As last year’s seniors walked across the stage accepting their diplomas in June, the underclassman volleyball team members realized they were losing five of six starters. That was all the challenge they needed to set their 2014 goal on winning a state championship.
“We weren’t sure how we were going to recover from that, but a lot of us have stepped up to fill the void left by last year’s seniors,” senior Haley Staton said. “We were really close to them, so it was hard to see them leave, but it was good for us to have our time to shine and step up as leaders on the court.”
The volleyball team dominated their way to a 27-2 record for the season, 14-0 in the Western North Carolina Athletic Conference. The team finished the regular season in first place in the 3A state rankings and earned a top-75 national ranking.
“That was an honor,” junior Isabella Perron said. “It’s really just a shock to even think about that. It drives us to play harder and keep that rank up there, and it’s just a lot to work for as we try to keep it up.”
History repeated itself earlier this month as the Lady Falcons and Cardinal Gibbons faced off in the state championship for a fifth time. Cardinal Gibbons was playing in its 10th straight state finals compared to West’s 10th state final in school history.
The team battled hard in the first set of the title match, winning 28-26, becoming only the second team to defeat Cardinal Gibbons in a set this season.
However, the team could not capitalize on the success, dropping the next three sets, 16-25, 16-25 and 18-25.
The team brought home the state runner-up title and looked to build on their success next season.
Along with the second-place finish, the team has six all-conference players: sophomores Sierra Jones, Mary Catherine Ball, Destynee Galloway; juniors Gracie Carrick and Taylor Houck; and senior Rachel Kordonowy.
The team has seen major contributions from two underclassmen brought up to varsity. Ball led the team in kills and Jones played her way to a top 20 assist ranking in the state.
“They are a major contribution to our team. They’re starters, and some of our best players right now, and without them we wouldn’t be nearly as far as we are right now,” Perron said.
According to senior Lexi Thomas, the team’s chemistry and senior leadership were two major factors in the team’s success. The majority of the team has played together since middle school, and they compete together on a local club volleyball team.
“As the season went along, the team really came together,” Thomas said. “The team chemistry was a big part of our success.”
Assistant Coach Cathy Corliss said assists were a key factor in the volleyball team’s game plan and helped the team achieve a record number of kills.
“I’m very proud of the mental toughness of the girls this season,” Corliss said. “Many girls have stepped up this year to be leaders by really working on being tougher and by focusing on staying in the game both mentally and physically. It was really a ‘we’ll bend, but we won’t break’ attitude.”
By Josh Conner