PORT BYRON -- Even before playing their first match, the players in Lisa Black's Riverdale volleyball program know what is expected of them.|
For the younger members of this year's Class 2A state bronze medalists, those expectations have been raised to another level.
"You've got to work hard in the offseason. That leads to the success we had this year,'' said Black, who coached the Rams to a 34-4 record and a fourth straight Three Rivers Conference title in addition to their haul of postseason hardware, which was on display Sunday at a welcome-home reception for the team.
"This gives the juniors something to look forward to, especially with it being so recent. And, seeing all these young girls here, that gives them even more motivation for next season.''
Junior hitter Payton Mink, who gained vital varsity experience last fall as a postseason call-up for the Rams' Elite Eight squad, is among those looking to step into the leadership roles for the 2013 squad as it hopes to put together another historic run.
"We know, from our experience, what we need to do to get this far,'' said Mink. "Hopefully (next year's underclassmen) will listen to us and learn from what we have to say, because we know what we're talking about. The goal every year is to get to state, and we're going to do everything we can to do that next year.''
Another junior starter, right-side hitter Savanna Gonyier, believes this year's Final Four run will serve to inspire next year's team to aim even higher.
"After losing in the super-sectional last year, the motivation this year was to do better, because last year's team could've gone far,'' she said. "Next year, we're going to be motivated to get (a state championship).''
To which junior outside hitter Sydney Mericle added: "Third place is great, but we want first, and we know what we have to do.''
Gonyier does admit that this year's senior nucleus of co-captains Jess Corson, Hannah Nimrick and Liz Oltman and their classmates Elle May and Sadie Mosher will be a tough group to replace as the program moves forward.
"I'm definitely going to miss them so much next year,'' said Gonyier. "They helped us so much this season. We've got some big shoes to fill.''
The lone sophomore on the varsity roster, defensive specialist Becca Hoerres, was a late-season call-up as Mink was last season. What she got to experience is something that will stay with Hoerres forever.
"It was amazing. Playing with these girls is an experience you can only dream of,'' she said. "Especially going to state. To be there was amazing, and being out on the court was the perfect touch. This is definitely going to drive us to get there again.''
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