Kira Vos / For the Camera
Kira Vos / For the Camera
If it feels like the Silver Creek volleyball team has all their eggs in one basket … well, your eyes are really not deceiving you.
Who is to say there aren’t players waiting in the wings, and truthfully the varsity team making the trek to the Denver Coliseum this weekend is led in the attack by a junior.
When all is said and done after the Class 4A state tournament, though, 80 percent of this team will be turning in their Creek jerseys for the final time and most of those will never be putting one back on for non-recreational purposes.
At its core, their appearance at state is about 11 seniors on a 14-girl roster making a final push together that no other team in the field can quite match. And the Raptors certainly hope no other team will be able to mesh the talent and the desire.
“We all want to win so bad, and that’s why we’ve worked so hard the entire season and we’re not going to stop now,” said outside hitter Taylor Merriman “We’re going to give it all we have, because this is almost our entire team’s last weekend with each other, our last games, so we’re going to leave it all on the court. But we’re going in hoping and knowing we can win.”
“We personally have seen each other grow up a lot as people, not just as players, and it’s just been so much fun to experience all this stuff together,” added setter McKenna Webster. “All of us realize that we are as much as part of this team as anyone else, and that is awesome.”
Most of the seniors began their varsity careers just last year, but for some the chemistry has been building since middle school and up through the sub-varsity ranks. Webster, Merriman, Kelsey Adams and Chloe Olson all played on a club team in eighth grade, and Merriman recalled winning the first tournament they ever played together. Jenika Zens, whose sister Amy is also a senior, said Tori Schindler was one of her first club teammates after moving here from California in eighth grade, too.
The growth they’ve seen in each other leading up to this point is really what has made the 2016 season special — and a big part of why they enter Friday’s pool play with a 22-3 record.
Everyone has contributed in some way, though the playing time among them obviously differs. Competitive practices (just ask head coach Tatum McKenzie about those) give the reserves just as much of a chance to prove they are ready to be called upon when needed, but when it comes to game-time the starters said they feel their peers cheering passionately for their success.
It’s been noticed by those outside the Silver Creek circle, too.
“I’d say Niwot is as big and athletic as they come, but Silver Creek, with all those seniors driving toward one goal and without what seems to be any drama, they’re special,” said one local coach recently.
“Going in to the season, I know we were a little worried that there would be a ton of drama around the playing time, but there hasn’t been at all,” Merriman said. “I know it’s hard not to see the court as much as others, but everybody has been so supportive and encouraging of everybody else. That comes from mixing things up at practice I think.”
With just three losses (two of them to Niwot), there hasn’t been a lot of adversity for the Raptors. Silver Creek did suffer a devastating loss when Schindler injured one of her knees, but the team quickly bonded and found a solution.
There is confidence in each other that if tough times arrive, the Raptors will be able to rise above it.
“It’s always our goal to have more heart than the team we’re playing, and I think we realize talent is one thing but energy and encouragement is an entirely different aspect you have to have,” Webster said. “What can really help us get through pool play is keeping the energy on our side of the court.”
Silver Creek does have a tough go, starting Friday with a match against defending champion Cheyenne Mountain in Pool III. The Indians have won six titles since 2007, and their 17-8 mark this year is weighed down by six losses to 5A teams.
On Saturday, Silver Creek will play Jeffco Champion and No. 6 seed Valor Christian (19-6).
“We really want to take that extra step for each other,” Jenika Zens said. “We are full of hope and we don’t get down easy. That’s one of our best qualities, for sure.”
Tri-Valley League co-champion Holy Family and Northern League champion Niwot also made the field of 12 and happen to be in the same Pool II. The Tigers and Cougars will both play No. 2 Eagle Valley on Friday and then battle each other on Saturday morning. Holy Family beat Niwot in a five-set thiller at NHS toward the end of the regular season.