The Millennium Tigers, cheering and hugging each other, stormed the court last November, celebrating the girls’ volleyball state championship that had eluded the group for so long.
Millennium rolled through the regular season and playoffs, losing just one set in the entire 5A postseason and sweeping Sunnyslope 3-0 in the championship match after consecutive seasons of playoff disappointments. However, of about 11 players that saw regular court time, eight were graduating seniors.
Now, the challenge is to try and do it again with a revamped group.
In fact, in talking to the girls, it might be hard to tell they are the defending champions at all. In fact, it is hardly ever brought up.
“We don’t really talk about it, because it’s a new team. Like, it was fun and we enjoyed it, but we have a new goal now,” senior Kylie Waters said.
Coach Julie Vastine agreed, saying the 2019 Tigers want to follow the lead of their predecessors, but the team dynamic and strategy can never be the same year to year.
This team, she said, is particularly strong on its pins, or hitters in the middle of the box. There are talented girls throughout the court, though. Millennium will have to become a more well-rounded team, in Vastine’s opinion, to make another long playoff run.
“We’ll have to spread out who’s doing what, and be strong everywhere,” she said.
And having a few players that have played in or seen high-level playoff games is helpful, as well. Everybody is playing new roles, even returning varsity players, whether on the court or as leaders in the locker room.
“They have experience, playing some of those big matches. They’ve seen what it’s like, and now they really want to be the ones to help carry the team,” Vastine said.
One of those new leaders is Waters, who said the team’s attitude is tremendous thus far. They are putting in the work necessary to compete for another championship.
The Tigers were 10-2 through 12 games and had beaten several of the state’s best opponents. However, the players do not feel like they are at their full potential yet. With plenty of games to go, there is time to build, and Millennium volleyball is looking forward to it.
“I think it’s just as talented as last year,” Waters said. “We just need to execute and not get in our heads and think it’s going to be easy after last year, because it’s not, so we have to work on it every day.”