Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day and Neither are State Champs

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Hope Linam

The volleyball team lines up for the national anthem at the state championship game.

On Friday, November 5th, 2021, the girls volleyball team made a monumental accomplishment. After a twelve year drought, the program not only won districts, but also took first in the Class 4 state championship.

Throughout the postseason, the Westminster community showed their support like never before. For every game except the blowout against McCluer North, the stands were packed with blue and white, and the atmosphere was filled with energy.

When the team traveled to Cape Girardeau to compete against Nerinx Hall in the final four on November 4th, almost every Westminster teacher and student back at the campus skipped class to watch a livestream of the game in the hub or the arena. Every Wildcat point caused an eruption of cheers that could be heard throughout the school. When Hailey Pritchett, senior, made the winning play, students in the gym stormed the court, and the remaining spectators rushed down the grand entry stairs to cheer and celebrate.

As a result, school on Friday was declared cancelled. Students packed in cars and buses to make the two hour drive to SEMO University, some even traveling down the night before and staying in hotels.

At 10 AM the next morning, the Wildcat spirit was at an all time high, clearly outnumbering the opposing fan base of Logan Rogersville. Although the girls were likely filled with nervous energy, they performed as if they competed in state championships every day. The unity, passion, and talent of the team was on full display, not being fazed by slow starts, common errors, or pressure situations. As a result, the Cats took three consecutive sets to win the game in less than an hour and a half: 25-18, 25-23, 25-17.

The fans were incredible. Obviously other teams had fans, but it seemed like a home match for us, which made the players feel a lot more comfortable.”

— Coach Briney

With most of the team being returners from previous years, many attribute the team’s success to their new head coach, Ben Briney. Briney spent fifteen years at Truman State University, four as an assistant and eleven as head coach of the women’s volleyball team. Interestingly enough, his original plan was to come to Westminster to be the assistant athletic director, but after former coach Bryndyn Crutcher stepped down, he was asked to fill the position due to his experience.

Lexie Vick, senior, waves to the crowd as her name is announced. (Hope Linam )

The Westminster volleyball team was already stacked with talent, but Briney knew that if they simply worked hard and bought into the vision, they had the opportunity to go far. This vision, centered around family, set them apart from other programs and became a catalyst for their post season success, a time when many teams fall apart. In moments like these, where players and coaches are running on an empty tank, it is known that the team with more heart always wins, and anyone in the arena could tell that the Cats simply wanted it more.

Due to the team’s prior chemistry, experience, and skill, Coach Briney had high expectations for the girls from day one.

“On the first day of practice, we sat down and had every team write their goals on the board. Then, I said to forget about them because they are not our focus. We had to come in every day in practice to be better than we were the day before. Everyone says they want to win state, but we needed to reach higher,” said Briney.

The importance of practice can be easy to overlook, but championship coaches and teams understand that the daily mental and physical commitment is crucial to success.

There are no big moments. How hard you work in practice is how hard you will work on the court. You don’t just turn it on at game time. ”

— Coach Briney

While every player contributed to the team’s success, some consistent standouts have been Avery Stanfill, junior libero, Shelby Truitt, junior, outside hitter, Emma Fairchild, junior outside hitter, Abby Siess, junior outside hitter, Alli Bishop, junior opposite hitter, and Hailey Pritchett, senior setter.