PREP VOLLEYBALL: Injuries challenge Panthers



INDEPENDENCE — The first half of Mid-Willamette Conference play has not been kind to Central’s volleyball team.

Injuries, including to both of the team’s setters, has left the Panthers in a difficult spot.

Central entered the week with a 6-7 record overall and a 2-6 mark in league play.

“It’s been a little rough for us,” junior libero Elizabeth Chavez said.

But the Panthers are optimistic they are close to turning things around and through the challenges, players are stepping up.

Senior outside hitter Krista Omlid isn’t much of a talker on the court. She lets her play speak for itself.

“As a freshman, I was so nervous to make mistakes,” Omlid said. “Now, I’ve accepted I’m not the best passer or I’m not the best hitter. If I hit a ball out, as a freshman I would tell myself that I suck. Now, I’m like I’m not going to blame anyone, but I’ll get the next one. Having that mindset has helped a lot.”

Omlid has developed into the Panthers’ top offensive threat — the player Central looks to when it needs a point.

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“Krista is a great player,” coach Claudine Mendazona said. “She leads with her talent on the court. The girls look to her to get points for us. She takes 70 percent of our sets. She’s quiet, but focused on her play.”

Omlid, who plans to play volleyball in college, sees the seeds of a great team in the Panthers.

Despite injuries and lineup changes, Central has found itself in competitive matches through much of league play, but came up just short in finding victories.

“We do have a great team dynamic,” Omlid said. “It’s about staying healthy and knowing your job. It’s about knowing the players on the other side, where they like to serve, where they will hit, or which players will try and tip at you.”

Chavez has also played an integral part for the Panthers.

Chavez has been a varsity volleyball player since her freshman season.

Now, as an upperclassman, Chavez has developed from quiet newcomer to a vocal leader.

“We talked to her about that,” Mendazona said. “We need her to step up and be a leader on the court, be vocal and be positive. She’s a great kid and works her tail off. She can handle pressure and she might not be used to this role, but she’ll grow into it.”

It’s taken some adjustment, but Chavez is embracing her role.

“I’ve worked on communicating more, motivating my teammates when they are down,” Chavez said. “I’m getting there.”

The Panthers entered the week in a tie for sixth place with South Albany. The top six teams advance to the postseason.

“I think keeping positive is important for us,” Chavez said. “We realize we have room to grow, and it’s about wanting to put in more work during practices.”

Finding ways to close out matches remains elusive, but Mendazona believes the Panthers are close to cracking the code.

“We’ve been ahead in sets by seven or eight points and needed four more to win and couldn’t hold onto that lead,” Mendazona said. “… We have to come together and play with heart. We need to bring their passion back and show it on the court.”



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