Sure, the Silver Creek volleyball team is excited about making it to state for the first time.
But the eighth-seeded Raptors have grander ideas than just showing up to the big dance. After practice Tuesday, the Raptors had a team discussion about their plans for the ball.
“We’re going to the dance and we’re not just gonna sit on the side,” senior outside hitter Emily Lyneis said. “We’re gonna get to the dance floor and actually dance. We’re going to enjoy it and try to win games.”
The Raptors have won their share of matches already, boasting a 20-6 record. They finished second to Windsor at the Region B tournament to earn the eighth seed at state.
Lyneis said the Raptors coaches told the players they thought there was a certain comfort level with just getting to districts and regionals that they don’t want to repeat. They finished second at both, but feel they could have done better.
“We’re just focused on working hard and staying positive,” Lyneis said. “We’re not getting intimidated by the name of state.”
They’re not intimidating anyone else, either. At a glance, the Raptors don’t have an imposing lineup. Senior Kayla Marchus, the Raptors’ best blocker, stands only 5-foot-6. Lyneis, who leads the team in kills, checks in at just 5-9.
But they make up for it with skill, talent and effort.
“We have a good team, a good group of girls,” Marchus said. “When it all came together is when we realized how strong a team we were. We have the attitude that when we put our minds to something, we can do it.”
The Raptors are more determined and disciplined this year. They chalk that up to a greater familiarity with head coach Nicholle Chambers, now in her second season.
“We’ve had her for two years now, we know how she is,” Marchus said. “We know what she expects of us. In a timeout, we know what we need to do and she knows that we know.”
Coming within one game of a state berth last year and letting it slip away was an eye-opener for the Raptors. They had basically the same team then. But with eight seniors on this year’s team, they’re older and wiser.
“It was a huge wakeup call,” Chambers said. “They had so much potential, but then again, that was a younger team then. Even though we have the same girls on the team this year, they’re much more mature. We’ve really grown.”
After years of struggles on the volleyball court since the young school opened a decade ago, they have grown as players and as a program. And most importantly for the Raptors, who rarely had fans at their games until the past few years, their classmates have noticed.
“We don’t just go play volleyball because it’s a fun sport anymore,” senior setter Chloe Storaci said. “We mean business. Now, I feel like we go to play for our school even more because our fans are there to watch us and support us and we want to play hard for them.”
Chambers said the Raptors expected to go to state from the beginning of the season. The atmosphere at practice and in the locker room this week is one of a team that knows it belongs among the top eight teams in the state.
“Everyone’s excited to make some more history,” Chambers said. “Everyone has to have some nerves going into this because it’s play-or-go-home. But I definitely think we’re excited. And kind of calm, too, which is a good thing.”
The Raptors’ first match is against top-seeded Cheyenne Mountain at 9:30 a.m. on Friday.
“We’re gonna go in there and get our jitters out,” Storaci said. “We’re playing the best team and I think it’s going to be really good for us. Once we compete with them, we know that we can compete with everybody in there.”
Brad Cochi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.