By Matt Baide
In one of the best years for volleyball in Lewis County, there was plenty of competition for spots on the 2017 All-Area volleyball team. When it came down to choosing MVPs, though, Napavine’s Mollie Olson and Mossyrock’s Ava Nelson were of equal importance to their standout teams.
Not much more can be said about Olson, a three-time Central 2B League MVP and All-State first-team pick who helped Napavine to a fifth-place finish in the state tournament. Olson recorded 465 kills, 267 defensive digs, 337 reception passes, 100 block kills and 66 aces this season.
“She became a stronger player, and she’s a very humble player. She doesn’t like the recognition. She’s willing and able to carry the load of the team if need be,” Napavine coach Monica Dailey said. “She’s very supportive of the rest of the players on the team. She is willing to take on the role of the workhorse when it needs to happen, and that’s something I’ve been proud of her about.”
Dailey said Olson has developed into a great leader in her time with Napavine volleyball, and has learned to celebrate her own and the team’s success this year.
“It was understanding she’s not celebrating her own success, she’s helping celebrate her team win. You need to be excited for them and when she figured that out, it was easy for her to accept that and get excited about doing good things,” Dailey said. “Before, she thought she was being conceited about being excited. As a player, I’ve seen her evolve and flourish in her role of being successful.”
Nelson was part of a quality core of seniors this year for the Vikings, who took second in the state for the second year in a row. As the setter, she had the task putting her teammates in a position to make a play.
“She does a lot of work with not a lot of the recognition. To get that recognition, she does do a good job making it look like the passes are easy,” Mossyrock coach Alex Nelson said. “Some of them are because of great defense and passing, but there’s a lot of times where she made a set look easy when it would have been hard for most setters.”
Nelson also served 95 percent with 50 aces over the course of the season. She had 77 kills and 185 digs, while racking up 556 assists. Nelson will play volleyball in college, but has yet to decide where.
“She is good at making deductions and getting in the right spots. She definitely excels in the setting position” Alex Nelson said. “She’s a very intense player. She has a high expectation of herself and the team.”
Nelson is joined on the All-Area squad by three senior teammates. Libero Jamie Carlson was the defensive specialist for the Vikings, leading the team with 368 digs and led the team in serve/receive.
“She doesn’t see the front row but she has good anticipation and that’s what makes her good,” Alex Nelson said. “She’ll pay attention to the attack, she just plays really smart. I think that’s someone who makes good calculations and puts herself in the right position. She pays attention to who she’s ready to defend.”
Carlson showed her toughness when she fought through an illness at the state tournament.
“When she wasn’t in the game, it affected us. She was sick, she went to the sideline to throw up and she wanted to play,” Nelson said. “She tried to hide it from the coaches.”
Stephanie Fried could do it all for the Vikings. Fried never came off the court for good reason, as she could play in every spot of the rotation.
“She’s incredibly athletic. She hits the ball hard, she defends well, she’s got great speed. Not only can she hit in the front row, she’s got great defense and we rely on her to do a lot of serve/receive,” Alex Nelson said. “Both those two (Jamie and Stephanie) led us in serve receive, it’s one of the skills that’s so important.”
Fried led the team with 178 kills. She also served 94 percent with 33 aces, and recorded 268 digs. She’s committed to play for Lower Columbia next year.
The other Viking on the All-Area team is Paige Moorcroft, a front-row force with the ability to attack as well as block at the net.
“She always pursued the block. The middle has a hard job, not just blocking one area,” Nelson said. “That also makes the hitter on the other side how they’re going to attack. That’s definitely one of her strengths.”
Moorcroft had 176 kills and led the team with 50 total blocks, including 42 solo blocks. Moorcroft also served 94 percent with 21 aces and added 102 digs, and is deciding between playing next year for Lower Columbia, the University of Puget Sound or Whitman College.
Joining Olson on the All-Area team is Napavine’s Melissa Lee. The seniors formed a tough 1-2 combo for opposing teams to try to stop.
“She’s really smart, she sees the ball well and is a great passer, great defender, and does well in the back row. She’s going to be a hard person to replace,” Dailey said. “I would say they’re both (Mollie and Melissa) equally as important to us. She’s probably one of my biggest leaders, one that works with all sides of the team.”
Lee recorded 242 kills, 259 defensive digs, 294 reception passes, 74 block kills and 39 aces. Dailey noted her ability as a leader, even though she wasn’t too thrilled about taking on the role.
“She is the one that is constantly working and growing as a leader and making sure everyone is on the same page and gets their fair shake,” Dailey said. “She doesn’t like conflict, but she knows when she needs to address it so the team can continue to grow.”
Also on the All-Area team are two players from the Evergreen 2A Conference. Centralia’s co-captain Rachel Wilkerson helped the Tigers to a third-place finish in the conference and was a first team All-League selection.
“We knew we could always count on her, she always played a full six rotations for us,” Centralia coach Neil Sharp said. “She did a nice job leading. We have different types of leaders and she fulfills her duties really well in that role.”
Wilkerson served 93 percent with 23 aces to lead the team. She had the highest hitting percentage on the team and recorded 143 regular season kills.
Wilkerson tied a regular season single match record with 25 kills in a win against Black Hills, and averaged four digs per set while leading the team in serve/receive.
“An absolutely great player and teammate. She was steady and consistent which matches her personality,” Sharp said. “She wants to be her best every single day and we appreciated how hard she worked. She was great at how she responded when things didn’t go well and was a two-time academic state champion.”
Wilkerson is playing volleyball next year at Centralia College.
W.F. West’s Makenzie Moore is back on the All-Area team for a second straight season. Moore was a big part of a Bearcat team that finished fourth in the conference and was an All-League first team pick.
“She was a huge factor for our team. She led our team with kills, she’s a big momentum shifter. When she gets on top of the ball and puts the ball away, the team feeds off that,” W.F. West coach Emily Mora said. “She led the team in aces and on those streaks, she’s indestructible. She served so efficiently, she added a ton of momentum to our game.”
In 10 league games, Moore recorded 91 kills, 20 aces and 106 digs. Moore will be a senior next year, and Mora hopes she will take on a sizeable leadership role.
“We had quite a few juniors (this season), and I’ve had them from start of sophomore year. To take on a program, take on kids at different steps, this will be their third year with me. Our season wasn’t ready to end, and there’s a real sour taste in some of their mouths,” Mora said. “They’re going to go out next season and be on fire. She’ll definitely lead the charge with that. Volleyball is what she does, and she’s a fantastic volleyball athlete. She’s not feeling satisfied and she’s going to lead the team in the ‘I want this’ mentality.”
Olson, Nelson Co-MVP’s of All-Area Volleyball Team
By Matt Baide