For the W.F. West High School volleyball team, a short break between seasons could be a perfect recipe for another historically successful season.
After waiting well over a year between their sophomore and junior seasons last year, this year’s group of senior Bearcats are hoping to ride the wave of last year’s season of firsts.
“Stoked is an understatement with this,” senior Anna White said. “I really see (state) in our future for this season, with the girls we have, I really think it's possible. We’ll see everyone at state this year, I’m so excited to work hard and we’ll get there.”
Returning a huge chunk of contributions from a large senior class, last season’s W.F. West squad did what no other volleyball team in school history had done before: earn a state title qualification.
With no state tournaments last season, the Bearcats weren’t able to see the benefits of all their hard work, but they have the chance to accomplish the same goals this season, and actually make a run at state in 2021.
Not only are the Bearcats competing against a loaded 2A Evergreen League this season, but they are also competing against themselves and their spring season last year.
“Us seniors, we’ve been working on that goal since we started in the program,” Ava Olsen said. “Last year really gave us a glimpse that we can do it, it’s something our school has never done. Hanging a banner was a really big deal for us, all the new girls, we all explained our expectations, we’re just working for that state title this year.”
Looking for more than just a berth into the state tournament this season, the expectations aren’t the only thing that has changed for the Bearcats this season. Following the departure of longtime and beloved head coach Emily Mora this past season, W.F. West will be led by a new face, Robert Lucas, in his 15th year inside the program.
And if there were any year Lucas would want to take the helm, he could not dream up a better situation, in terms of sheer experience and depth. Led by a strong group of seniors at the top, Lucas has had the benefit of a number of player-coaches on the floor at any given time.
“They have stepped up all summer long, inviting the girls and helping them,” Lucas said. “They lead all the warmups and during the tryouts, they explained this is why we’re stretching this, this is why we’re hitting this. They have stepped up, like anything. It’s been great.”
Though there has been a learning curve, but Lucas’ players know him, and more importantly, they’ve bonded over the struggles they’ve been through during the COVID-19 pandemic and the other changes they’ve risen through over the years as a class.
“Going through a new coaching transition is one of the biggest things for us and for me, it definitely makes you closer,” senior Amelia Etue said. “For me, we’re such a tight knit group of people, and we always have been. That unifies the whole team because you have such a strong group of seniors to kind of watch and take inspiration from, I think that’s one of the biggest things.”
That’s where it all starts for the Bearcats. As they open up their season next Tuesday at Montesano, it will be the seniors leading from the front this season as they look to continue their string of success and build for the seasons to come.
Though some teams across the state are learning how to play in the fall again, W.F. West’s experience and leadership has allowed them to come right out like they were just playing yesterday. And now that they know they can make it to state, it’s nearly time to go out and prove it again.
“Being able to have that in our back pockets, like we are good enough to get there,” senior Kambriah Simper said. “I think being able to have that, we can be like, ‘Alright, we can do that again, so let’s show them we deserve to be there.’’