As of Wednesday, October 11, 2017
DALLAS — Senior volleyball player Tristin Savage towers above her teammates.
But she didn’t always have all the pieces necessary to turn into a dominanting presence on the court.
“We used to call her baby giraffe,” Dallas coach Shana Lavier said with a smile. “She was all arms and legs and somewhat uncoordinated when she was a younger player.”
That is no longer the case as Savage has become a player opponents dread dealing with.
“Now we call her the Great Wall of T,” Lavier said.
The biggest changes in Savage’s game came after she focused solely on volleyball. Before, she was a multi-sport athlete.
The senior played on a traveling club team during the offseason, giving her a chance to play against some of the region’s top players on a consistent basis.
“It was crazy different,” Savage said. “The speed of the game was so much quicker.”
The experience forced Savage to play more aggressively.
“I think I’m a lot more excited,” she said. “I bring more energy back to the team than I did before, and I’m more confident in myself.”
That confidence has shown up in a big way on the court. Each of the last four matches, Lavier said Savage has recorded 15 or more kills and has become a consistent server.
“She’s stronger physically and mentally,” Lavier said. “She’s a dominant player. Teams are threatened by her. Not only does she change their offense, it’s a huge momentum swing to have a middle blocker like Tristin.”
As the Dragons approach the end of league play, players hope individual success evolves into team-wide success.
The Dragons entered the week 8-9 overall and 4-6 in Mid-Willamette Conference play – tied for sixth. The top six teams in the league advance to the postseason.
The league season has been uneven. For every win, including victories over Central and Crescent Valley, there have been missed opportunities, including a five-set loss to co-league leader Lebanon.
“I think mentally we are doing pretty well,” Savage said. “I think we hold each other accountable, but in order to take that next step, we need to do that a little better. We need to push each other to excel. It’s all mental. When we’re focused and mentally together as a team, we win. When we let it slip, we lose.”
The key is finding the mental toughness in the midst of a battle, Lavier said.
“They become undisciplined,” Lavier said. “They will sporadically flail an arm out and panic. We are just trying to work on staying composed and taking care of the frantic.”
The Dragons play at Central Wednesday (today) at 6 p.m. Dallas will compete at the Seaside Tournament on Saturday before hosting Woodburn Tuesday at 6 p.m.
“We just need to believe in ourselves,” Savage said. “If we think about our fundamentals, keep each other accountable and have fun doing it, we can beat anybody.”