Bump, Set, State

With the success the varsity volleyball team has had during the season, they’ve got their minds set on the state championship

Melia Rasmussen, Managing Editor

The gymnasium is alive with the noise of fans finally able to sit in the plastic pullout bleachers as they watch their team compete. People continually pulling up their masks as they slip down when they cheer. The volleyball team on the court in formation, the blue and white ball battered back and forth, seemingly light as a feather, but hitting arms and flat palms with a resounding smack. The fans are back and so is the spirit of the team: the spirit to win. 

     Although still in the midst of a pandemic, students have brought life and scuffed footprints back into the school buildings. While many try to find a new normal, the return of sports has been a solace, and a new opportunity to achieve what they couldn’t last year. For senior Sydney Harrington and the varsity volleyball team, they’ve got their sights set on state.

If we have to quarantine and forfeit some of our matches, that could take a huge hit to our standings and how we place at the end of the year. ”

— Head Coach Megan Wallace

     “I definitely think that we are more than capable of taking league this year. We’ve already gotten so much better just from the start of this season,” she said. As of Oct. 15, the team is 14-0, putting them first in the 5A league. If they win the playoff game on Oct. 30, then they will join the top eight teams heading to state in the postseason. The final match of the tournament is the State Championship, where the two undefeated teams play off in.

     Like most sports, mental grit in volleyball is as important as physical endurance. 

     “We’ve really tried to work on our resilience and staying mentally strong in tough situations,” said head coach Megan Wallace. Her goal for the team is to carry through and focus on one game at a time so when the opportunity at the championship comes up, the team is more mentally ready. Wallace has required the team to read The Champion’s Mind: How Great Athletes Think, Train, and Thrive, by Jim Afremow, from which the team has adopted the motto to ‘think gold,’ a theme in the book to strive for excellence.

     “We were struggling in practice with bringing that talent forward and being on our A game,” Wallace said. “Amongst my coaches and I, we talked and thought this would be a good way to integrate some of that mental toughness…into our pregame and practice structures.” Toughness being endurance, both physically and mentally when competing, so at the end of the day, Wallace said, the team can look back and say they did their best.

     However, the rule regarding positive COVID-19 cases in teams is still the same, requiring athletes to stay home and restricting them from going to practice or school. One of Harrington’s fears is people getting complacent, ruining the games and the team’s chance at the championship. 

We just really focus on working through challenges during the game… We figure it out in the moment to get to the next point.”

— Senior Hailey Heider

     “I’ve had these goals since my freshman year. I feel like most athletes have these little goals… I want to see a state championship and…to never get to see that in my high school career. Those are things you can’t really get back,” Harrington said. If a player tests positive, then those exposed need to be quarantined, and the team’s next game is an automatic forfeit.

     “That can be a really devastating thing for a single team,” Wallace said. “If we have to quarantine and forfeit some of our matches, that could take a huge hit to our standings and how we place at the end of the year.” 

     Some rules have changed since last year’s abbreviated seasons. Athletes in the action of play are not required to wear masks, only if they’re on the bench. Audience capacity has also increased, and with teachers and the school’s social media posts promoting home games, Harrington said it’s definitely made a difference in fan turnout compared to previous years. Minor inconveniences, like not switching sides, have not deterred the athletes in their competition.

     “Between sets, usually you play on one side and then switch so that it’s equal time spent on the gym, so you all have to work with the disadvantages,” senior Hailey Heider said. “But now because of COVID, you just have to stay on each side and you don’t get to switch, so if you have a bad side, you’re kinda stuck with it.” If the ceiling’s low or if there’s a basketball hoop on one side and not on the other, Heider said it can affect the play, but it’s not a big deal. When playing to win, one more obstacle doesn’t usually make a difference.

     “Something I tell myself is if I can’t find it in myself to do it for myself, I need to do it for everybody who’s on the court—everybody that’s on the bench too,” Harrington said. If she doesn’t give it her all in games, then Harrington said she can’t expect everyone else to as well. Team sports need effort from everyone, not just one person. 

     “We just really focus on working through challenges during the game,” Heider said. “So if someone’s not passing well, we just figure it out in the moment to get to the next point.” Not dwelling on too many issues at one time, staying focused and staying strong to go to state is Heider’s focus. To Wallace, making the most of every game and every practice is prioritized because, as last year showed, the season is unpredictable.