Saturday, August 17, 2002
Oak Creek The smell of fresh paint still lingers in the halls. Soroco's new gym is complete, and with it is a new attitude for the Rams' volleyball program, especially for the seniors looking to leave more than their names in a paper program.
"As seniors, we want to foster a winning tradition," Meg Hayne said.
"We want to raise the bar," Jessie deGanahl echoed.
Something as simple as lifting a bar is a good place to start. Brought in three years ago to begin elevating expectations at Soroco, Amy Pankonin had her team, depleted heavily by Routt County Fair obligations, in the weight room Wednesday afternoon measuring how much each girl could lift compared to her body weight to get a percentage total.
All took turns raising the bar.
"It's a great group of kids," Pankonin said. "You can't say one stands out. As a core, they get along so well."
From seniors down to freshmen, all are included, encouraged and made to feel like part of the team. Once the season begins, the practices are obviously separated, but Pankonin feels it's integral for program development to have the youngest on the court with the varsity veterans at the beginning of the season.
"If you ignore the freshmen, you ignore part of your future," Hayne said.
For the seniors, the future is now. Last year, Soroco finished around the .500-mark overall. Pankonin said she avoids placing expectations on her teams, but she believes an improved record is certainly an attainable goal, despite the loss of three starters.
One week after the track season ended in May, the six seniors Hayne, deGanahl, Jessica Northrop, Amanda Phillips, Michelle Biles and Tiffany Schaffner sat down to evaluate where they wanted to take the program in their final year. Hayne said every team aims to go to state, but the Rams set their eyes on Regionals.
"We thought that was realistic," she said.
To achieve its goal, Soroco will have to contend with North Park and Grand Valley, the two teams consistently at the top of the Western Slope League in Class 2A. Making the task that much harder is the addition of Meeker, Rangely and Paonia, who moved down from Class 3A for two seasons. Two teams are all that qualify for Regionals despite the extra competition.
"The girls have told me they want to beat North Park," Pankonin said. "They won the league last year, and we felt like we took them to the line. I think we want to beat Grand Valley, the other Regional qualifier. We felt like we could compete so those are two teams we want to beat."
Pankonin is confident in one thing: She won't struggle to find leadership. The six seniors have played together since the seventh grade and some have been friends for years beyond that. That class of girls hopes to pass their confidence on to the younger players.
It doesn't take long to see the juniors picking it up.
"I think they will be really good leaders," Chelsea Reynolds said. "They get along with everyone."
Kaleyne Gneiser is another junior on the roster, but she said she feels more like a senior because of all she's experienced with the class above her. Feeling that way, she can't help but share in the same hopes and expectations as her teammates one year her senior. When she hears they want to leave behind a winning program, all Gneiser can do is smile.
"It's awesome," she said. "Because I want to be there, too."