The Trojan Five

By Jeremy McDonald

jeremymcdonald73@gmail.com

SALEM, Ore.–  It is no secret how good the Kennedy Volleyball program has been in recent years.  It is also no surprised that a pandemic won’t slow down the defending 2A State Champions from getting their reps in.

Pairs on sand, quads on hardwood, there’s always an opportunity to improve.  Just got to find a way.

“Every time we’re in the gym here on out, we got to make sure we make it a good one because we haven’t been in a gym very much,” said Elise Suing.

Wednesday night at The Hoop marked the next-to-last indoor quads session of the two four-week blocks that the NPJ Club Volleyball program as put on.  Giving the girls an opportunity to get out and play, getting some reps in along the way and staying sharp for the hopes of a season in March.

(Left-right) Ellie Cantu, Emma Beyer, Meah Carley and Elise Suing have been on the same team through the first wave of the NPJ Quads (Picture By Jeremy McDonald)

Suing, Ellie Cantu, Emma Beyer and Meah Carley formed one of the quartets on the floor for the second session and played two close sets to the ‘Notorious Big’ quad on this night.  Suing and Cantu splitting time setting the ball while Carley looking like a five-five version of her older sister Sophia spiking the ball back down to Earth against the squad.

“We did pretty good for just being in the gym a couple of times this year because of everything that’s happening.  It was a good match-up, we matched up with them pretty good,” said Suing.

In the earlier session, prior to the Kennedy quartet coming in, Trojan libero Hailey Arritola was getting her work in as well.  Playing next to girls like Silverton’s Alexis Haury and Santiam Christian’s Emily Bourne, the touches and reps are crucial in the build-up to the shortened season come March and April.

“It’s really exciting because there are no other…our High School isn’t doing anything right now so this is all we have.  And this is a ton of ball-touches and a lot of reps for us, so it’s really exciting because we’ll need that for the upcoming High School season,” said Arritola.

Arritola reacting to a serve about to be delivered from a Sweet Home Huskie server Wednesday evening in Salem (Picture By Jeremy McDonald)

Playing Libero is tough as is.  Got to be able to control the ball, be quick on defense and be able to read where the ball is going to land on the court.  Playing in sand volleyball (2-on-2) tournaments and Quads (4-on-4), heighten those attributes for a libero like an Arritola while making them more versatile in the grand scheme of the game.

“Especially playing four right now, you’re just not passing.  You’re setting and hitting.  You’ll have to be versatile and having to do anything and everything,” said Arritola.  “I think this fun, it’s higher than school (ball) and so it’s kind of exciting to play at a faster level and get faster and harder balls right now in the off-season.

“It’s just more ball-touches.  Just getting into different situations and especially doing these doubles and singles.  In situations like that (in sand volleyball), you have to know how to hit.  You have to be able to hit, set and pass.  It’s not just ‘oh I’m a libero, so I’m just passing.  It’s teaching me how to be more versatile is the thing and I really needed that.”

Eye-opening experience for sure.  The first session wraps up Monday at The Hoop with the second four-week block starting Wednesday for the NPJ Quads season.

Photos By Jeremy McDonald

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