A wise man once said separation comes from preparation. For Noa Ena and the Hermiston Bulldogs volleyball team that saying rings true. Ena, a junior, has been a standout on the court all season long, and she credited the work that she and her squad put in over the summer as the reason why.

“Summer league was a big help for me and for all of us,” Ena said. “It’s a great way learn your teammates’ strengths and weaknesses. It has really helped us work together as a team.”

The time spent in the offseason was critical for Ena as this is only her second year in the Hermiston program after transferring from Stanfield. Bulldog head coach Becky Wadekamper praised Ena’s ability to adapt to a new system and style of play.

“She’s come a long ways since transferring,” Wadekamper said. “She had to learn our program as well as a new position. She’s handled that extremely well.”

Ena noted how things changed once she arrived in Hermiston.

“The game is much faster at this level,” she said. “You really have to pick up your game. I’ve enjoyed the faster pace.”

Both Ena and Wadekamper agree that senior leadership has played a crucial role in Ena’s and the team’s overall success. Ena praised the seniors on the team for helping her become the player she is today.

“Our seniors have a lot of experience, and they’ve given me a lot of great advice,” Ena said. “They have been very accepting from day one. Hopefully I can fill that role as a senior and help mentor the underclassmen on next year’s team.”

Wadekamper said senior leadership is always important to a team, especially when new teammates are involved.

“The seniors have done a great job this year, as they do almost every year,” Wadekamper said. “It’s a really important aspect of building a good program.”

The state playoffs begin in less than two weeks, and the Bulldogs are right on the border of making it in. The top 24 teams, based on their respective RPI rankings, qualify. The RPI ranking is a formula used by the OSAA to determine every team’s position statewide. As of Tuesday, Hermiston sits at 23.

With only a few league games left, Ena and Wadekamper stressed the importance of closing out the season on a high note.

“It’s absolutely crucial that we win our final matches of the season,” Wadekamper said. “We can’t afford to lose. If we do, we could slip out of the playoffs.”

Ena said the pressure of these late season matches can help focus the team.

“I see these upcoming games creating a sense of urgency for our team,” Ena said. “It’s important we come out of the next two weeks with victories.”

Expectations are high for a Bulldog team hoping to make some noise in the state playoffs.

“Right now our goal is to make the playoffs,” Ena said. “I want to get to the final eight. Anything can happen after that.”

Wadekamper agrees the team needs to play with a heightened sense of urgency for the remainder of the season.

“We have to control what we can control,” Wadekamper said. “We have to play hard and smart the rest of the way. Everything will take care of itself if we do that.”

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