As they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day. And neither are successful high school athletic programs.
But if you have a group of kids that are willing to work hard and demand nothing but the best from each other you’re off to a good start.
The Tonawanda Lady Warriors volleyball team enters the final leg of the 2016 regular season schedule holding a 3-5 record. Though that record won’t put them in contention for the ECIC IV title it’s doing something far greater. It’s serving as tangible proof that they are headed in the right direction.
“Every year we’ve gotten better,” said junior libero Maria Garbo. “My first year, eighth grade we won zero games. Ninth grade, we won one. Last year in 10th grade it was two, this year we’re going for six.”
Varsity coach Renee Smith, who spent the first two of her five seasons with the program coaching JV, said that it has been a building process over the years and that now the girls enter each day and each game, “expecting excellence.” The girls understand that it’s a process and Smith says the girls have bought into that process and are being rewarded with victories.
“We’re seeing a lot of progress and it’s a lot different from any of the other years I’ve played. I’ve played two years on varsity so far,” said senior captain Caitlyn Vishion.
“This is by far the best team we have ever had.”
Led by Garbo, the team’s starting libero, Vishion and fellow captain Jaclyn Haynes, the biggest difference this season compared to previous years is that the girls care more. It isn’t just a past time. Girls are taking the sport and the team seriously and it’s translating to better play and more wins on the court.
“I think there’s definitely more girls who care and there’s people who definitely try a lot harder,” said Garbo.
“We (have) girls who play to win and actually do something, and not just play to be there. Just to be on the team and say I got a varsity letter. To actually win and represent our school.”
Vishion immediately agreed with Garbo, saying the team-wide increased commitment has fostered a stronger team with a belief in each other.
“It’s a passion,” Vishion added.
Smith agreed saying, “We’ve been building a program and it’s coming together.”
Though they certainly aren’t taking any opponent for granted the Lady Warriors are also learning how to close out those winnable games and not let teams claw back into games. They’ve also shown their mental toughness as a group by learning how to win close games on the road.
“JFK, we faced a really good (team). Their crowd was super loud,” Vishion said. “We had to learn to kind of get over that.”
On Oct.11 the Warriors took three straight games from Holland. Opening with a 25-23 come-from-behind win, Tonawanda would go on to take the next two games by scores of 25-11 and 25-14.
Vishion had 13 kills, three aces and three digs while Garbo had eight digs and two aces. Alyssa Prytula had six aces, a block and a kill and Kristen Toth had 12 assists. Delanie Grosskopf came off the bench to get the last two service aces in game three to close out the win.
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