Volleyball finishes memorable season despite finals loss

Volleyball finishes memorable season despite finals loss

The Westminster Volleycats’ season came to an end on Saturday, Nov. 8 after a heartbreaking loss to Blessed Trinity in the State AAA Playoff Championship game. This season, the team previously beat Blessed Trinity in the Area 2AAA Championship and outlasted Rockmart High School and Sonoraville High School in the State Quarterfinals and Semifinals, respectively, in order to make a State Finals appearance. Although the loss was hard to swallow, the team remained positive.

“It was bittersweet,” said junior Caroline Welsh. “We obviously didn’t play our best but we know that we had such a great experience. We were in our huddle at the end, and we said out of the 100 things that could go right, 99 did.”

Despite the ending, the team enjoyed many defining moments and high points throughout the season.

“We had some moments where you could just feel the team clicking on all cylinders and playing just scramble defense and they [were] attacking from anywhere on the court and they [were] doing it together,” said girls’ Volleyball Head Coach Jona Braden. “You just feel that fluidness of our play.”

During the season, one of the biggest victories and turning points for the team was the game against Blessed Trinity.

“[Our high] was our first time beating Blessed Trinity because we were trying our best,” said Green. “It was a turning point for our season just thinking how good we can be, pushing for that.”

Other seniors felt that this season was a great way to finish off their high school careers.

“The area-finals was one of the best games I played in in all of high school,” said Welsh. “With all the fan support and the way we were connected on the court, it was an unbelievable feeling.”

The team’s success this year originates from the principles that the team established at the beginning of the season.

“From the very beginning, the team came together and began constructing what our expectations are and laid down our foundation,” said Braden. “Within that foundation we established our mental and emotional and physical and spiritual standards and what our expectations were going to be every day in the gym. And then we established our principles of play.”

Throughout the journey, the team stayed committed and trusted the plan.

“We’ve trusted the process, we have given so much to the process, and we have accessed the process,” said Braden. “And by doing that we have been able to grow and expand and mature as a team so that when we step out there on the court we know who we are, what we need to do, and the bottom-line is we are going to do it together.”

Senior Mason Rooney agreed that the team grew by following the established principles everyday.

“This year we have gone through lots of moments where we have gotten stronger as a team,” said Rooney. “If you look at how our team plays now and compare it to the beginning its like a whole new team. We’ve done so much together and practicing everyday has made us so much better.”

The team credits also credits part of its success to Braden.

“[Coach Braden] knows what we need to work on and how to approach that by putting us in high stress situations in practice,” said freshman Gabi Dolan. “She knows what to say at the right times. It really gets the team fired up.”

“She has had a huge impact on the team,” said Rooney. “She’s the one who spends so much time putting our practices together. She is very purposeful in how she does things so that we can continue to grow as a team and I don’t think that we would be able to be the team that we are without her guidance and the rest of the coach staff’s guidance.”

Green also agreed with Dolan and Rooney that Braden makes practice more exciting and efficient.

“[Coach Braden] is really quirky,” said Green. “Adding her personality to practice always makes it better.”

Braden was recently named the Area 2-AAA Volleyball Coach of the Year, a huge honor.

“For me, [being Coach of the Year] is a reflection of the team,” said Braden. “I’m very blessed to have amazing coaches to work with. I’m deeply honored and humbled about it as well because I know that it’s not about me. It’s about all of us doing it together.”

Braden also helped the team overcome the lows they faced in the season.

“We started off the season not very [well],” said Welsh, “but that turned into a high because we figured out what we needed to do in order to be successful.”

Braden used the bad start as an opportunity for team improvement.

“I always welcome lows, said Braden, “because I see that lows can only grow as adversity, difficulties, and struggles.”

When the team lost in the St. Pius Invitational, Braden turned the loss into a positive impact for the team.

“I sent a quote to the players: ‘you win some and you learn some,’” said Braden. “Bottom line is you can have difficulties, and they can be lows, the question is can you learn from them. And if you do then welcome the difficulties so that we understand what we need to do next.”

Nonetheless, the team united on and off the court despite the lows of the season.

“I thought we did really good because we had a lot of new players come in and a lot of young players that we needed to step up for us,” said Welsh. “We really grew and formed a bond that couldn’t be broken by the end of the season.”

Dolan was one of the new freshmen on the team this year.

“At first it was intimidating for me, just coming out to team with bigger players,” said Dolan, “but I think there’s a lot of great players, and we really learned to work well together.”

On the court, the team cooperated as one unit to reach the championship final.

“We just played well together and we’ve been successful for the most part,” said Green.

Green, Rooney, and Welsh were named to the All-Area team, and Rooney took top honors as Area 2-AAA Player of the Year. However, the players all pointed back to the team for the source of their success.

“I know Kerrie, Mason, and Caroline well enough,” said Braden, “to know they want me to honor the team because that’s what we really are about.”

The honored players also credited their coaches for their success.

“It’s cool but it’s something that I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish if I didn’t have the rest of the girls on the team, and Coach Braden, and Coach T, and Coach Mackey,” said Rooney. “All of our coaching staff and our players made me so much better this season to the point where I wouldn’t have been able to be named all-area player without their help.”

Off the court, the players enhanced new and old friendships through their journey.

“The chemistry this year was completely different,” said Green. “There was so much fun off the court.”

This year’s season will be remembered by the players, especially the graduating seniors including Green and Rooney.

Out of all my four seasons, this is my favorite hands down,” said Green.

Rooney shared similar feelings.

“I really enjoyed the coaching team and every individual girl that has been on the team,” said Rooney. “One of my highs would be getting to spend my last season at Westminster with the girls on the team. This is my fourth year and I would say it’s been one of my favorites with the varsity volleyball team. My only low is that this is my last season and I don’t get to come back in the fall and play again.”

Despite the seniors leaving, the future is bright for the Volleycats.

“I look forward to building off of what we ended this season,” said Welsh. “[We want] to be able to fill out those roles that the seniors left and just really dig deeper and get it done next year.”

The departing seniors also have high hopes for the future of the team that they are leaving behind.

“Every year you just pass the time and hope for the best for each [team],” said Green. “We left our mark as the seniors and I think [the rest of the team] will follow our footsteps.”