The Camas High School (CHS) volleyball team was forced to overcome unexpected adversity on its way to a 4A state tournament trophy last week.
When the Papermakers’ players were warming up for a short practice before leaving for Yakima, Washington, on Nov. 22, junior Mackenzie Hancock, the team’s starting setter, collided with another player and took a hard fall, suffering a concussion that kept her from competing at the state tournament.
“She couldn’t talk, (and) her eyes were glazed,” CHS coach Michelle Ford said. “We went into the weekend (having) not practiced with a different setter, so it was very hard and stressful.”
The Papermakers overcame the stress to win three of their four matches and return home with a seventh-place trophy.
“I believe we showed that if you come together and have a lot of heart, you can do anything,” said CHS senior Emma Villaluz, the two-time 4A Greater St. Helens League player of the year. “It’s just (about) having the (right) mindset.”
‘Leaving big shoes to fill’
On Nov. 22, CHS lost its first state tournament match at the Yakima Valley SunDome to Lake Stevens High School 3-0, bumping the Papermakers into the losers’ bracket. After the loss, Ford made some adjustments, moving Villaluz to the setter position, a switch that energized the tightly-knit team.
“When coach said I was now the setter, I was super surprised,” Villaluz said, “but I knew I had to step up my game because we were playing for Mackenzie.”
The Papermakers finished the first day of competition by beating Wenatchee High School 3-0. The next day they put on a dominating performance and beat Mead High School 3-0 to ensure they’d return home with a trophy.
CHS fell behind 10-5 in the fifth set of its seventh/eighth-place match against Richland High School before rallying for a 17-15 victory.
“Our team chemistry is so great,” Villaluz said. “How we communicate on and off the court is what really ties into all this.”
Villaluz recorded 14 kills and 15 assists in her final high-school match.
“She’s left a legacy,” Ford said. “Emma is definitely the face of Camas volleyball. She’s left some big shoes to fill, that’s for sure. You don’t get very many Emmas.”
Fortunately for the Papermakers, they are loaded with experienced sophomores and juniors who are expected to take the CHS volleyball program to higher levels.
“Next year our goal is to be in the top four at state,” Ford said.