Lady Sailors celebrate season of growth

The Lady Sailors volleyball team will graduate three seniors this year, with a freshman-dominated team likely next fall. (Ned Hickson/Siuslaw News)

Eddyville d Mapleton:

25-17, 25-19, 25-7

“We only have six players right now, so nobody ever got a break,” Mapleton volleyball coach Molly Dooley recalled about her Lady Sailors in their final volleyball game of the season.

Mapleton played Eddyville Charter at home on Tuesday (April 6), down three players from their usual lineup. Between rolled ankles, concussions and illnesses, the team has faced a great deal of adversity this season aside from the already difficult ramifications of COVID-19.

Despite those challenges, Mapleton’s volleyball team has shown great heart and spirit throughout the shortened season, fighting until the literal end of every game including their last match-up.

“I think the second set was probably one of the best sets that we've played all year,” said Dooley. “They were working together as a team, we were getting kills and aces, and they kind of just really stuck with [the other team]. We only have six players right now, and we were going against a team of 18 — so, nobody ever got a break.”

Even though none of the girls had a moment to rest, they never backed down, playing with even more intensity than they had in any previous game.

“They were being aggressive with the ball, which was getting us more hits,” said Dooley, “[and we] ended up getting some kills in there. Emily Stevens had five kills!”

It was a very strong final game for the senior hitter.

“Our serving was pretty darn good last night,” Dooley said, beaming. “Opal Burruss got four aces last night, so that was really good.”

Burruss will be returning as a senior in the fall, as will Brier Shird, who had two aces and a kill last Tuesday.

“Brier has never played setter before, and we lost our two people who are trained to be setters, so she’s been taking that on,” Dooley said. “She’s willing to do it, which is just great. What you want as a coach is for somebody to go in there and get the job done, even if they don’t [necessarily] feel comfortable with it.”

This season brought a lot of new experiences for the Lady Sailors.

“I feel like this was really a growing season,” explained Dooley. “I’m thankful that we got to play games, but the season was just so short that, by the time we were getting going, we were done. Dooley recounted that growth, which went from playing outdoors without even a net, to having a week of practice indoors and then starting games.

“They stuck with it even when adversity kept hitting us,” Dooley said. “How much they stuck with it has impressed me a lot, and the growth we’ve had as a team.”

By the last game, everyone was pulling their weight with no questions asked.

“With six players, that means everybody has to play every spot,” said Dooley. “Which can be hard if you’re not as comfortable in the back row, and you’re now having to play back row and having those hits and serves come at you really hard.”

While Mapleton doesn’t have many returning players but, after a season like this one, Dooley believes the players who will return this fall will be much stronger as individual players and as a unit after having developed a great deal of grit this year.

“I think we're going to get quite a few freshmen,” said Dooley, “so, it’ll be mostly freshmen, and Kylee Carson as our only sophomore.”

The Lady Sailors will also have juniors Burruss and Shird, who will be returning as seniors and taking the leadership roles. Dooley said she’s excited to see what the team does next season, and how her seniors are going to bring in the leadership roles.

“It’ll be fun to see what they do as seniors and how they help bring in this new class of freshmen,” said Dooley. “I was very proud of how this team dealt with all the adversity. They’ve never given up, and that just makes me very proud. Because those are life skills that go beyond volleyball itself.”