Despite unorthodox season varsity girls volleyball finishes second place at state

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Tori Neeser

The girls varsity volleyball team come together celebrating a block by senior Maddy Truka (2). The team finished with a record of 12-5 alongside a second place finish at the state tournament. “It still feels surreal, but I couldn’t think of a better way to have ended my senior season,” senior and team captain Carly Kuehl said. “I think going into the season not thinking we would have a season makes it even better. At the beginning, we weren’t really working for an end goal. As we kept moving on and kept winning, my excitement and desire to keep winning grew. I’m just so proud of my team and happy that this is how I got to end my volleyball career.”

Playing their season knowing it could be canceled at a moment’s notice, the varsity girls volleyball team continued working to achieve their final goal: a state championship.

Despite falling just short to Willard High School in the final round of the Missouri State High School Activities Association Class Four state tournament, the team still brought home a second place state title to cap off a season riddled with uncertainty.

“Winning state was a dream,” senior and libero Annie Bunton said. “I just hoped every single day that we would even get to play a game, so to have gotten as far as we did and be able to experience a state semifinal and final game was unreal. I am so proud of how our team fought and worked in our short season even when nothing was guaranteed.”

With many new rules and regulations put on their season due to COVID-19, players had to remain spread out and were not allowed to participate in  their annual team bonding event, which complicated creating relationships between younger and older girls in the program.

Winning state was a dream. I just hoped every single day that we would even get to play a game, so to have gotten as far as we did and be able to experience a state semifinal and final game was unreal.”

— Annie Bunton

“My biggest challenge has for sure been the idea that at any point in time, we could be shut down,” senior and team captain Carly Kuehl said. “I overcame this by just living in the moment like our program saying this year, ‘this is the moment we’ve been waiting for, make it count.’ We just had to make sure that we made the most of every moment we had together.”

The team finished 12-5 along with that the girls took home many accolades. Junior Mia Catlett and senior Bella Allgeyer made second team all-district while seniors Anna Pavlisin Irene Yannakakis and Kuehl were named first team all-district. Senior Maddy Truka received a second team all-conference award along with Pavlisin and Kuehl, who made first team all-conference.

“As a captain and a leader to all my teammates, I had to lead by example and show my teammates how to stay focused and disciplined,” Kuehl said. “As the end of the season neared, it made it even more clear to me that this is the time we have to be smart and stay focused because we have a goal and the only way we will reach that goal is if we are all working together and staying focused. Once I step on that volleyball court, I’ve learned that the rest of the world doesn’t matter and the only thing that matters is me playing on the court and leading my team to a state title.”

Head varsity volleyball coach Susan Anderson was crowned conference coach of the year, but she says the players’ passion for the game is what drove their success.

“The emotion of the players seemed to pull out even more drive and fight just for the small chance that we get to play,” Anderson said. “From that point on, the girls practiced and played with the attitude that they were thankful to get to play. We had very impressive games, hard fought games and a game or two that we did not show up for, but all of those games we were thankful to be there. They carried this mentality into the postseason and knew that gratitude was a part of the mental game, but to continue winning there was so much more.”