Kimmy Brinkworth and her Southridge teammates enjoyed flying under the radar last season. With no seniors on the Suns’ volleyball team, the expectations weren’t very high.
They finished fourth in the Mid-Columbia Conference regular-season standings, and then had to win three consecutive matches to advance to the Class 3A state tournament.
Once there, though, they exceeded all expectations, advancing to the semifinals before falling in three tight games. They bounced back later in the day to take third place, winning the first trophy in program history.
This season, though, everyone in the state is gunning for Southridge, which returns nearly everyone from 2012.
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“We went in there with no pressure,” Brinkworth said. “We just went there and told each other, ‘We want to have fun. We have next season to do well.’ I think we have to do the same thing this year, even with more pressure.”
The Suns, who open Mid-Columbia Conference play at 7 p.m. today at Chiawana, have everyone but Emma Spurlock back this season.
Spurlock was injured during the track and field season and hopes to be back later this fall.
Brinkworth leads the charge for Southridge along with setter Kylie Fraga. The pair are captains and two of the best players at their positions in the conference.
“Those are probably the two anchors for our team,” coach John Lengphounpraseut said. “Their connection, their transition, will be a key factor for us.”Brinkworth has improved from being just another hitter as a freshman into a potential collegiate athlete as a senior.
Her coach credits her tremendous work ethic, and conditioning she receives with the track program.
She also plays year round with club teams, starting a week after the state tournament and continuing into the summer.
It is all paying off as her senior season approaches, both personally and for the team.
“I think it was a little easier coming in this year,” she said. “We all know each other and know how to work with each other. It has been really easy to get back on the court and communicate well.”
The communication is key in volleyball and one of Brinkworth’s best traits on the court.
“She motivates the entire team and goes hard every single play,” senior Fraga said. “If she is in a bad mood, she will hide it and she will always bring the entire team up.
“Volleyball is all mental. If you have a one person dragging the team down, you won’t do well — she brings the entire team up with how she plays.”
Brinkworth was named to the MCC first team a year ago, and made the Class 3A All-State Tournament team.
She is hoping to have a strong senior year and play at the collegiate level as a result.
To do that, though, the Suns will have to meet the high expectations that everyone has for them.
“Everybody has a target on us,” she said. “Even if it is one of the easiest teams we are ever going to play, they are going to try their hardest. There won’t really be any gimme matches.”
And that starts tonight at Chiawana.