LA GRANDE — Coming off a run to the NAIA quarterfinals last season, junior Cambree Scott and the Eastern Oregon University Mountaineers are looking to further the volleyball team’s success this time around.
Scott was named Cascade Collegiate Conference Player of the Year last year, on top of holding the program record for blocks and block assists. The middle hitter earned her second straight first-team all conference honors and was selected to the NAIA All-American second team. She will be crucial in the team’s efforts at a championship run this season.
“All the accolades are really flattering and something to be proud of, but I think that each year is different,” Scott said. “I want to really focus on each year, coming in fresh and doing what I can to improve with my team.”
Through the first 10 games of the 2021 season, Scott holds program records with 414 career blocks and 393 career block assists. She is currently 11th all time in total points and she leads this year’s team in points, points per set, blocks and blocks per set. The junior is in her fourth season at Eastern and will have an additional year of eligibility after the NAIA adjusted eligibility rules last season due to COVID-19.
Just under four months after a season-ending loss to Jamestown in three close sets (25-22, 25-20, 25-21), Eastern is back on the court looking to build off the NAIA quarterfinal run and a 14-0 conference record in last spring’s modified volleyball season. However, the short offseason window has altered how the team goes about its typical preseason training.
“Coming from the spring season our bodies are feeling it a little bit more at the beginning of the season, but we’ve been doing a lot to take care of our bodies and make sure we’re not overdoing anything,” Scott said. “After a season like last season, we’re all ready to play again and really excited to get going.”
According to Scott, a typical offseason would include a lot of time in the winter and spring to do individual work and practice time. With a shortened offseason, the focus was more on weight lifting and working out, with players still in a rhythm from the spring season.
The Mountaineers have qualified for the NAIA tournament under head coach Kaki McLean-Morehead each of the past seven seasons. After last season’s quarterfinal run, a solid number of returners fill the roster this year. For Scott, a key component of the start of the season is helping some younger players fill the void left by departing players Kiley McMurtrey, Madison Pilon and Aspen Christiansen.
“We still have mostly the same team, but it’s a new team as well and I think we’re just focusing on seeing where we are this year,” she said.
Coming into this season, Eastern was voted preseason favorite in the Cascade Collegiate Conference Coaches’ Poll. Scott joins Jet Taylor and Breanna Shaffer as the three returning 2020 first team all-conference players on the roster. As an upperclassmen, Scott is hoping to help younger players acclimate to the program and help the team succeed.
“I think it’s been going really well,” Scott said. “We all click really well on and off the court.”
The Mountaineers jumped right into the thick of things this season, competing against three top-25 teams in their first four games. Eastern beat No. 8 Grand View in three straight sets, but lost to No. 17 Bellevue and No. 14 Providence at the Big Sky Challenge in Butte, Montana on Aug. 21 and Aug. 22.
On top of facing elite competition at the start of the season, Eastern faced difficulties with COVID-19. According to Scott, approximately half the team missed time during the first two weeks of preseason and regular season action due to COVID-19 contact tracing.
“Mentally it’s hard to play without half our team,” she said. “I think that it was a good test for us and it pushed us mentally. We can only get stronger from it.”
Eastern is 6-4 through the early stages of the season and currently stands at 1-1 in conference play. Scott and the Mountaineers will be looking to take things one game at a time, but improving on a NAIA quarterfinal run will be the team’s ultimate goal this year.
“We are very eager,” Scott said. “We always have high expectations as a program. We always just strive to do better and better, especially at the national tournament.”