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In the tough Three Rivers League, the young Cougars went 12-4 and look strong going into next year

PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP PHOTO: DAN BROOD - Freshman Daley McClellan had 246 kills on the season, and was awarded first team honors for her efforts in the 2017 campaign that led the team to a 12-4 league record. Canby—It was a surprising season for the Canby volleyball team. The Cougars finished 16-8 overall, and 12-4 in Three Rivers League play. The outcome was a net positive, and also a little surprising. Returning coach TJ Schlatter knew that with a team this young, there would be challenges, and she was optimistic starting out the season.

"Physically I knew they were good, I just didn't know how that was going to stack up against experienced teams," Schlatter said. "Those kids are competitors and so even though they're young, they just don't know and go play hard and that's kind of nice to have. They didn't back down from anybody, nobody scared them. That says a lot about them as competitors, when they're that young, to have that kind of maturity."

Still, at times the team showed its youth when playing against more seasoned teams. The time on the court though should pay dividends going into next year.

"I have a lot of really, really great pieces that were very young this year and that showed itself at some times," Schlatter said. "Those young kids won't get to claim being young next year. Some of them will be sophomores, so they'll still be young, but they've got a whole year's worth of experience that a lot of freshman don't get." HERALD PHOTO: TANNER RUSS - Freshman Audra Wilmes was a huge offensive presence for Canby at the net. Wilmes had the second most kills on the team with 159, and received second team honors for her efforts.

One of the interesting things to see this season was how the different players interacted, Schlatter said. The team consisted of a lot of girls coming together for the first time, and the mixing of personalities was something that needed watching.

HERALD PHOTO: TANNER RUSS - Sophomore Ruby Kayser was put into the setter position, and rose to the challenge. Kayser helped get the team into the first round of the state playoffs. "I have a bunch of kids that have the *oomf* and they show it in different ways," Schlatter said. "(Sophomore) Ruby (Kayser) is fiery and vocal, and aggressive with it. (Freshman) Audra (Wilmes) is very much quiet but she goes hard. In the game against Barlow, she stepped up. She did not back down, she goes really, really hard. She did not back down. She has that in her, she just does it differently. (Freshman) Daley (McClellan) is a huge competitor, but she's a really positive competitor. She's a very positive competitor, Ruby is a very aggressive competitor, Audra is a very quiet competitor, but they all have something in there, and it shows how they play day in and out."

"Can you teach that competitive spirit?" Schlatter added. "I've tried and tried and tried. You can try to mold it a little bit and encourage it to come out so they're not fearful and they're not afraid to fail."

Over the course of the season, the team really came into their own and ran a disciplined ship, something Schlatter had been on them about since she reassumed coaching duties.

"I think they improved discipline individually and as a team within systems," Schlatter said. "I think they just learned how to be a team. That's a bunch of young kids, a couple have played together, a couple have played, some have, some haven't. Kind of learning that whole team mentality that it's not about I and me, it's about we. Once they figure that out that they all have the same individual goals but they need each other, I think they did a good job of that, of coming together. There's issues like on any team, but had they not come together like that we wouldn't have done what we did. I think they really improved on that." HERALD PHOTO: TANNER RUSS - Senior Sam Fossati was one of the leaders and powerful presences on the court, and sophomore Erika Evans was a vocal presence on the team. The Cougars finished their season 12-4 in league play, and 16-8 overall.

The team still isn't perfect though. With Kayser stepping in at setter instead of her regular position as libero, and other players filling other holes, the team still needs to get comfortable in their roles and manage the momentum swings in the season.

"We have to get more consistent, definitely more consistent," Schlatter said. "We had big highs, and then we had some pretty good lows I thought. We have to find a level like West Linn that comes out and you know what you're going to get from them every time. Some of that is maturity, some of that is not having the depth you need, some of that is not having the depth to create what you need in practice, with ten players and four of them DS's."

At seasons end though, and battling it out in the first round of the playoffs against Barlow, Schlatter looks back proudly on her team.

"I was really proud of this team and their maturity for a young team," Schlatter said. "I had two seniors on the floor, and the other four were underclassmen. The maturity that the group as a whole showed in figuring out how to come together and do what we did, I was super proud of that. They were just a really good group of girls to work with. They were really respectful, and if say jump, they say how high. If I brought in a technique, they really bought into it. As a coach, what more can you ask of a group that goes out and works that hard and tries to do what you ask them to do."

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