Eagles seniors aim to finish their volleyball careers with successful year

Reece Trabaudo (Special To The Delaware State News/Doug Curran)

SMYRNA — To them, it feels like they’ve been playing together forever.

In reality, it’s probably been more like eight or nine years.

But for a group of six Smyrna High seniors that first started playing junior volleyball when they were around fourth or fifth-graders, that’s a long time.

“We’ve watched videos a few times,” said senior Madison Drummond. “It’s just so funny laughing at how much we’ve changed.

“Our dream was to be on the varsity team and for all six of us to be together.”

All six did make it to the Eagles’ varsity squad. The fact that this is their last season together is something of an unspoken bond between them.

“We’ve brought it up a couple times to each other,” said senior Sarah Workman. “But we don’t like talking about it because we’ve been playing together for so long and this is is the last time we’ll get to do it.”

Still, as much as they’ve already accomplished, there’s still more things Smyrna’s veteran players want to do before they’re finished.

At 4-3 right now, the Eagles’ seniors are 46-14 in their three-plus seasons. They’ve captured the last two Henlopen Conference titles and stretched the program’s Henlopen Northern Division winning streak — which started when they were eighth-graders — to 24 victories in a row.

Sarah Workman (Special To The Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

More than anything, though, Smyrna’s seniors want to reach the third round of the DIAA state tournament for the first time.

A year ago, the Eagles fell to Tatnall, 3-2, in a heartbreaking second-round match. Smyrna lost the tiebreaker, 15-13.

“We were not mad at ourselves because we left everything we had on the court,” said Drummond. “But, it’s three points. We’re always like, ‘Three points, three points.’ That’s our motivation this year.”

The Eagles almost suffered a bad break as soon as the season started.

In a season-opening loss to Archmere, Reece Trabaudo injured her right thumb. The way her thumb immediately swelled up, the senior setter was sure it was broken.

“I looked down and I had a huge lump on my hand. I was like, ‘This isn’t good,’” said Trabaudo. “I can’t play. At first I was like, ‘It’s definitely broken, there’s no way.’”

But the injury turned out to be less severe — it’s called ‘gamekeeper’s thumb’ — and involves the tendons. It still causes Trabaudo some pain but she’s able to play with a light brace on her right hand.

“I can tolerate it,” she said. “I’d rather play than sit my senior year.”

Trabaudo, Workman and Drummond are Smyrna’s three captains. The other seniors are Danielle Keener, Julia Luttrell and Erin Smallwood.

Workman and junior libero Morgan Holman were both first-team all-Henlopen North selections last season while Luttrell made the second team with Smallwood being named honorable mention.

Smyrna head volleyball coach Daniel Wandless. (Special To The Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

Coach Danny Wandless admits coaching a veteran squad does have its drawbacks at times.

“As a coach, I’ve got to try to find ways to make sure I’m getting the best out of them and motivating them,” he said. “I want to make sure they’re not getting used to the same old drills because practices have to be as intense as our games. When you’re around somebody for four years, sometimes my voice might get old to them.

“I’ve got to stay on my toes as far as making practices fun and meaningful.”

Smyrna’s schedule helps keep the Eagles on their toes. Their three losses have come against tough upstate competition — Archmere, St. Mark’s and Tower Hill.

And while this group of seniors has known only success, Wandless remembers when Caesar Rodney dominated the Henlopen Conference just before Smyrna started its run. He knows every downstate team would love to knock off the Eagles.

“I understand what that thing means to the other teams,” said Wandless. “I try to stress it to the girls that are seniors now. They were fortunate to come in and were the first year to win. So they’re not used to losing.

“But I remember what it was like losing to conference opponents and how hard it was to climb that ladder of success.”

Smyrna knows it has a couple tough road matches coming up next week.

The Eagles play at Southern Division leader Indian River on Oct. 10 and then at CR on Oct. 12. At this point in their careers, Smyrna’s seniors don’t want to start taking things for granted.

“Every team we’ve played, they’ve given it their all,” said Drummond. “They didn’t lay on the ground and give it to us, for sure.”

“We can’t let up on these teams because they’re all coming for us,” said Trabaudo. “We can’t let our heads get too big. We have to work for it.”

“We can’t just think we’re going to win,” said Workman. “We have to put the effort in. We have to give it our all every time.”

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.