By BEN MCCARTY
News staff writer
August 30, 2006
A year after a dismal season, the Hood River Valley Eagles volleyball team is looking for a fresh start. Leading the charge is first- year coach Scott Walker, a veteran assistant coach from Arizona who is returning to his Oregon roots. The Eagles finished last season 1-12 in the Intermountain Conference, and 1-13 overall.
The beginning of this season brings at least one certain piece of good news: The Eagles are not in the Intermountain Conference anymore. However, that does not mean that getting the Eagles to soar again will be an easy task. The Central Catholic Rams are considered the odds-on favorite to win the Mt. Hood Conference again this year. They finished 13-0 in last year’s regular season, and were the 4A state runner-ups. Gresham, the conference’s third place team at 12-2, finished third- in state and will likely make another playoff appearance this year.
However, Walker views the tough conference schedule as a challenge, and knows what the team is getting into.
“Its going to be exciting,” he said. “We are going to be playing some tough teams.”
After two weeks of practice, coach and players alike are hitting on a common theme: “We need to play as a team,” Walker said. “Everyone needs to know their responsibilities.”
His four seniors have taken up the challenge and say they are seeing the team come together as the beginning of the season nears.
“We’ve been working together well,” Rachel Schlosser said. “We’ve been working on the basics.”
Perhaps The Beatles’ “Come Together,” should be the team’s thing song this year, because they need “to come together right now” to have a shot in the competitive Mt. Hood Conference.
“The most important thing is to be a team, and to stay together and believe in each other,” Sasha McHale said.
In practice, the team appeared ready to put last season behind them, with team members urging on teammates and helping each other out during Walker’s rapid-fire drills.
Katrina Logsden believes those things will need to carry over into the season for the team to be successful.
“We need to work better as a team; to talk more and be more focused,” she said.
Sarah Wood added that she felt the team has been “doing well in the first week of practice” and that the team has looked good on the basics and passing.
As a first-year coach, Walker will be relying on his seniors, who have been at Hood River Valley longer than he has, to set the tone on the court.
“The seniors need to be the leaders,” Walker said.
While the Eagles may be in a transition year, breaking in a new coach and moving back to the Mt. Hood Conference, Walker believes that they have one element that will keep them in the fight.
“(The girls) are going to be solid,” Walker said. “Their hustle is the biggest thing.”
Indeed, Walker had his players sprawling onto the floor during free ball drills, and players reminded each other that “if the ball hits the floor, you hit the floor to get it.”
As the last weeks of practice wind down and the team gets ready to open the book on a new season, the players are getting to know their new coach, setting themselves free from last season’s losses, and coming together as a group. Now they hope that their preparation leads to a few more marks in the win column.
“I think in terms of hustle we will do well,” Schlosser said. “And hopefully with that comes winning.”
The Eagles kick off play Sept. 7 against the Sandy Pioneers.