Talented group returns for MHS

by: Photo By Joe McHaney - Madras High School sophomore Alexis Urbach 9right,  figures to wreak havoc for opponents at the net. She  is one of   several skilled    sophomores who are  anticipated to contribute to the varsity squad.

As Madras High School gears up for its third season of competition in the Class 4A Tri-Valley Conference, the White Buffalos want nothing more than to overcome one road block it's been unable to hurdle the past two years - advance past the 4A play-in round.
   The White Buffalos, which have had solid success in nonconference and regular-season play the past two years, have been unable to advance to the 4A state championship tournament, thanks mainly, to Banks High School, which has handed MHS two consecutive season-ending losses in the play-in round.
   "I think our main goal this year is to get past that play-in round," said senior outside hitter Lauren Simmons. "We all want it so bad, and it would be a great accomplishment."
   Madras finished 7-3 in Tri-Valley Conference play for third place overall last year, but the White Buffalos fell to conference champion La Salle two times in five-set matches by a combined five points.
   "We were close last year," MHS head coach Jamie Smith said. "It literally came down to just a few points from first to third place for us. But, that's last year, and I'm excited about this group coming back. I definitely think we can compete for a conference title."
   Madras will lean on senior Lauren Simmons, who earned TVC first-team honors, and sophomore Shelby Mauritson, who earned TVC honorable mention honors, last season.
   "We anticipate great things from both of them," Smith said of Simmons and Mauritson. "Lauren is just so talented, and with a year under her belt, Shelby is more confident."
   The White Buffalos also have the luxury of turning to seniors Sarah Brown, Natalie Martin and Caitlin Hulsey, who missed last season with an injury.
   "Sarah is a three-year varsity player and provides experience and sense of where to be on the court," Smith said.
   Brown had a high kill percentage last year, and emerged for the White Buffalos, along with Martin, who will see time as the team's libero.
   "We have a few position changes this season, but I really like how the younger players are stepping up," Martin said. "They're going to be a big part of what we do."
   Mauritson, an outside hitter, leads a talented crop of sophomores that includes Keely Brown, Elle Renault, Taylor Sjolund and Alexis Urbach, who players gave high reviews for her play thus far.
   "Alexis is so quick and I can't believe how good she is considering this is her second year of volleyball ever," Martin said.
   Urbach, 5 foot, 11 inches, figures to play a large role for the White Buffalos as the team's middle blocker.
   "It's been very impressive to see her dedication to the sport," Smith said of Urbach. "She played at a high level for the Rimrock Volley Club and she will be fun to watch at our level this season."
   The White Buffalos will also utilize juniors Elyse Bagley and Cheyenne Duncan.
   "We definitely want to get past that play-in round," Brown said. "Our team is really bonded and we play as a team. I'm excited because I really think we could be good this season."
   Last year, the Buffs finished 20-11-4 overall and it marked the second season with 20 wins.
   Madras opens play Aug. 31 at the annual Summit High School Jamboree. The White Buffalos begin nonconference play Sept. 6, with a home match against Cascade High School, and open TVC play at home Sept. 20, against Estacada.
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