Angela Davis (in black) celebrates a conference title with her Cardinal team
Angela Davis (in black) celebrates a conference title with her Cardinal team

[Editor’s note: The idea behind “Alphabet Stories” is to write one noteworthy athletics-related story about each OSAA-member school. We started with Adrian HS on Sept.18. Today’s story, more than five months later, is about Corbett High School and marks the 46th such story we’ve done. The goal is to write two per week all the way to Yoncalla! While we will be relying upon athletic directors to furnish story ideas, anyone may offer suggestions by emailing [email protected]]

Angela Davis of Corbett High is a classy volleyball coach.

In 2009, her first year as head coach of the Cardinals, Corbett competed in 2A. For the next four years, a magical run that included four state tournament appearances and three state tournament trophies (one second-place finish, one third and one fourth), Corbett was in 3A. Since 2014, Corbett, situated on the Historic Columbia River Highway between the Sandy River and the Crown Point promontory of the Columbia River Gorge, has been a 4A school.

So yeah…classy.

Guiding Corbett through multiple classification jumps in such a short span isn’t the only thing that makes Davis classy, however. She designs her volleyball program to make sure that every player gets something out of the experience.

“Every” means every.

Davis doesn’t just preside over the high school varsity team, she creates volleyball opportunities for youngsters as well, on a Corbett campus that houses virtually all of the district’s students.

“I regularly see volleyball players from the grade school through seniors in high school,” she explained. “We run Little Cards Volleyball camps each summer and then have a home varsity game where they get free popcorn, wear their camp shirt and serve at targets between the second and third set. And then there is a middle school camp and times when the middle school players watch our high school teams and times when our high school teams will go watch their games. We have mixed them during a practice for a big sis/little sis tournament so that can get to know each other. Being close allows me to connect with 5/6, middle school and high school coaches to make sure we are using similar language for skill building and promoting similar values, character training, and goal-setting. It provides an awesome environment for building a volleyball program from the youngest players (Kindergarten and 1st grade), where they use a beach ball and balloons to play, all the way to varsity players, who go on to play in college and sometimes even coach.”

At the varsity level, Davis believes in intentional practices and specific goal setting.

“I love it when players understand their teammates’ goals so that they can hold them accountable and celebrate big with them when they accomplish them,” she said. “I think practices should be fun and competitive, with consistent feedback so that reps are meaningful. Sports provide opportunities to participate in something bigger than yourself. Players will surprise you if you expect greatness and set the bar high.” 

Corbett once was a dominant Class A volleyball program, back when Oregon had only four classifications. Between 1982 and 1988, the Cardinals won state five times! When Davis, who grew up in Gresham and starred at Centennial HS, took over, Corbett was a competitive 2A school. The Cardinals remained competitive during their short stint in 3A, even playing for the title in 2012.

“Corbett is known for solid serve receive and scrappy defense,” Davis said. “Our girls are role players and they learn their role and leave everything on the court.”

The move to 4A, however, brought challenges. Corbett became a 4A school due to increased enrollment from a charter school operating in the district. The increased enrollment, however, consisting mainly of out-of-district students, did not translate to increased numbers for athletics. So while Corbett remains competitive in the Tri-Valley Conference, including winning the league in 2019, getting the wins necessary to make the state tournament has proven elusive.

“It has been difficult to break into the final eight because we are typically matched up against a top five finisher,” Davis explained. “Size is an issue when it comes down to our final matches. When matched up against a team that can hit over your block, it becomes difficult to pull out the wins in the end when the teams we meet are bigger at the net.”

Rather than lament the move to 4A, Davis chooses to embrace the challenge of trying to make the state tournament while competing against schools with larger athletic pools. In this COVID-shortened season, which begins with a jamboree today, Corbett returns Second Team All-State setter Morgan Stafford, First Team All-League outside hitter Mimi Tesulov and two others who were Honorable Mention All-League.

“We will keep at it and keep looking for a way,” she said. “Our girls are fierce competitors and fight until the last ball hits the floor. Ideally, a return to 3A would be a better fit not only for our volleyball program, but our other programs as well. For now, we will continue to set the bar high and focus on what we can do with who we have. We love a challenge, and every year at 4A we get one!”