By Jeremy McDonald
SHERIDAN, Ore.– The trio team of Haley Ayala, Natalie Nielsen and Taylor Givens brought the energy at the end of the Open Gym session Thursday morning during one of their mini-games that they were playing at the main gym at Sheridan High School.
Energy was high at the end of a long-week of Camp and Open Gyms as the Spartans looked to carry the momentum of their 13-6 2021 season in their final year in 2A before being moved up to 3A and reached the postseason for the first time since the 2015-2016 season. Energy coming from their two seniors in Nielsen and Ayala.
“You have to. In games, you can go long matches and you have to keep energy. You have to stay positive and not get into your head and just be free,” Nielsen said. “It’s contagious. it’s just contagious.”
“What happens if you’re down like this?,” adds Ayala, selling a sulking look. “Like nothing’s happening You got to be energetic, that’s what brings the energy and what makes you do good. What makes you want to do good.”
It’s a bittersweet moment for the duo, knowing that this is their final year in the Blue and Yellow. A lot of time has been spent together on the field of play. It’s one of those things that is weird to think about. Hoping that the mark they’ve left going into this season and what mark they’re hopefully going to leave is an everlasting one for those coming up behind them.
“I remember being like a freshman and imagining my senior year. Now it’s actually happening, it’s sad,” described Ayala. “I don’t want it to be over.”
“It’s been like a blink of an eye,” points Nielsen. “Leaving a high-standard, I think it’s going to leave it for other people to work hard and to keep on continuing to work hard and keep working on the program.”
Of those coming up behind them, two are related to the Sheridan Seniors. Addie, Natalie’s younger sister, and Chole, Haley’s younger sister. Both younger siblings are incoming sophomores.
“I know it’s hard for her, but she loves Volleyball so she’s going to step-out and be a leader,” said Ayala of her sister. “They look at us as leaders. They’re going to carry that on.”
“They’re helping the younger girls coming up and even us so that we can build the program,” Nielsen adds of her sibling,
Now entering July, with a summer game coming up soon, it’s important for the Nielsen’s, the Ayala’s and the rest of the Sparts to bridge last year’s success and the success’ they had in Club with Agile, with this upcoming season. Their first game of the season is on September 10 when they travel to Riverdale High School.
“At the end of the year, our junior year last year, we started to pick up a lot of things and started to see all the different kinds of competition out there. Especially with club, that helped us a lot,” Ayala said.
Photos By Jeremy McDonald