Madras undefeated in conference play thus far

The Madras High School volleyball team is beginning to round into midseason form after a pair of Tri-Valley Conference wins.

The White Buffalos laid a pair of straight-set wins on league foes Gladstone and North Marion, both with relative ease.

Madras defeated Gladstone 25-11, 25-15, 25-14 on Tuesday, and then blasted the Huskies 25-14, 25-15, 25-14 Thursday.

Madras head coach Rhea Cardwell said the key to the Buffs' solid play to open the TVC schedule has been the balanced attack they have been able to sustain.

"We're having people step up and contribute, especially offensively," Cardwell said. "We're focusing on getting more of the depth in our game, because that's how you're going to beat the really good teams. Everyone has to contribute."

In the North Marion match, Cardwell said two players especially elevated their play - Taylor Sjolund and Keely Brown.

Opposing teams know how good Alexis Urbach and Shelby Mauritson can be, so part of their game plan is to throw double blocks at them on a consistent basis. But with the play of Sjolund and Brown, along with Elle Renault, teams have to honor that and start blocking them with someone.

That opens up Urbach and Mauritson to pound away at defenses with their big swings against just one blocker.

"It was nice to see that type of approach," Cardwell said. "We've been great in serve receive as well, and I've been very pleased with how well we have played."

Urbach recorded 10 kills against the Huskies, and Mauritson chipped in nine, with a team-high 18 digs. Brown notched six kills and Renault had seven aces to go along with 22 assists.

"We've got three or four good players in our serve receive, and that's something you want," Cardwell said. "And we need to continue to be smart on offense. It's something we're going to work on quite a bit."

In the team's conference home opener Sept. 24 against Gladstone, Cardwell said it was one of those games where the Buffs could have easily let the Gladiators in their head.

"Where they are at as a program, they can throw some pretty weird stuff at you," Cardwell said. "They are still developing, but we wanted to make sure we played our kind of volleyball, and we didn't let things get chaotic."

Gladstone can play with an unorthodox style at times, and it can sometimes cause a team to unravel, Cardwell said, because the players simply don't expect the ball to come flying over the net after a second touch, as an example.

"We wanted to make it a mental building game for us," Cardwell said. "We wanted us to worry about us, and be in the right positions and maintain our focus. We were able to do that."

Against the Gladiators, Mauritson reminded everyone why she was named the conference player of the year last season. She hammered 11 kills with a .556 hitting percentage, and backed that up with a stellar defensive night with a team-high 18 digs.

LeiOnah Scott had seven aces for the Buffs to help pace them from the service line. Urbach had a team-high 13 kills for Madras.

Madras stayed atop the Tri-Valley Conference with a four-set win against La Salle Prep on Tuesday in Madras. Set scores were 29-27, 20-25, 25-23, 25-22. A detailed recap of the match, plus other matches throughout the week, will be in the Oct. 9 issue of the Pioneer.

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