By: Madison Stouffer
Photo courtesy of Melissa Clemons.
Last season, Lindsay Kelley said something felt off, almost missing, following volleyball’s disappointing first-round playoff exit.
This season, the senior setter seems to have figured it out. And the team has, too.
“In the beginning of the season, we just wanted our team to have the best bond we could,” Kelley said. “Last year's team was not as close as it should have been and that’s a big reason why our season turned out the way it did."
That bond, so far, has led to historic victories, culminating with a 10-1 county record and the No. 1 seed heading into the 3A playoffs, where the team hopes to repeat their state championship performance during the 2021 season.
It certainly helps that they took down perennial rivals, River Hill, in a thrilling 3-2 match in the middle of the season.
“That match was a season-defining win, and clearly set the tone for the remainder of the season,” Kelley said. “This was the match-up we knew would show what we’re made of. Up to that point, we had been working really hard in practice on building trust and it showed in that game. We won because we knew our girls would be in the right positions at the right times. It’s easier to play with confidence when we rely on each other.”
Kelley described winning that match as a relief, but also noted the team should have won in four sets: “We let up a little bit. We still need to work harder in practice,” she said. “We celebrated that win, but we’re still motivated to get better.”
It is this individual drive, coupled with the team’s closeness, that has them prepared to make a deep playoff run.
“Winning states this year would be a gift,” Kelley said. “After going 13-1 overall this season, we deserve to go far. And we want it for each other, more than we have in past seasons.”
Kelley, who set a milestone this season netting her 1,000th career assist, has been an instrumental leader as the team’s captain, not just for her play on the court, but for changing the way she communicates with her teammates, especially during practice and games.
“I’ve tried to bring a lot more positivity this season,” she said. “Last year I was more demanding, and it wasn’t effective. Volleyball is a competitive sport and it can be easy to get frustrated if a match isn’t going the way we expect. I’ve had to learn how to balance when to be critical and when to be supportive to get the most out of our teammates.”
Kelley knows it will take the right type of balance to carry the team to another state title, to put last year’s finish completely out of mind.
“We are all in this together and we have the same goal,” Kelley said. “It doesn’t matter what team we are playing, our mindset is the same: go out with intensity and rely on each other.”