert said. "We can't look ahead to the quarters or the semifinals. We need to think about who we're going to play next, so we're really excited to play Rex Putnam."
Wilsonville will host Putnam (12-8, 11-4 NWOC) at 6:45 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 25, in the regular-season finale for both teams. A win for the Wildcats would put on a bow on a perfect league record going into the OSAA 5A Volleyball State Championship tournament, which begins Saturday, Oct. 29.
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