The Papermakers are watching from the shadows, ready to strike fear in the hearts of their opponents on Halloween night.
Either Skyview or Union will creep into the Camas warehouse Wednesday to challenge Camas for the district championship trophy. The haunts begin at 7 p.m. The surviving team earns the No. 1 seed into the bi-district tournament Friday and Saturday, at Kentwood High School.
From the first week of practice, head coach Julie Nidick said this Camas team had the makings of something pretty special. Seniors Brindl Langley, Abbie Younkin, Lauren Neff and Taylor Carlson brought plenty of experience and energy. Then senior transfer student Natalia Zea walked through those doors and established herself as another potent offensive force. The underclassmen have embraced the senior leadership since day one.
“Before we ever faced an opponent, I knew this team had boundless potential,” Nidick said. “This may be the best team I’ve ever coached. They still have that potential.”
The Papermakers swept Skyview, Union, Evergreen and Heritage during their second go around through league. On Senior Night Thursday, they beat Battle Ground in three games.
Zea led the attack with 15 kills, 3 digs, 2 aces and a block. Langley added 8 kills, 12 digs and 2 aces. Younkin had 36 assists, 9 digs and 2 aces. Carlson contributed 7 kills and a block, and Neff notched 5 kills, 5 digs and 2 blocks.
“The seniors and the underclassmen we have is the best team I’ve ever been on,” Langley said. “It’s our camaraderie. You’re not going to be able to accomplish anything out there without having a good time. We have fun together every day.
“These memories make me want to play hard for my team. They give me so much love, and I want to go the extra mile for them,” she added. “This is my last year in this program, and I want to give all I have for myself and for my team.”
The top eight squads out of the 16-team bi-district bracket advance to the state tournament, Nov. 9 and 10 at St. Martin’s University in Lacey. Camas is shooting for its ninth straight appearance at state.
“We won bi-districts three years in a row at 3A, but 4A is a completely different animal,” Nidick said. “You’ve got some big dogs that you have to beat. Everything there is kind of a notch above.”
The only loss of the season so far for the Papermakers came in a 5-set heartbreaker to Prairie back in Septemeber. During its 10 league matches, Camas only dropped one game to Union. The odds of encountering another 5-set match are increasing, but Langley believes the Papermakers will be the first one to those 15 points.
“We haven’t been tested to our full potential yet,” she said. “Our peak is just around the corner. And the timing is perfect because what’s around the corner — bi-districts and state.
“To have this community and all the fans behind us gives Camas that extra oomph to go on to state and take care of business,” Langley said. “It just makes us want to play better and get every point possible.”
Camas has earned the opportunity to host the district volleyball championship match on Halloween. Nidick has this advice:
“Embrace the moment,” she said. “Enjoy it, but do what you have done all season long and that’s play to win.”