By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.– NPJ Volleyball hosted twenty of their athletes in the NPJ Sports Complex Monday evening. Honoring the twenty volleyball athletes on their accomplishments of being able to continue and compete in the sport at the next level starting in the Fall.
“I’m just really excited to be moving on and starting fresh. I had a great four years at McNary, great three years at NPJ, so it’s just really exciting to be moving onto the next level,” McNary’s Alexis Eldridge said. “My parents are the ones who helped me get there.”
Eldridge will be heading to Albany to play for the Linn-Benton Community College Roadrunners. LBCC will be coming off their first-ever NWAC Championship Title this past Fall with a 32-2 record.
“Just seeing the tough competition like at McNary, we played a lot of good squads and being at that competitive level has really helped my mindset to grow mentally and physically to be prepared for this level.”
Volleyball can be and is a mental and a physical game. It takes a lot to be successful and that tough mindset has helped West Salem’s Bella Snyder get to the point where she’ll be heading to Reno, Nevada to play Division-1 Volleyball for the University of Nevada-Reno.
Having been playing Volleyball since the third/fourth grade and pointed towards having pictures of her with a volleyball as a baby, it’s also nice to see all that mental and physical work come to fruition going into the Fall.
“(Volleyball) has taken over in a good and a bad way. I think the mental side of sports is important, so going with the sport, it’s been up-and-down for sure, but I think the pay-off is so worth it at the end. Like the satisfaction with yourself is just unreal,” Snyder said. “My advice to players is stick it out. You might be going through a rough patch, but it’s going to be worth it at the end.”
For South Salem’s Araeya Watanabe, there was uncertainty that she’ll continue her playing career beyond this past season with the Saxons. Watanabe was one of five seniors who helped South reached the 6A State Quarterfinals this past season but keeping her options open had landed the Saxon Outside Hitter with the Wildcats of Linfield University Volleyball team this upcoming season.
“Honestly, I wasn’t even planning on going to college in the first place. I was thinking about going into the military, but I’m really glad that my coach reached out to me and actually allowed me to attend Linfield,” Watanabe said. “I was really behind in the whole college process, but a lot of my teachers helped me find a school and my parents, my grandparent really pushed me to pursue a college.
“Linfield. My cousin goes there, and she told me to tour, I went there to go tour and my coach at NPJ wanted me to go to Linfield.”
Amity’s Brooke Lopez will be adding more to her plate Volleyball wise when she goes to Saratoga, California to continue her playing career at West Valley College where she’ll be playing bother indoor and beach Volleyball for the Vikings.
Granted it’ll take some time to adjust to the bigger city of Saratoga, a suburb of San Jose in the South San Francisco Bay Area with a population of 30,697, from Amity; but the Warrior Setter is ready for the adjustment both on-and-off the court.
“It’s so exciting, especially going from a small town like Amity to a whole another state and playing beach and indoor volleyball…I’ve never played beach before, so that’ll be interesting,” laughed Lopez. “I have family 15 minutes away, so if I need them, I know they’re there. So, it’s like home away from home, but it’s still a big new step.
“I’m pretty nervous (about beach volleyball). It’s a whole different game, but it’ll prepare me more for indoor. They got six outdoor beach volleyball courts at the community college, so it’s pretty awesome.”
Photos By Jeremy McDonald