With the beginning of every school year comes the beginning of the volleyball season, and the 2021 Westside varsity volleyball team is ready to put in the work. In 2020, for the second year in a row, the Warriors were cut off in the district tournament. This year, starting off the year ranked fourth in Class A, head coach Korrine Bowers and her team are looking to make a run for the state championship.
“We have championship behaviors and one of them is team first,” Bowers said. “This is my fourth year here and this is the best team I’ve ever had. I feel like if you’re going to win a state championship then the team aspect is what’s most important. We could have the best athletes and the best players but if they can’t get along and play together then we’re not going to get a whole lot of wins in a state championship.”
For Westside volleyball, as for most, the work begins in the offseason. Teamwork and team chemistry are a huge focus for coach Bowers and the team this year, and it’s something that the team can carry over from last year’s senior class.
“Those kids were seniors but they weren’t necessarily starters. They were great team players, great teammates and they held that glue together,” Bowers said. “Do those behaviors carry on into this team? Absolutely. I’m hoping we learn from those seniors last year about how important the team is and that’s what we can take from them this year.”
Senior, four-year member of the team, and Montana State commit Madilyn Siebler emphasized the importance of chemistry in reaching their goals.
“We’ve really tried to focus on team bonding,” Siebler said. “Obviously the volleyball stuff is important too, but for this year, I think [team bonding is] really important because we have the talent to go far. We’ve been working a lot on becoming a team and becoming as close as possible.”
In fact, according to Siebler, redefining the teams’ culture has been something the team has been working on.
“This is a new year. We’re building a new team and new traditions. We’ve come up with a ton of things from the past that we’re changing,” she said. “I think a lot of people have doubted us in the past or they haven’t seen us as a strong program and this is our year to prove what we’re capable of.”
Along with the seasoned veterans, newcomers to the team this year have the potential to make a huge difference on the court. The team has gained assets in the junior class with transfers Destiny Ndam-Simpson and Audrey Behrens as well as in the freshman class with Lucy Lowe. According to senior Anna Snograss, one of three team captains, all three are fitting right in.
“Audrey and Des both transferred halfway through last year. We were able to spend time with them outside of school and in school, during open mods. I already feel like I know them really well so it’s boosted the team chemistry really well,” Snodgrass said. “Lucy, the freshman, is also doing a great job. It feels like she’s been on the team the whole time.”
Another big change to the team has been the setter position. With setter Rachel Poopert graduating last year it was thought that Audrey Behrens would fill her spot. Unfortunately, Behrens tore her ACL in a club volleyball tournament and won’t be able to return to the court until October. Without Behrens, coach Bowers needed someone to step up in a big way. Although not as accustomed, Bowers gave the spot to Madilyn Siebler.
“She’s very athletic and she set a bit for her club team this last year,” Bowers said. “I knew that she already had that experience and a leadership mentality.”
Siebler has been a long-time asset to the team both offensively and defensively, but setting isn’t something she’s done for Westside volleyball. By running a 6-2 rotation, Siebler will be allowed to work in multiple offensive schemes and allow flexibility for the team.
“In a 6-2, the setter only sets from the back row. When Madilyn rotates to the front she becomes a hitter,” Bowers clarified.
Bowers’ team has the talent to support the competitive spirit. On the offensive side of the ball, Bowers has a full six rotations of strong hitters and blockers. Ndam-Simpson and Laird, both with ranking in the top five in kills in 2020, will fill the outside hitter position. For the middle blocker spot, returners Kensington TeKrony and Isabella Lamb are going to be strong forces.
“Both of them had great club seasons in the middle [position],” Bowers said. “They have high goals for blocking, which is great. Blocking is that type of fundamental that you don’t necessarily like to train but in matches, it pays off.”
With a team full of leadership and talented, hard working players, seniors Snodgrass and Siebler have some big goals for this team. One of them, according to Snodgrass, is an over-500 win-loss record.
“We’re making sure that we’re working hard in every game and focusing on one game at a time so that we’re putting our best foot forward in every game,” Snodgrass said. “There are definitely big things coming this year. We’re all working very hard and we all have our goals in mind. Our goal is to earn the respect that Westside Volleyball deserves.”
Besides respect and a winning record, Seibler wants to outplay the other teams and earn the state championship.
“We’ve been saying ‘if you prepare like all the rest you play like all the rest,’” Siebler said. “Our goal for this year is to win state and if you prepare like everyone else then you’ll play like everyone else. We want to play above that.”
On the road to their goals, the team will play a full season of matches against teams in the district starting Thursday, Aug. 26 against Omaha North. This upcoming weekend starting on Friday, Aug. 27, they will participate in the annual Bellevue West Tournament with more top competition.