As post season approaches, No. 1 rated volleyball team racks up wins ‘point by point’

By Alayna Yates

Head volleyball coach Matt Johnson has been working with the women since summer to get them a leg up on the competition, and being 26-2 this season, it’s evident that the hard work is paying off for the team’s chances for a strong showing at State.

“One of the biggest things we did to prepare for achieving our goals was to have a great summer in the weight room and open gyms. Our attendance as a 9-12 program was great this summer. We had a lot of girls who went all summer without missing more than one or two lifting sessions or speed and agility workouts. That helps us focus our in-season time more effectively on skills and process things we can be doing,” Johnson said.

Johnson tried to keep a fun team atmosphere to push the athletes through tough workouts  and practices.

“We have a fun group of girls to be around. Anytime you are committed to being in the gym and working in tough situations for three months straight, you want to make sure you are surrounded by focused and positive people.  We have an awesome senior group that has done a good job of helping build that culture,” Johnson said.

Not only is it the team atmosphere that gets the Tigers going, but the large crowds and loud students sections really help motivate the team.

“I really enjoy seeing so many people come out to support the team. It’s exciting to see the crowd get pumped up with us when something big happens. I’m happy that our school is very involved in the athletic program and that so many people come out to encourage the athletes,” junior Cynthia Wolf said.

Driven by classmates, teammates and the large crowds at every home game, the Tigers hope to use that momentum to return to the state championships and even bring home a trophy.

“As a senior, going to State has been super fun in the past. It unifies a team like you couldn’t imagine. Even though I don’t play much, there’s no better feeling than losing your voice because you’re giving your team as much support as you possibly can. That’s when you know you’re doing something right,” senior Elizabeth Relph said.

“Going to State twice in a row would be accomplishing the goal for the whole year. It’s what we play for and what we strive to achieve. It means that all the hard work I’ve put in during the off season and now will be worth something. That we are one of the top teams in the area is a great honor,” Wolf said.

Going to State and even winning is obviously the team’s number one goal, but to get there, the team knows what they must keep working on to further their chances.

“I think to get to State we just need to have energy all the time and to work more on connections. Just practicing how we will play in games helps us perform better on the court,” Wolf said.

“I think if we work on our energy level a little more we can get everyone involved and make the game even more enjoyable,” Relph said.

The Tigers will keep improving and working hard in practice to secure a spot at State, but also keeping in mind their strengths and weaknesses will help them prepare for State. This way they know what to work on in practice and not worry about what they are already pretty good at.

“I think our team’s greatest strength is our size and offensive capability. When we’re in system, we’re hard to stop. On the other side of that I think our team’s weakness is sometimes our defense and passing. Us passers have been working very hard to improve our game so it doesn’t hold us back from achieving great things this year,” Junior Taylor Lynch said.

Strategy is a big part of the game of volleyball. Placement of the ball and running different kinds of offense is part of what’s led to so many winds.

“One of the big things we do is not focus on qualifying or winning a state tournament, or even a weekend tournament,” Johnson said. “When our girls focus on getting better on a day by day, point by point or contact by contact basis, we have found that those big goals tend to work themselves out.  We also spend quite a bit of time talking about raising the level of our game to embrace tough situations.  We know we have a talented gym of players, but getting them to play their best in big moments is what will allow us to be successful when we are put in adverse situations.”

Qualifying for State would be a great achievement for the Tigers and winning would be even more impressive.

“Well, I think that every teams goal is to get to State, but I think our goal is to beat what we did last year, to make it past the second round at least. Winning State would be great,” Wolf said.

“Making it to State to me personally means a lot. It’s an accomplishment to say that your team made it to State, and the memories made there I will remember forever,” Lynch said.

To qualify for State, the Tigers will need to win two home games. Come support them on their journey to State when they play Fort Dodge in a regional game at 7 p.m. on Oct. 25.

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