A team above all, above all a team

After+scoring+the+winning+point%2C+senior+Matt+Cosgrove+holds+the+State+Champions+plaque+above+his+teammates.+Seconds+later+the+crowds+stormed+the+court+in+celebration.+%E2%80%9CIt+was+just+unreal.+I+was+speechless+to+finally+win+after+talking+about+it+for+more+than+a+year.++Unreal+feeling%2C%E2%80%9D+Cosgrove+said.+%28Photo+courtesy+of+Matt+Cosgrove%29

After scoring the winning point, senior Matt Cosgrove holds the State Champions plaque above his teammates. Seconds later the crowds stormed the court in celebration. “It was just unreal. I was speechless to finally win after talking about it for more than a year. Unreal feeling,” Cosgrove said. (Photo courtesy of Matt Cosgrove)

Bringing home the first boys varsity State Champions title since 2003, the boys conquered Webster this past weekend 3 to 0. Reaching a goal set in the 2020 season taken away from the team due to COVID-19, the win ignited much excitement within the team, program and West as a whole. Referred to as a season like no other with sensational team chemistry, the victory will go down in history as one we will never forget. 

This season especially was remarkable in the fact that a lot of guys with talent and experience were able to culminate into a team,” three year varsity player senior Tengis Kelley said. “Having a team with this many talented players and heart doesn’t happen often and we knew we had to take advantage of it.” 

Four year varsity player, Matt Cosgrove, believes the victory was strongly wanted, highly anticipated, and deemed to happen. 

“Two years ago in 2019, Webster Groves ended our season in the state quarterfinals, and we had to wait two full years to complete our unfinished business. The last time West won was in 2003, when all the seniors this year were born, so it was meant to me,” Cosgrove said. 

Knowing the boys potential and passion, head coach Susan Anderson was confident the boys would put up a great fight. 

This season was a dream, honestly. Between the kids we had and how each different person contributed in their own way, at the same time in alignment together, it all came together at once. It created the perfect storm with the way this team worked and played together, it all came together perfectly,” Anderson said. 

Leading up to the big game, the team forecasted competition and believed they were more than ready to bring their A-game. 

We knew the teams we were going to have to really pay attention to and we were going to have to make sure we were ready to play against. We knew what we had to work for, there were teams that gave us challenges and teams we dropped games to. When you get to that point, you’re facing very competitive teams and they’re giving you challenges. We didn’t go in saying ‘yeah we’re walking away with this’, we knew that was what we wanted to end up with and we were going to make it happen,” Anderson said.

In extra preparation for the Championship, the boys decided to channel power through buzz cuts and mullets. 

Some of us got funny hair cuts, none of us have been a part of a state championship game so we kinda started our own tradition,” Cosgrove said. 

Working with a team that feeds off of each other’s energy and motivation, assistant coach Jordan Neisler knew how to prepare the boys when the day had come.

Feeling the rush and honor of owning the State Champions title, the boys and stands cheer on the court. To continue the celebration, the boys went to Circle 7 with their families for dinner after the game. “For the whole season, every single game was fun and exciting and everybody who watched it was like ‘holy cow that was amazing to watch’,” Anderson said. “They were fun to coach, big and powerful, they made the game a totally different level.” (Photo courtesy of Matt Cosgrove)

One of the main things on my mind going into the championship game was thinking about the best way to talk to the boys so that their nerves wouldn’t get the best of them,” Neisler said. When we walked into the gym that day, everyone was a little quiet. They were probably extremely focused and ready to go, but them being quiet like that wasn’t normal for this team. We had a team huddle in the corner about 30 minutes before game time, and Suz and I just told the boys to enjoy the moment and the game that they are about to play in. We told them to visualize what it’s going to feel like to win big points, visualize having your teammate’s back, visualize giving it your all every single point. They responded well to that and got off to a loud and fast start and never looked back.”

Finishing the season with 23 wins and 4 losses, only from outside their class, the boys considered themselves unstoppable, creating a method of success unique to the team. 

“When our team gets on a roll nothing can stop us. There are many ways to a state title, but each and every team makes that path their own. Ours was paved through hard work and determination, along with a little heart in the end,” Kelley said. 

The boys program has had the same coaching staff for the entirety of the seniors time of the team. 

“The atmosphere the coaches and teammates provided will be irreplaceable. I’m glad I could call this program family and play side by side with some great teammates,” Kelley said. 

All three seniors are continuing their volleyball careers in college. Cosgrove will be attending Penn State. Kelley has signed as a setter at Fontbonne University. Ganev will join Maryville as a right and outside hitter. As the seniors pursue their careers, they will carry with them the lessons Longhorn volleyball has taught them. 

“Being on this team has taught me that my work here is never really done, there are always things to work and improve on,” Cosgrove said. 

Kelley believes his experience has adjusted his mindset. 

“Moving forward, I will carry with me a positive attitude and confidence. My coach and assistant coach helped me see the strength within myself and believe that I will succeed. Without that confidence my level of play would not be where it is today,” Kelley said. 

Ganev has gathered the ability to better others and connect. 

“This program has taught how to effectively teach others skills and communicate,” Ganev said. 

Neisler believes the future has a lot in store for the graduates.

“I want our seniors this year to take their on court success and determination with them to the next level, but more than that, I want them to take the memories off of the court with them. Winning at the highest level is so much more than wins and losses, the people that you do it with is the most important,” Neisler said. “Our team was more motivated to win state this year through each other and for each other than anything else. They had each other’s backs every step of the way, and if they can carry that mindset to their college teams, there will be limitless possibilities for them.

Anderson agrees. 

“I hope they always remember their commitment and dedication to learning the game and being great players. It has taken a lot of hard work and sacrifice for each of them to get to where they are. I hope they always remember that feeling and not matter what their goal or dream is, they know that if they put in the work they can make anything become a reality,” Anderson said.