By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.– Coming out of her freshman year at Western Christian, Sydney Fahndrich was a second-team pitcher for the Pioneers as the then-Western Mennonite School went 7-14 and 5-13 in league play. In their conference that year, Central Linn reached the 2A/1A Semi-Final round while League Champion Kennedy went on to win the State Title that year.
“Freshman year was a super fun season and we had a pretty decent team! I was shooting for 1st team all-league but I got second team and I’m still very happy with that,” Fahndrich said of that year. “Playing three sports all of middle and high school has been such a blast, and I’m so thankful I’ve had the opportunity to play, especially at a Christian school.”
The little 2A school along Highway 221 in-between West Salem and Dayton has drawn some attention for it’s athletics at the school. For Fahndrich, she’s played basketball and Volleyball along with softball.
As a Junior the now Senior-Pio student-athlete was a third-team volleyball selection and an Honorable Mention selection for the White and Blue out of the gym known as ‘The Barn’. Feeding off the energy from the crowd that could easily spill courtside during games as Western Christian plays in the always tough Tri-River Conference, something Fahndrich adds she can’t wait to join post-graduation when she returns to campus for games.
“Our volleyball and basketball leagues have been tough over the years but we have always found a way to come back. our teams have improved and grown since my freshman year and we have been blessed to be able to play together as a family which is kind of our motto,” said Fahndrich.
“As we have grown as a team I have also been able to grow individually as an athlete. I have worked very hard to improve mentally and physically. each sport I play and I haven’t done it alone. my teammates, coaches, family, and the community or Western Christian has helped me get better in many different ways.”
Softball got interesting her sophomore year, having to group up with Salem Academy as both teams struggled to field teams on their own. Instead of playing a 4A schedule as the two schools combined student wise would put them in the Oregon West Conference with 4A Power Philomath and strong teams in Cascade and Stayton, the two programs opt’d for an independent schedule.
Through the frustrations, the Pioneer/Crusader combination went 8-9 with wins against playoff teams like Gervais (2A), Blanchet Catholic (3A), Scio (3A), St. Paul (1A) and lost a close battle with eventual 2A State Runner-Up in the Trojans in 2019 last game of the season on May 15, 2019.
As she progressed through her Junior season, Volleyball improved to 9-17 from their one-win season the year before. The squad was also a game out of the league playoffs being a game behind the Cougars of Gervais and dropping a tough game to Santiam in the opening round of the TRL League playoffs; another curveball came her way for Softball.
The Coronavirus Pandemic. And it was bittersweet knowing that the challenges the year before that were handed her way.
But nonetheless, it helped her reflect and appreciate the things that were given to her up to this point of her life.
“With covid ending our softball season last year and not even letting us have sports this year I have had a lot of time to think about the last three years. I have realized how many opportunities I was given and even though I may have not taken every single one, I still appreciate that I had the chance to try new things and do my best,” Fahndrich explains. “We have tried our best to do everything we can this year to play sports and my senior class is very thankful to have such a supportive community that has our backs and is helping in every way that they can.”
Fahndrich had made up for some of that missed time on the diamond by playing with the Salem Aftershock Fall Travel Softball team however. It was interesting because initially Fahndrich mentioned not wanting to play travel ball until one of the Aftershock coaches approached her asking if she’d play with them over the Fall.
She gave it a try, but had ultimately stepped away from the diamond.
“With (the) Aftershock it was interesting because I wasn’t even going to play softball anymore for traveling teams and I was messaged by the coaches asking if I would play for them,” Fahndrich starts. “I was originally going to play for the fall and see what happens for this summer but I have been a little bit worn out of softball with switching teams and usually being the only pitcher on every team.
“It’s kind of just tired me out and I wanted to move on with my life. I do miss playing softball but I think it was the best decision I could’ve made for my future and for me to start a new chapter of my life.”
As her time at Western draws to an end, it’s hard for her to pick a favorite moment playing as a Pioneer. From Guy Enriques’ Team Camp to traveling out-of-state to play basketball this past year. Just the little things that made her appreciate the past four years of playing High School sports.
“For volleyball, we went to Guy Enriques’ team camp last year before the season and we had lots of opportunities to get better and grow as a team, and I think that we all had a blast at that camp and it definitely helped us a lot. We have so many memories just from that one weekend and I am so happy we got to go,” Fahndrich said.
“For basketball, we have traveled a little bit this year, not with our school team…and had a couple other people from another school come with us and we made our own tournament team so we could actually play. That was probably one of the most fun trips I’ve had with a tournament team and I just wish that we could’ve had more games and trips. and even though we don’t have much time left of this school year I know that we are all going to do whatever we can to make this the best year possible!”
Photos By Jeremy McDonald