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Two seniors take charge


Lowe and Hammons lead by example for younger Rangers

When you watch the Estacada volleyball team warm up, one thing sticks out above all else — these girls can smash the ball.

Among the front line players who lead the charge are a pair of seniors — Rachel Lowe and Sam Hammons — but the two Rangers have taken very different paths to get here.

For Lowe, the transition into an elite high school volleyball player was seamless.

As a sophomore, she made the varsity team and immediately became an impact player along the front line. Then, at the end of her junior year, Lowe was up for player of the year honors in the Tri-Valley League before barely missing out to a girl from La Salle.

With that as a backdrop, Lowe has returned this season for her senior year and has continued the steady improvement she has shown since joining the volleyball program as a seventh grader.

“She’s the best finesse player I’ve seen in the state at our level,” head coach Shawna Lippert said. “She can put the ball wherever she wants to, she knows where the blockers are and she’s almost never blocked.”

by: PHOTO BY LOREN NIBBE - Although not always one of the top players in the league, senior Sam Hammons has come out of her shell in crunch time for the Rangers, having built up enough confidence to become an integral part of the Ranger offense.For Hammons, however, the transition wasn’t always as smooth.

Like Lowe, Hammons entered the program in the seventh grade and was called up to varsity as a sophomore. Her impact, however, had always been more inconsistent.

That is, until this season.

Having lost to Madras early in the season, the Rangers faced a tough stretch of matches throughout October — a stretch they needed to go undefeated in if they wanted to win the league crown.

Then, Hammons stepped up.

In three biggest matches, two against La Salle and the rematch against Madras, Hammons came through with the best volleyball of her career, dominating opponents offensively on her way to becoming a near-unstoppable force.

“I am so excited about her letting go of some insecurities and stepping up,” Lippert said. “She is just playing with such ease and confidence that she’s making it look easy. A lot of people have been saying that as a team we’re peaking at the right time, and that’s especially true for Sam. She is so athletic and she has gotten the confidence to make all of that work to her advantage.”

Even more than her impressive play on the court, by: PHOTO BY LOREN NIBBE - After finishing as the runner-up for player of the year honors in the Tri-Valley League last season, senior Rachel Lowe has continued to be Estacadas top threat along the front line.Hammons has also begun to set the tone for the Rangers, becoming what some parents have called “the firecracker” of the team.

“She sets the mood sometimes,” Lippert said. “If she keeps playing like this, then the other kids follow suit, it’s very weird. She has ignited our offense.”

For Hammons, the transformation from an ancillary role player into a dominant force actually had little to do with her physical game, and everything to do with her mental makeup.

“I used to always think about when I missed a shot, but now I don’t dwell on mistakes,” she said. “Knowing that I set the tone, I need to be a leader and set those things aside.”

Among the offensive players that have been ignited is Lowe, who has somehow managed to improve upon last season’s incredible campaign. This season, Lowe is hitting .301 in league play, an incredible percentage for a player used as often as she is.

What the numbers don’t show, however, is the importance of some of those points. For anyone who watches the Rangers play, one thing that always sticks out is how Lowe always ends up on the finishing end of crucial points.

“When she’s in the front row, we know we’re getting a first-point side out,” Lippert said. “She gets us out of the bind of getting the ball back over 90-percent of the time. She has been absolutely critical.”

Consider the fact that Lowe has been doing all of this while being keyed on by other teams and with the pressure of a potential player of the year title, and her impact is even more impressive.

From an outsider’s perspective, the impact that Lowe and Hammons have had is immense, but from an insider’s perspective, the impact is even greater.

It’s one thing to have a number of good players and big hitters, but to have two of your senior leaders leading the charge in crunch time has been powerful.

“When I was a sophomore, I just went along with whatever and followed,” Hammons said. “If the seniors were serious about something, then I was serious, but if they were messing around then I was too. Now, as a senior, we’ve been thinking about state a lot because this is our year, and so we’ve been a lot more focused.”

Lowe, on the other hand, has taken an equally big role in team leadership.

“I’m always just trying to be a positive force and to keep the energy up,” she said. “I like to pick other people up, but not too much where they’re relying on me for it.”

With another impressive regular season behind them, the Rangers haven’t needed much “picking up," but with a tough playoff matchup slated for Saturday, adversity might come sooner than later.

Fortunately for the Rangers, they’ve got two leaders who happened to be pretty good at volleyball.