A disheartening loss to rival Clovis West in last season’s Central Section Division I championship prompted Maddie Ogas to take a hard and honest look at how she handled her first go-round as a leader of the Clovis High volleyball team.
The first-team All-Tri-River Athletic Conference selection, who had helped carry the Cougars to the final during her third varsity season, came to the conclusion that she needed to do a better job.
“After that Valley game, I had a lot of time to think and I really decided to work harder as a leader,” Ogas said. “Because when we worked together, we were almost unstoppable. When we didn’t, it was easy to beat us.
“My junior year was my first time being a leader and it made my ego really big. If I wasn’t having a good game, I wasn’t connecting with the team.”
Cougars coach Rich Lake said he noticed a difference in Ogas’ leadership and consistency during summer workouts, and it carried over into her senior season. The Bee’s Player of the Year provided 484 kills — the second-most in the section and 13th most in the state among teams who kept stats on maxpreps.
com — as Clovis won its first D-I volleyball championship.
“She’s always been very skilled, even as a freshman,” Lake said. “The biggest difference this year was her maturity level and how she approached the game.
“Last year she had a lot of great moments and some bad ones, too. This year, every match was solid.”
An all-around talent who has signed with UC Riverside, Ogas also delivered 196 digs, 51 aces, 66 assists and 11 blocks as the Cougars went 32-7 overall, won the TRAC, beat rival Clovis North 3-1 in the section final and upset nationally No. 11-ranked Aliso Niguel 3-2 on the road before bowing out in the semifinals of the CIF Southern California Regionals. She also led Clovis with 246 service points and 529 serves received.
“That was big for her, to step up her leadership role,” Lake said. “Sometimes for big-time players like that, it’s good for them to focus on the team a little more, then their personal game gets better. When you have to focus as a leader of the team, it keeps your mind in the moment.”
With Jasmine Phoolka, Ally Cooper and Cayla Broussard joining Ogas as key returners from a team that went 22-14 while finishing second in the TRAC and losing 25-15, 25-20, 13-25, 25-17 to Clovis West in the 2013 final, and bolstered by the addition of talented sophomore Taylen Ballard, the Cougars established themselves as the team to beat on the season’s first weekend by winning the Clovis Varsity Challenge. Clovis would lose only one match to section opposition, a 3-2 setback to Clovis North that the Cougars later avenged in the second round of TRAC play and again in the section final.
“We went to practice every day knowing we were the ones being chased and we were expected to win, so we needed to show everyone we could win big,” said Ogas, who produced more than 1,400 kills and 600 digs in four seasons. “After last year, I kind of knew our team was going to be special. We were ready for this season and it was awesome to get over that hump and win a Valley championship. It was nice to get Clovis volleyball on the map.”