Olympic Premier Elite finished its club season with a win in the Willamette Valley Classic last month.
Finding the right chemistry in a team sport sometimes happens once a season.
For the Olympic Premier Volleyball Club 16-1 Elite team, that chemistry has been part of its make up for the last four seasons thanks to a handful of players who are truly growing up playing together.
Baylee Anderson, Allie Baldridge, Keahi-Rose Sarono, all Central Kitsap High sophomores, and Kingston sophomore Morgan Halady have moved up through the program with the unified goal of playing in college one day.
This season was one of the team’s strongest as the Elite finished sixth in the Puget Sound region, fifth in the Northern Lights junior national qualifier in Minneapolis, Minn., out of 75 teams, and won the Willamette Valley Classic with a 12-1 match record in Oregon last month.
“I definitely think our team got stronger as the season went on,” Baylee Anderson said, adding with some new additions to the team the season started slow. But they soon found their groove as their successes started to rack up. “We really came together as a team. It was really noticeable.”
At the Northern Lights tournament, a national junior qualifier, OPVBC’s Elite placed fifth and set the tone for the remainder of the club season. Team members include Lauren de Gall, Marina Sallis, Olivia Call, Allie Wildsmith, Alani Pajimula and Morgan Riley.
The players’ instincts kicked in during the tournament and it was as if no words were needed for communication on the court.
“We were there for each other and when the ball was right there we’d be like ‘OK, she’s getting it,’ just things like that,” Baldridge said, adding it came down to trust.
OPVBC Elite coach Michelle Miller said it was interesting to watch as her players bought into the system and each one committed to everything, even the hard parts.
“Once we were there and everybody was buying into being pushed harder, that’s when things started clicking and we started being able to play at a higher level,” she said.
Sarono said the competitive side of the team truly came out in Minneapolis as the team advanced into the Gold division and all the way into fifth.
“It made us better as a team,” she said.
More than anything, the players are having fun.
“I think the best part of the tournaments that last a few days is seeing each other, seeing that growth you make throughout those three days,” Halady said, “and how even just one tournament you can make so much growth from where you started.”
Elite also faced adversity as they lost starting middle Ava Targett to a concussion and that forced players to move around as Miller juggled with a new lineup. What she learned was her team had the ability to adapt and continue to play at a high level.
“I really do think that was the click (moment),” she said.
For the Elite at the Willamette tournament, the season culminated with a first-place finish in a 25-20, 25-14 win over the Aces Elite 15-1.
“We know that we’re good enough to win, so there’s nothing that should hold us back from a win,” Baldridge said.
“We just had fun,” Halady said. “We were where we wanted to be.”
“We just wanted to have a fun game,” Anderson said. “It was our last game together for a while.”