VALDERS – It’s been a tough career for Valders’ Tara Emme.
For the past four years she’s been one of the few constants for a Vikings volleyball program, which has seen Emme have a new coach every season she’s played.
The wins haven’t piled up either for the four-year starter, with Valders’ best season during her career occurring during her sophomore year and a 10-26 record.
With Emme months away from graduation and the end of her high school career inching ever closer, she’s being rewarded with a terrific start to the season after having received individual accolades as an honorable mention all-Olympian pick last year..
A big reason for the turnaround according to Valders coach Kelly Manis starts with Emme.
“She knows what it’s all about, how to get her team up,” Manis said. “If there’s problems on the team she’ll come see me. She makes the kids accountable. Just her experience on the court you can see it. She wants that ball and she wants it often.”
Valders has already eclipsed the win total of the 2013-14 season and has their sights set on competing for a conference title.
Emme knows her time is short, so she wants to leave behind a lasting legacy.
“It makes me want to work really hard so we can be successful,” Emme said. “So we can end here with something for other people to live for.”
Now in the Eastern Wisconsin Conference after years in the Olympian, the Vikings have found new life although Manis says the conference switch isn’t what has turned things around for her squad.
“Being in a different conference doesn’t change a lot of things. It changes who you play but not how you feel,” Manis said. “The kids have to learn how to win, and they have had success and winning right now so they have to learn how to win. They need to quit fearing the loss against big teams and big opponents because you still have those. They’re still learning.”
A big point in the season came early when Valders won their first quad of the campaign, going 3-0 in conference.
“You could just see it in their faces,” Manis said. “The celebration when they won and having fans come out. They haven’t had fans when they were losing but now the football players come out to watch. Fans are important to these girls.”
“We really wanted to work hard to improve from the past years because it’s been a slump,’ Emme said. “We wanna push to be our best…we all have faith in each other. We all believe we can pull out the win and be strong.”
Manis credits Emme for not giving up on the sport.
“She’s shown great commitment,” Manis said. “She could have given up after a couple of coaches but she has so much passion for the game…It’s very frustrating for a player like Tara to have four different coaches.”
Emme has shined both offensively and defensively on the court.
“In volleyball you have to play offense and defense, you have to be a blocker at the net and get back to be an offensive threat,” Manis said. “Tara is our offensive threat, no matter what.
“We have players around her who help make her better because we have the passers, a really good setter this year and a few good blockers. It helps put some of the pressures off Tara so she can focus on her hitting.”
It wasn’t always that way for Emme who says over her career she’s improved her all-around game.
“I’ve had to be that leader to play all around so not to focus on hitting but also passing,” Emme said. “…I’ve learned a lot from being an outside hitter because you have to play defense, too. It makes me stronger because the transitioning of becoming a hitter to a passer is pretty difficult.”
Emme is hoping once her time at Valders concludes to play collegiately, at potentially UW-Oshkosh or Lakeland College as a walk-on.
“I’ve had a lot of experience over the years with club volleyball and four years on varsity so I feel all that hard work should pay off and I want to keeping doing that for years and years,” Emme said.