Volleyball: Connell rolling into 1A state tournament

November 13, 2013 

The Connell volleyball team only has two seniors, but that hasn’t stopped it from putting together one of the best seasons in school history.

The Eagles are undefeated in non-tournament matches, dropping just two sets in those 17 matches.

Led by first-year coach Stephanie Egbert and a talented group of juniors, Connell will face Lynden Christian in the first round of the Class 1A state tournament at 11:30 a.m. Friday at the SunDome in Yakima.

“I kind of expected it. I don’t know if anyone else in the league did,” Egbert said of Connell’s tremendous season. “I think we will go in strong and the girls will show very well. They are mentally strong and really close. They love the game and they love each other, that is tough to beat.”

The Eagles dropped their first two sets of the season against Naches Valley in the District 5 title match Saturday, rallying from a 2-1 hole to win the title and wrap up the unbeaten regular season.

“That was a great thing,” junior setter Courtney Colclasure said. “I was very thankful for that match. It was good for us to see competition like that.”

The SCAC East was a bit down this season, so the Eagles hadn’t seen anyone as good as Naches Valley, but they were able to overcome adversity to win the district title. Now, the Eagles hope to improve on last season’s sixth-place finish at state.

The group has been playing together since elementary school, and it shows in how they trust each other on the court.

“A lof of the girls on our team have been playing together since fourth grade,” said Colclasure, the SCAC East MVP. “We just go out and have a lot of fun. There are no other girls I’d rather be with throughout my day.”

The strong bonds they’ve created helped them accomplish the goals they laid out at the beginning of the season.

“One of our goals was to be undefeated through league and we wanted to be district champs,” said junior Savannah Egbert. “It was just awesome that it actually happened. It is something we’ve been working toward since we were really, really young.”

Stephanie Egbert has coached the group since fourth grade, moving from elementary school to middle school and now high school. She was a varsity assistant the last five years under previous head coach Kate Johnson before taking over this year.

“One of our secrets is we have a lot of firepower,” she said. “I have so many good hitters that we come from every different angle. We hit and we hit and we hit again. The kids do a really good job of playing offense. That is definitely our strength.

“And we have an excellent setter. All the way around it is a great team. There is not one standout. It is truly a team.”

Now the Eagles hope that team atmosphere pays off with a deep run at the state tournament.

“We’ve always been strong,” Savannah Egbert said of the volleyball program. “We make it to state a lot, but never really do that great. If we play our best, we can get higher than sixth.”

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