The roster and coaching staff is about the same as it has been for several years for the Odyssey Institute volleyball team. It is just the results that are different.
You might even call it a Homeric season.
With a 23-2 record – their two losses coming to a 4A and 6A conference school – the Minotaurs are ranked No. 1 in 3A by the AIA for the first time in their history.
Brian Weaver, the coach since Odyssey began its first full varsity season in 2015, has seen the growth of his players over their careers. Of the 14 girls on the varsity roster, ten are seniors. Most have played several years for the school, so this year feels just like last season, with just another year of experience under the players’ belts.
“It’s basically the same team as I’ve had, they’ve just grown. If you look at last year, there isn’t a lot different, but they continue to get better together and become more cohesive as a team,” Weaver said.
The girls have a lot of fun together on and off the court. Senior captain Lauren Hess said most of the girls are best friends, and spend time together even outside the hours of matches and practices. Their teamwork, along with their athletic ability and talent, has grown as well. It is making the game easier.
“I don’t have to guess who’s taking what ball. It’s almost automatic, and everybody can play their role,” she said.
For years, the girls have dreamed about what it would be like to play atop the standings, and compete with the best teams in the conference. However, it was not until the first match of the season that they really started to believe it. The 2019 campaign began with a road trip to Phoenix, to take on 3A powerhouse and preseason favorite Northwest Christian.
Weaver said he was confident his team had improved over the offseason. But winning a season-opening road match against the defending state champions took expectations to another level.
“We came out in the first set, and really played them well, and continued and ended up winning. So to be able to beat them at their house, you start to understand that we could have something special here,” Weaver said.
Since the victory, the team went on a winning streak like Odyssey has never seen before. As of last week, the Minotaurs had not dropped a single set, much less a match, in the month of October.
Success is nothing too new for the Minotaurs. Odyssey has reached the playoffs each of the last two seasons. And it has played and won games during mid-season tournaments.
The team is focused, Hess said, not on the number – though it is a nice recognition – but rather on improving and continuing to win matches throughout the season.
The rest of the season, she said, is about basking in the past few months, but proving that the best ranking in school history was not just a fluke.
“If we’re ranked No. 1, we at least deserve to be somewhere up there,” Hess said. “We know we can’t expect anything though, because we’ve seen what it’s taken to get to this point, and we don’t want to lose that.”