Fresh off a strong club volleyball season, Chay Swenson is looking forward to her final year for the Roseburg High School team this fall.
The 17-year-old senior-to-be helped the North Pacific Juniors, a 17U team based in Salem, to third place in the recent USA Volleyball Girls Junior National Championships in Indianapolis.
“We played 10 matches over four days. That was one of the best experiences because we got to play really hard matches and fight through really tough teams,” Swenson said Thursday. “We realized we were a lot stronger than what we thought we were. We learned about ourselves ... we were able to win matches that we wouldn’t have considered possible before nationals.
“We finished third because of our hard work.”
Swenson, a 6-foot outside hitter, was a second-team all-Southwest Conference selection for Roseburg as a junior in 2018. The club season started last November.
“I think overall (playing club) has improved my skills by an exponential amount,” Swenson said. “I’ve learned how to actually play volleyball — not just be part of the team, but be a participant and play well. How to control the ball and be smarter in general.
“I’ve gained a lot of skills as far as confidence, being able to physically put more power behind the ball. That should help a lot in the coming fall season.”
Swenson is among the returning RHS seniors who will be playing for their third head coach in three years. Doug Magee wasn’t retained after just one season and Vicki Crowl, last year’s junior varsity coach for the Tribe, is the new head coach.
“I think she’s an amazing woman,” Swenson said of Crowl. “She’s been very helpful to us. It’s obviously hard coming in as the third head coach (since 2017), but she’s done a great job of letting us know this is a team effort. We’re learning together with her.
“She brings a really good sense of positivity. She reminds us our teammates are some of our base assets, you can’t play volleyball by yourself. As long as we put in our best effort, she’ll give us everything she can as well. I expect our team to come together this year because we’re all very adaptable.”
Roseburg finished 6-4 in conference and 12-11 overall under Magee last year, losing to Tualatin in the first round of the Class 6A playoffs.
“I don’t feel disappointed. I don’t think the season went badly, but everyone wants to go as far as they can,” Swenson said. “The season ended sooner than we wanted, and that’s going to push us hard this year. I’m going to want to help take the team as far as we can and we’ll do whatever it takes.
“Last year was still a residual backlash from the previous coaching situation (with Danielle Haskett), and the community was either heavily supporting us or being against the program. That was the only distraction we had. Other than that, I think we fought as hard as we could in most matches but sometimes it doesn’t go your way.”
Swenson, who’s planning to play college volleyball, is ready to take on a leadership role for the Indians. Practice begins on Aug. 19.
“The seniors have already started feeling pressure being leaders,” she said. “I’ve done my best to attend every open gym. With the young girls it’s about being the best role model you can be. Working hard all the time.
“Reminding them even we mess up. It’s important we all learn as a team. The girls realize you don’t have to be perfect, you only have to give it a really good effort.”