Volleyball team captures elusive state title

The 2016 Westminster Wildcat volleyball team capped off a remarkable season by conquering Pace in the GHSA AAA state championship on Saturday, Oct. 29th, by a score of 3 sets to 1. The Cats finished off the season with a strong 31-12 record, including a perfect 10-0 record inside the region. The Cats also stepped up the plate against their rivals, including going 2-0 against region rivals Redan, who finished a total of 29-3. Both the coaches and players were overwhelmed by the sheer number of students who came to cheer on the Cats.

“I was so thrilled for our players to be literally enveloped by the roaring support of the fans, family and friends.” said head coach Jona Braden. “We were fueled by the energy of Westminster’s presence while at the same time humbled by the heartfelt support.” In fact, the turnout was so big that that the game itself could’ve been cancelled.

“Our fans came out and showed big… It turns out that {the gym} was actually over capacity which we had found out after the fact that if there was a fire marshal there, they would’ve had to shut down the game. It was that full”, said senior Mary Tucker.

“The team and the staff alike were overwhelmed by the incredible support of the Westminster community.” said Zidow. “Any adversity we faced on the court was minimized by the monstrous crowd that showed up and cheered for every point.” The cats were an experienced team, as they finished runner up in both 2014 and 2015.

“The experience from the last few years helped the team identify anxieties and brainstorm a game plan that helped us manage through the fight,” said Zidow. Freshman Betsy Moore, one of three freshmen on the team, thought the team played different in the title game this year.

“We played looser. In past years, we looked tight. {This year}, we went in confident,” said Moore.

There were plenty of memorable moments from the successful season, but Coach Braden described the season as a “general osmosis” where they would “focus on today with the desire to make improvements”. Though he also thought of a specific point in the season where the team revisited their preseason work.

“There was a point right after the Lovett Block Party that we revisited the work that was done in preseason to define our team Standards, Principles-of-Play, and the team Code of Honor which gave us the impetus to keep what was working, to remind us of the why and the how and to forge ahead with a purposeful plan,” said Braden. There were some specific games where Zidow felt this team could be exceptional.

“Big rising action occurred at the Blessed Trinity Serve for the Cure tournament when we had major senior leadership missing for the SAT, and underclassmen stepped up into big roles,” said Zidow. “Another defining moment was at the St. Pius tournament when we beat the host (who outsized us) in an epic battle,” said Zidow. “And finally, the team fought back from a 0-1 deficit in the Final Four match against North Hall, demonstrating their true grit and love for one another.” Moore thought this team could be special on day one.

“It was at the first practice, when I walked in and everyone was just playing hard, and it wasn’t like we needed to work on a lot of skills. The skills were there,” said Moore. The Wildcats had six seniors play their final game for the cats in the championship who had been waiting to win this title.

“It was insane. I’ve been dreaming about this for the past three years on the volleyball team, and just all the hard work we’ve put in… It’s been amazing,” said Tucker. Coach Braden says that these seniors will never be replaced.

“I do not think or consider trying to “replace” the senior class because it is impossible to replace unique gifts & talents, personalities that were guided by conviction and purpose, selflessly leading with an all-in commitment to the journey of THIS team,” said Braden. Coach Braden thinks of each season as a “new group” and a “new team”.

“So it is not about replacing it is about RELOADING and defining the steps necessary for this NEW group/team to begin its journey towards the goal.”