Smyrna volleyball team setting high goals

Smyrna’s Reece Trabaudo, left, and Madelynne Rodriguez block a shot by Shivani Modi of Caesar Rodney earlier this season. (Delaware State News file photo)

Smyrna’s Reece Trabaudo, left, and Madelynne Rodriguez block a shot by Shivani Modi of Caesar Rodney earlier this season. (Delaware State News file photo)

SMYRNA — Many of Smyrna High’s current volleyball players have only seen the small pieces of the program’s history.

In their world, the Eagles have reached the DIAA state tournament each of the last two seasons.

But Danny Wandless knows better.

He’s been Smyrna’s coach all 11 years it’s had a team. He knows how difficult it was in the beginning.

“It wasn’t a sprint, it’s been a marathon,” Wandless said with a smile. “You can see the development of the players over the years. The coaching staff … I tried to find myself really good people to help along the way. We got out to camps and clinics so we can learn how to properly teach these girls the fundamentals of volleyball.

“It’s been a progression — and it’s a progression that’s continued to go up. That’s the way I want to continue. I don’t want to come back down.”
Right now, it looks like Smyrna is well on its way to bigger and better things.

One year after winning the Henlopen Conference Northern Division title for the first time, the Eagles take a 6-0 conference record (6-2 overall) into today’s 5 p.m. match at Dover.

Smyrna has already beaten this season’s other top Henlopen squads: Cape Henlopen, Polytech and Caesar Rodney as well as defending conference champion Delmar.

But the Eagles also know their biggest goals have yet to be accomplished. They’ve never won the Henlopen championship match or gotten past the second round of the state tourney.

Junior Kyle McCusker said nobody on the team is ready to relax now just because Smyrna has won a few matches.

“The work ethic in this gym has not dropped since August 15,” she said before practice on Wednesday. “We come in, we work hard, we run, we stretch and we get at it every single day. The season’s not over yet.”

Having that 3-1 loss to Delmar in last year’s Henlopen title match as motivation doesn’t hurt, either. Smyrna beat the Wildcats, 3-1, during the regular season.

“It’s not going to happen again — and we’re going to work hard to make sure that it doesn’t,” said McCusker. “It’s stuck in our heads, trust me.”

Maybe the most surprising thing about the Eagles’ success this fall is that they’ve done it with a roster that includes just one senior.

Madelynne Rodriguez is the only senior on a squad that includes six sophomores and three freshmen.

But Smyrna showed it wasn’t too young to compete with two of the better programs in the state when it lost to St. Mark’s (3-2) and then Delaware Military (3-1) in back-to-back matches. That set the Eagles won against the Seahawks (7-0) is one of only four sets that DMA has lost all season.

“We’ve learned that we have to be smart,” said Rodriquez. “We have to do the little things right. The little things that we think don’t matter some times, they’re the biggest part of the game.

“There was nothing to be afraid of on the other side of the net. And it showed us that we’re a good team, there’s nothing to be scared of this season.”

“We’re playing more as a team,” said junior Camryn Markel. “I feel like our chemistry is going good. I think we did really well (against St. Mark’s and DMA). We did come together. We play better as a team when it’s tougher.”

“That’s what we’ve always wanted to say about this program — that we can compete with teams, not only in our conference, but upstate as well,” said Wandless.

Statistically, sophomores Sarah Workman (50) and Erin Smallwood (37) lead Smyrna in kills. McCusker (18 kills, 26 aces, 122 assists, 30 digs), sophomore Reece Trabaudo (23 kills, 15 aces, 22 digs, 49 assists) and Morgan Holman (13 aces, 69 digs, 8 assists) have all filled up the stat sheet.

The exciting thing for the Eagles is that, because they’re so young, their best volleyball should still be in front of them.

“It’s good to see the younger girls that are investing into themselves and into the program — not only in-season but out of season,” said Wandless. “This is my 11th year coaching and it’s fun to watch the excitement. The girls that were here before, that helped build this program, there’s a lot of respect given to them.

“I remind the girls of today, hey I remember being that team that was in the basement. I remember being that team on the other side of the net. So when you have a lesser opponent, you’d better respect them.”

“I can’t imagine what they’re going to be like their senior year,” said Rodriguez. “I mean they have so much time to grow, it’s crazy. They’re still so young.

“It’s so exciting. I can’t wait to come back and watch and see how they’re going to do in the next few years.”

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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