High school athletics by nature have a high turnover. Any star player can only shine for so long with graduation always on the horizon. It’s a four-year adventure at best for those gifted enough to crack the varsity roster as freshmen.
So coaches in every school in America can sympathize with Becky Wadekamper’s volleyball situation in Hermiston. Every program has lost seniors. But it’s not every year a team loses eight of its 12 varsity players in one graduating class.
In that vein, Wadekamper may be on her own.
With only one starter on the return, senior libero Mikaela Cain-Anderson, the Bulldogs could have been headed for a down year or at least a perilous path to repeat as Columbia River Conference champions. But that may not be the case with a pair of reinforcements coming over to Hermiston in the offseason.
“That makes it a little easier transition because those are some varsity experienced kids,” said Wadekamper, who led Hermiston to a 19-8 record and the final site of the state tourney in her first year at the helm. “Even though I’ve got kids that are talented, they don’t have that varsity experience. It bolsters the environment.”
Sanders will play middle hitter in Hermiston, helping fill the hole left by last season’s CRC Player of the Year in Crystal Schmidt. The 6-foot-2 transfer, the daughter of former Pendleton Athletic Director and football head coach Mitch Sanders, will stand as one of the two towers in the Dawgs’ massive front line. Returning junior Hannah Mabbott, also 6-2, will likely take the other middle hitting position while flanked by 5-11 outside hitters.
Sanders said she won’t put any added pressure on herself by attempting to live up to last year’s team, a group that included three first-team all-conference players.
“No, I just kind of need to play my best, just play my best,” Sanders said. “As long as we keep our head in the game, we can go far this year.”
New outside hitter Kappelman moved to Hermiston midway through last spring’s school semester, coming over from Solon, Ohio, a suburb southeast of Cleveland.
Though the two new players have yet to play a set with their teammates, Kappelman said the girls are already working on the same page after participating in summer practices together. Just under 30 players turned up for summer workouts, a number far higher than last year, Wadekamper said.
“That’s where a lot of my friends came from when I first moved here was the volleyball girls, even though it wasn’t even volleyball season,” said Kappelman, who considers team communication the top asset she brings to her new team. “The energy is really, really high as a team. We work and talk really well together I think.”
The Bulldogs have one more full week of practice to fine-tune their skills and become cohesive before the first match. Sept. 1 marks the season-opening tournament in town, the Hermiston Labor Day Invite.
Contact AJ Mazzolini at email@example.com or 541-966-0839.