Seniors don't belong in casts or on crutches. They belong on the volleyball court, especially when they are the only returning starters for a team counting on them to get back to state.
But there sat Steamboat Springs seniors Stacy Cavanagh, with an injured knee, and Kristyn Bradbury, with a broken foot, last week. While the Sailors practiced, they were forced to watch from the bottom row of the bleachers, and it is uncertain as to how long that will be the closest they come to playing volleyball this season.
It isn't fair, coach Wendy Hall said, but even on the sidelines they can lead and motivate, and for now that's what they will do.
"We have two major people out," junior setter Tara King said. "But I think everyone has stepped it up a lot. At practice, I feel like everyone is working hard. I think everyone here really wants it."
What everyone wants is the league title and state tournament berth, two things any volleyball team from Steamboat thinks it can compete for. Last season, Glenwood Springs took both from the Sailors, as the Demons were expected to do. This year, Steamboat and Glenwood should figure prominently in the league picture, despite the Sailors' injuries, but don't be surprised if Moffat County is up there, too.
"The league season will be work, which will be fun," senior Dani Tredway said.
At times last season, it seemed as though the Sailors forgot about having fun, playing with a sense of uncertainty and tightness commonplace in a team with little confidence. A season that began with hopes of a return trip to state ended prematurely at the district tournament.
"It was disappointing sitting there and watching my team fall apart," said Tredway, a reserve last year.
This season, Tredway is one of two seniors expected to see the floor right away. The other is outside hitter Tina Roberts, who saw limited action last season. King, though a junior, has the most experience of any returning player expected to start the first match, and she's at a position where experience and confidence are invaluable.
"A setter is in control of everyone," King said. "You lead every play. ... I'm kind of like a senior because I'm really close with all these girls. I have to take a leadership role."
In a season that hasn't started so well, that's welcome news to Hall. While Hall's presence certainly brings a calmness to the team, she always welcomes having a player on the floor who doubles as a second coach.
"Tara has the perfect disposition as a setter," Hall said.
It's also nice to have a setter who stands nearly 5-foot-9 and can jump 9-foot-4. King, who worked on her serving and defense tirelessly in the offseason, has soft hands, is an excellent jump setter and puts up a formidable block on the right side.
She will be responsible for helping to ease the transition for sophomores such as Erin Gleason and Katie Mills and juniors Hestia Chase and Missy Chotvacs, who will go from freshman and JV ball to prominent varsity roles while Cavanagh and Bradbury recover.
"Every day looks better," Hall said. "Even though we are going to be young, we have to get good fast. They have to learn things faster than they normally would. The leaders on the floor really have to lead."
And until their return, the leaders off the floor will have to, as well.
-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org