A three-hour practice can get mundane, but the Columbia Basin College volleyball team still had smiles on their faces Tuesday afternoon. Esther Schuh even entertained her teammates by juggling three volleyballs. Then, it was back to work.
Hawks coach Sandra Olin likes the enthusiasm her team had leading into Wednesday’s 6 p.m. NWAC East match at North Idaho College.
“If they play with their heart for each other, magic can happen,” Olin said. “They work super hard and do what they are told. They all work really hard for a common goal. They are a good group of kids.”
CBC (7-9) returns four players from last year’s team — outside hitter Treiquella Childers, middle Andee Wendt, setter Kelly Wilson and defensive specialist Kasandra Galbraith. But Olin is just as excited about her new crop of recruits, which includes libero Momo Calzadillas and middle Kyrsten Whitmore of Kiona-Benton High School and outside hitter Meli Matautia from Kodiak, Alaska.
“They worked their butts off to make the NWAC tournament last year, so the returning girls have that experience,” Olin said. “It’s hard to find kids who don’t feel entitled, kids who work for it. These are hard-working kids who are here because they love to play.”
Matautia, who helped Kodiak High School to the Alaska state tournament last year, was a late addition to the team, but a welcomed one.
“I had gotten an email from her, and I had a girl who didn’t show,” Olin said. “I started talking to her coaches. She was what we needed. I was very fortunate and excited that it worked out. Once she figures it all out, she will be a scary kid. Her potential is ridiculous.”
Childers, who hails from Monument, Ore., is a big threat for the Hawks this season. The 5-foot-5 sophomore leads the team in kills and is a team leader.
Schuh, Whitmore, Ally Bott (Pomeroy) and Wendt (Kellogg, Idaho) also add firepower up front.
“Kyrsten played middle in high school, but we have put her on the right side because of her blocking,” Olin said. “She swings it really well. Nalina (McShane of Walla Walla Valley Academy) is a defensive specialist, but she is someone we look to in the back row. We have a well-balanced team.”
Olin, who won an NWAC title as a player in 1989 with Mt. Hood, would like to take her team back to the NWAC tournament this year. But that challenge got a little harder with the addition of North Idaho College, putting nine teams in the East Division, but still only advancing four.
“There hasn’t been a lot of success here for years,” Olin said. “Just getting over that mental hurdle is the big thing. We lost both matches last year, but it was good experience.”
Olin said the Hawks will rely on leadership, their serving and their passing until the hitting and the blocking come together.
“Everyone is learning the system,” Olin said. “We have to unlock their potential.”