Daley McClellan had 591 kills in 2019, when she was the Three Rivers League player of the year. (Photo by Ed McReynolds)
Daley McClellan had 591 kills in 2019, when she was the Three Rivers League player of the year. (Photo by Ed McReynolds)

As Canby's go-to hitter since her freshman season, Daley McClellan has never shied away from a heavy workload.

In leading the Cougars to the 6A volleyball tournament in 2019, she received about 70 percent of the team's sets. She had 90 hitting attempts in a five-set win over Mountainside in the quarterfinals.

“Obviously, I want those sets,” McClellan said. “I was just like, 'Nope, keep giving it to me.'”

But as the 5-foot-11 senior outside hitter prepares for a college career, she is moving into a much different situation. She has signed as a preferred walk-on at Oregon, where the Ducks will give her a chance to prove herself as a defensive specialist.

“I've always been one of the top outside hitters, so I haven't had challenges,” said McClellan, who as a junior was the Three Rivers League player of the year and a 6A first-team selection. “I haven't tried to work my way up, I've always been given my position.

“Now I know I'm in a different position, and I need to work for my spot. I'm very, very excited to do that because I know it'll make me a much better player and a better person.”

McClellan was sensational as a junior, racking up 591 kills with a .313 hitting percentage. She also led the team in passing efficiency (.226) and served 46 aces.

Despite her dominance in high school, though, major colleges weren't convinced she had the measurables to take her game to the highest level.

“She's a little bit undersized,” Canby coach Terri Jo Schlatter said. “A lot of the bigger schools didn't look at her because she didn't quite reach 10 feet, which seems to be their marker. But nobody has an arm like this girl has, or the variety of shots.”

McClellan said she felt overlooked.

“It's hard because I was like, 'Oh, I need to reach 10 feet before I can go to college if I want to play Division I,'” she said. “But I learned that attitude, above all, carried me, basically. Being smart, knowing a lot about the game, being able to play all the way around, with good technique and fundamentals, that really carried me.”

McClellan received scholarship offers from Sacramento State and Cal Baptist and was talking with Loyola Marymount, Montana State and Santa Clara. But she was enamored with Oregon, where her mother, Shannon (maiden name Gates), threw the javelin for two years before transferring to Southern Oregon.

“I was like, 'That would be amazing if I would go to Oregon,'” she said. “So it was kind of like a dream and not really a goal. But once I reached high school, and junior year, I started to believe that I actually could, maybe, get on the team.”

In the summer of 2019, McClellan impressed Ducks coaches in Oregon indoor and beach volleyball camps. Before embarking on visits to colleges in California, she got a call from Ducks coach Matt Ulmer.

“He was like, 'If you don't like any of those, give me a call,'” McClellan said. “And I'm like, 'Heck yeah, I'll give you a call,' because that's the school I've always wanted to go to. I was super psyched.”

She called Ulmer after returning from California, and after sitting in on a practice and meeting the team, she received an offer as a preferred walk-on.

“I'm going to work my butt off to at least try to get playing time,” she said. “But at the same time, trying to work my way into the front row, if that's possible.”

With her all-around skills, McClellan has much to offer the Ducks, according to Schlatter.

“One of the things that makes her really special is she's an amazing ballhandler,” Schlatter said. “Her serve-receive and passing, she's incredible. That's what Oregon is looking at her in particular for.”

McClellan grew up in Florence. Both of her parents graduated from Siuslaw and Southern Oregon, where Shannon was the NAIA national runner-up in the javelin and an all-conference outside hitter in volleyball, and her father, Clint, played football.

McClellan's sisters – Shelbey and Maddy – competed in volleyball, track and softball at Siuslaw before the family moved to Wilsonville in 2013. Her brother, Keenan, played basketball as a senior at Wilsonville under coach Chris Roche, her mother's cousin.

McClellan moved to Canby as an eighth-grader. She had been playing with Portland Volleyball Club, but before her freshman year, switched to the Beaverton-based Oregon Junior Volleyball Academy, where Schlatter is a coach.

That's when McClellan took her hitting to another level, learning how to overcome a size disadvantage at the net by aggressively attacking the block instead of trying to avoid it. It has added to her vast arsenal of shots.

“It took her a while to figure out how to use the block to her advantage.” Schlatter said. “She hits hard angles. She hits lines. She hits across the body line. She has a great off-speed shot that somehow always catches people off-guard. She can do that from the front row or the back row.”

McClellan's game blossomed as a junior as the Cougars finished third in the state tournament, their highest placing ever.

“It was amazing,” Schlatter said. “Everybody knew Daley was going to get set. There was no question she was going to get the ball, and they still couldn't stop her. It was pretty incredible to watch. She literally carried the team with her arm. She jumps well, but she just has one of those special arms.”

McClellan cherished the opportunity to play in the state tournament, especially considering that her senior season is in jeopardy due to the COVID-19 crisis.

“It was so much fun, and it was such a special experience for my teammates, as well,” she said. “I'm glad I got to experience it myself, because this year, who knows what's going to happen.”