Sailors on course for growth

Lady Sailors senior Emily Richards scores a tip-kill against Triangle Lake. Richards had 3 kills, 1 block and 2 aces for Mapleton on Wednesday night. (photo by Ned Hickson/Siuslaw News)

Triangle Lake d Mapleton:

25-21, 25-18, 22-25, 25-12

Triangle Lake d Mapleton:

27-25, 25-14, 25-12

After several schedule changes due to fluctuating risk levels in competing counties, Mapleton’s volleyball team was finally able to get back on the court for two games against Triangle Lake last week.

On Tuesday (March 16), the Sailors played the Lakers on the road. The game went to four sets, with Mapleton succumbing to Triangle Lake in game four.

“We fought hard in the first set,” said Mapleton Coach Molly Dooley. “Even though it ended up being a loss, I can't be much happier than [when they play] that hard.”

The girls struggled some with communication on the court in the first set, which started to improve in the second set. The Sailors then carried the momentum and interaction into the third set.

According to Dooley, “By the time we got to the third set, the communication was there and we were working really hard together. And we ended up pulling that one out as a win.”

Unfortunately, going into the fourth game, the girls were less communicative, and it affected their ability to bring the Lakers into a fifth set. However, Dooley noted that it was the first time the Sailors went to a fourth game, which was a great experience for their fairly young team.

Even with a loss, Dooley was happy with her team’s efforts. “I was really proud of that performance [on Tuesday], especially because Triangle Lake’s ceiling is so weird. That really [messed] with us for a little bit. Then once we started figuring out the ceiling, and got talking, it all started coming together and we got some hits.”

Mapleton had three standout players for the game, including senior Briena Jensen with 5 aces and 1 dig. In addition, senior Emily Stevens had 1 block, 3 kills, 2 aces and 5 digs. Mapleton junior Summer Flansberg had 2 aces for the Lady Sailors.

The very next day, Mapleton was back on the court with The Lakers, this time for the team’s first home game. Dooley had a few areas of focus she discussed with her team.

“Some of our main points were communication and coming together,” said Dooley, “because we're a young team playing together. [There are] a lot of new faces and a lot of new people playing positions. This is only our third time actually playing some of these rotations, so I’m really getting to know who is going to be where [on the court].”

Dooley said the lack of experience sometimes translates into hesitancy on the court. Because of that, “We're really working on going full blast into it, and not being afraid to get the ball,” added Dooley. “I think we're getting there with some parts of it. I'm really proud of especially the digging up, because they will go full force to hit the wall. So that's been really exciting.”

In Wednesday’s re-match with the Lakers, the first set was a nail-biter, with both teams taking the lead at several points. Jensen had 2 aces mid-game, the second of which tied the score.

Stevens and Flansberg also had an ace each that set, as well as senior Heather Wierichs, who also scored kill to the back corner.

The set was close, forcing the game into extra points before the Lakers managed to narrowly seal the win, 27-25.

In the second set, the Sailors struggled to find their rhythm, but Jensen and Stevens’ hustle helped keep the team’s spirits up. Jensen had another ace to go with a kill resulting from a sneak tip. Stevens’ hitting game was aggressive, coming away with a kill.

“I was really proud of the effort, especially of Emily’s blocking,” Dooley said. “Plus, we got some good hits in there, she’s getting some kills in, and we’re really getting more aggressive on our offense with that.”

In set three, the Sailors struggled a bit with hesitation and communication. As Dooley ex-plained, “That’ll come as we play more games with each other. But that's going to be something that we definitely get done in practice.”

Towards the end of the set, two aces from Jensen and a killer block from Stevens breathed new life into the Sailors, who were down 9-24.

“It was important there just to think it's zero-zero,” Dooley said. “[I told them], don't even fo-cus on the game score right now, just play as if it's the beginning of the game.”

Unfortunately, it was not enough to pull out a win. But Dooley said she is happy her team has the chance to play together and learn for the future.

“It’s not like we're playing for a championship or a district tournament right now. So, I feel like it's kind of the perfect time right now to try out new things, to be willing to go for those hits, even if you're a little hesitant,” Dooley said of the shortened, six-week season. “You should al-ways have fun; that's the number one rule. But I feel like it's a lot lower pressure right now, which I'm hoping I'm conveying to them — getting to try new things, be more aggressive and try things out, even if we're going to fail.”

What is notable about the Sailors is their positive attitude and genuine camaraderie. It was clear, even when they were down, that the girls care about each other, and they are having a great deal of fun together. Dooley expressed her appreciation for that quality in her team. “That's what I'm really proud of with this team: I’ve heard so much laughing and encouraging each other, and they're willing to help each other and also learn from each other,” she said.

“It has been great because there's no drama going on. Then, when we're in those games, and we're behind by a bit and we have to come back, they're more willing to come out of it, and are not so much pointing fingers, which is really awesome. And you can’t teach that.”

The Lady Sailors are scheduled to take on Alsea away next week on Saturday (March 27). First serve goes up at 4 p.m.