It's far from a perfect world right now for the Longmont volleyball team, even though an 8-0 record and an unblemished 22-0 mark in sets played would indicate everything is going right for the Trojans.
In a perfect world, senior Olivia Storaci would still be suited up and playing her typical cover-the-court role that has earned her a reputation as one of the most versatile players in the Northern League.
However, early last week the University of Bridgeport commit suffered a devastating knee injury against Greeley Central, tears of both the ACL and MCL that she will soon have surgery on to repair.
It was a scenario that left junior hitter Rachel Kusbel quite numb initially.
"When we first realized we lost (Storaci), it was devastating to all of us and I really don't think any of us thought we could win a single game losing someone that big to our team," Kusbel said Monday night. "When it happened, my first thought was, 'who am I going to look up to now?' Because she's just one of those girls who you strive to be as good as and as energetic as she is."
Storaci brought her talents to Longmont from Silver Creek in 2015, and LHS head coach Holli Stetson was looking forward to having her on the court for the whole 2016 season. She was coming off a shortened campaign in which she had a near 95-percent service rate, 32 total blocks, 145 digs and 271 assists and her defensive awareness helped the Trojans mightily in last year's 22-5 campaign that ended in a state tournament appearance.
While Storaci will still be able to provide necessary leadership and energy as a spectator on the bench, Stetson has been working on other rotations that she hopes will counter the setback.
"We're really hoping that our time this past weekend gave us the best chance to just look at all of our kids at the varsity level to see how we can piece together the lineup," Stetson said of their recent 4-0 Saturday at a tournament at Overland. "Obviously there's very big shoes to fill because (Storaci) was a tremendous leader, one of the hardest workers and just an all-around tremendous player.
"We know it's not going to take just one person."
Behind a coach who seems to know all the right buttons to push, so far the Trojans haven't missed a beat. They passed their initial league test against Centaurus, and then marched into Overland and did what they set out to do against some average-at-best teams.
Perhaps their biggest challenge to date was Tuesday at Mountain View, and LHS waltzed over the Mountain Lions, 25-21, 25-18, 28-26 to continue its perfect start to the season. Perennially tough rival Niwot awaits on Thursday, as well.
Stetson gave her team a lot of credit for what they have managed to do so far. Seniors Jensen Walker, Shiloh Berger and Trista Woelfle have been the definition-of-experienced leaders, and Kusbel has personally set goals for herself to step in and take some pressure off her teammates.
"I think we'll be relying even more on Shiloh, and Eva D'Epagnier who is a girl that's come a long way in the back row," Stetson said. "Rachel Kusbel is another one who will figure prominently in all this, too, because she's another hard worker who might have a little more on her plate now to help make up for the loss. Those three have taken on a lot already."
"(Storaci's) level of communication and energy is not easy to replace, and we've just been talking about all of us doing our part to help fill those shoes," added Kusbel, who had 17 kills against Centaurus and 12 kills against MVHS. "For me, again, it's one of those things that you have to realize you are not always going to have someone to look up to and you have to step in a play your part. I think we understand that we are still capable of doing great things."
It's a forgone conclusion things will not come easy the rest of the season for the Trojans as they try and build on a 15-match winning streak within the league. But with adversity coming early in the season, they've seemed to show the desire to keep the LHS tradition alive — down to the deepest part of their roster.
"We such a tradition and we get really solid players, and we just believe in what we can do," Stetson said. "The girls have great camaraderie and they trust in each other, and I know we'll work hard to keep doing well. Hopefully that means wins, too."