Records were meant to be broken – and the VHS volleyball team continues its quest to not only break them but pulverize them to dust. The team has broken too many records to name (many are still continuing), but that doesn’t affect this powerhouse team. The atmosphere in the VHS gymnasium is relaxed during a Monday practice. Music is playing, and the Sailor girls are doing a series of reps. There is some chatter, but one can tell these girls mean business. And that mindset is taking the team to Lexington today to play Elida in the regional semifinal game. Don’t let their 25-0 score fool you. They’re not looking ahead.
Second year Head Coach Kara Coffman said, “I definitely knew we were going to be good this year. I didn’t know we were going to be undefeated. That’s definitely the surprise of the season. We didn’t look at the season and say, ‘We’re going to win every single game.’ We still make small goals so that we’re not looking too far ahead or that we’re not focused on the next game. At 10-0, we wanted to break our record from last year, which was a 12-game winning streak.”
“Coming into here, I didn’t know anything about the girls and what they have done. Previously, the school that I went to in high school is in the same conference as Vermilion and they were never known for being good at volleyball. I came in here not knowing any of them, so it was definitely a building year. We started the season last year 0-5, and we finished 15-8.” VHS had four seniors graduate, “And this year, we’re 25-0. It’s crazy.”
Right now, Coffman said the team is looking at today’s game and not Saturday, which would be the regional final against Highland or Gilmour Academy. “I always try to stay calm. If I freak out, they’re going to freak out. If I stay calm, they’ll stay calm, and we’ll all stay focused throughout the set. We talk a lot about communicating and figuring things out and working through plays and adjusting to teams that we’re playing. So they will discuss, ‘Hey, what should we run to get out of this rotation, what’s open on the other side of the court, who’s going to put the ball away, and what should we run so they’ll put the ball away?’ We make those adjustments, and we make them rather quickly.”
Among the team’s early season exercises was trust building. “I taught them some things they’ve never heard before or never seen before, so it was kind of iffy at the beginning of the season. Once they trusted me and made those adjustments, we started seeing success.”
First-year Asst. Coach Maddie Nader, a 2017 VHS grad and sister to junior Gracie Starcovic, said, “I feel we learn a lot of those mannerisms and she (Coffman) teaches a lot of those mannerisms in practice. We always teach the girls to look at the scout, to look at the huddle beforehand, get an idea of what they are going to see in the game, look on the other team’s side where you should swing defensively, where you should serve. We go into practice the next day with that mindset, practicing those things particularly…we really do practice what we play.”
“They all had a homework assignment this weekend, which was to watch film on the team that we’re playing,” said Coffman, who had a scouting report in her hand she made. “They will all have one. I didn’t make it mandatory, but that’s the kids we have in our gym. They’re all going to have a piece of paper. I kid you not. And we will all talk about it. We all really enjoy talking about volleyball. It regroups us at the beginning of practice – this is what we need to focus on, this is what we need to be successful on Thursday.”
Said senior Kayla Kearns, “This season has been absolutely unbelievable, and I’m lucky to have been playing with so many amazing girls by my side and being coached by amazing coaches. I couldn’t have made it where I am without them. And I’m so grateful that I was able to learn from them and play for the team I have been.” Added junior Maddie Stout, “We definitely have the best fans ever in school history,” she said. “I think we’ve done really well as a team, and we’ve definitely met so many goals already this season. And there are just so many more to come.”
“We’ve had a record-breaking season, not only in individuals, but with our team, we’ve had multiples so far, and this is just the beginning of our tournament run,” said senior Jenna Peters. “It’s amazing to see how we’ve developed from our first game at Edison and then our second game at Huron. Those were both five sets and we haven’t done another five sets since then. I think we’ve got our rotations down and we all love playing together, and we have great mojo.”
“This season has been everything that I’ve dreamed of,” said junior Gracie Starcovic. “We really met all of our expectations this year. I think that this whole season is making history. Every single day, we walk out onto this court and take it one step at a time.” Junior Maddie Taylor said, I think this season has been a lot of fun. Everybody’s always there to pick each other up. It’s fun to see how much we’ve gotten done this year.”
“I feel this season, we’re really living up to our dreams, because in middle school, we were back-to-back SBC champions, and now this year, we’re first-time-ever SBC champions. The grade above us was also SBC champions. We’re really living up to our dreams and it’s super fun,” said junior Kaitlin Colahan.
“This season, I really feel like we’ve really lived up to and showed what we are capable of doing,” said senior Hallie Habermehl. “We have set a ton of goals this season, and we’ve been able to reach all of them. I feel like we are a really close group and that’s helped us a lot. And it’s been a lot of fun.”
“Everyone’s really excited about the season. We’re making history,” said junior Ava Owens. “We just want to keep it going. We’re a really good team and we have a lot of confidence. We just want to perform to our ability that we know we have. We’re just trying to hit our peak at the right moment.” Junior Rachael Lapka said, “Our team is so energetic. Everyone feels a part of the team, even if you’re not playing. Overall, it’s such a fun team to be on.”
“I think one thing about this season is that any goal we put our mindset to we’ve been able to achieve it with all the hard work and passion as shown by every single girl here,” said junior Angelique Garcia. “The energy is through the roof every single practice, every single game no matter what it is. Everyone is a team, and everyone is a family. I think that’s what gets us through everything.” Added junior Marissa Garcia, “This team is different than any other team I’ve been on. We’re family for sure. Whenever anyone is down, we pick each other up. This is my support system. This is where I want to be all the time. We’re ready to win all the time.”
“I think that this season is a larger combination of all of the girls’ determination, practice, effort, and general drive to win, building since our seventh and eighth grade year seasons as volleyball players,” said senior Sophia Flemister. “That is the first time we ever met each other, and we have been playing with each other every year since. We’ve played on JO teams together, we’ve played in tournaments together, so we have an ability to work together that has been growing for seven years now. So, the fact that we are able to show what we’ve been developing is overall phenomenal, and I am just above and beyond excited and proud of our team as a whole because not everyone has the opportunity and the chance to have the success that we have and have had as a team. I hope we go as far as possible.”
Freshman Erin Ellis said, “I am very thankful because I was on JV and freshman during the regular season, and then when post season started, I got pulled up for tournaments. I am very thankful I get to be a part of this team, especially because this is a banner year, crazy, the first time we’ve ever been district champions and conference champions.”
“This is one of the best seasons I’ve ever had, not just because I think I’ve grown a lot more, but I think I’ve developed such a good relationship with my teammates, and everybody is so supportive. I think we’re all improving a lot because we’re feeding off each other’s energy,” said sophomore Aubree Kennedy.
Senior Audrey Peterson said it best, “This team is a family first, and a team second. And we live by that.”