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The fight of our lives

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Reflections on Lone Peak’s historic volleyball season

By Bella Butler EBS Editorial Assistant

As a high school senior, I often hear my classmates talking about what we take with us when we leave—the friendships, the connections, the memories. The unspoken part of this, though, is what we will leave behind.

I’ve pondered this many times, wondering who will remember me, and what they’ll remember. What have I done to change this place, and the people in it? As the beginning of the end commenced with the start of the school year in August, these questions began to appear. In addition to entering my final year of high school, I joined my fellow seniors Bianca Godoy and Luisa Locker for our last volleyball season as Big Horns.

“This is our year,” we told ourselves. The three of us had been together since we were freshman, and were fully prepared to put up the fight of our lives to go out with a bang. Our varsity team was strong from the start, returning the entire squad from last season, including three all-conference players.

We were also fortunate enough to acquire a promising new front-row sophomore, Madison Wagner, from Truckee, California. The “young, inexperienced team” excuse no longer existed, and we didn’t need it anyway.

Beginning in the spring, we put in countless hours of work. We pushed our physical and mental limits sweating the time away in the weight room. Our stamina and competitive instincts were tested in open gyms, which often didn’t end until long after dark, or until we had no energy left to play with.

In the summer, we practiced and attended a team camp and tournament at Montana State University. By mid-August, with the first day of practice behind us, there was no question that this indeed was our year, because no other option remained.

Throughout the season, our team tinkered with some changes, which were generally uncomfortable and never easy. We played with unfamiliar rotations, had long practices, and much needed discussions with our coaches. After our second loss of the season, we sat down before practice with our head coach Sarah Phelps, and were confronted with the truth that if we wanted to be as successful as we were capable of, we would have to be OK with playing a different game than we were used to.

We became adaptable and, oddly enough, gained stability in that. Without looking back, we finished the season with a historic record of 12-3 (7-3 conference). But as we entered postseason we knew none of that mattered—neither the wins nor losses—this is where we would battle; this is where it counted.

Our first test was Oct. 28 versus Manhattan Christian School, a strong team that we had beaten in both matches during the regular season, but that still posed a real threat. After a long night, we came out with our third victory against them, sending us on to our next game against Gardiner the following day, which we lost.

We were upset with the loss, but we didn’t let it distract us as we battled for our season during the fifth match of the year against Manhattan Christian. After losing the first two games, we found our pride and finished the match winning the next three games, ending The Eagles’ season and sending us to the Divisional tournament for the first time in Lone Peak history.

In the championship matchup that night, we beat the Gardiner Bruins, wrecking their undefeated season. This set up a final match with the Bruins to determine an outright champion, which began at 9:30 p.m., after we had already played three long matches that day. We ended Districts tired, sore, and in second place. I don’t know if I’ve ever hugged anyone for so long as I did my teammates that night.

In Divisionals, our team was highly underrated, but we used it to our advantage. Some people were happy that we had made it as far as we did, but I knew the girls I played with were hungry for more, and so was I.

We put up a tough fight and ended up third, and as one of the top 12 teams in the state. Our last loss of the season was against Gardiner (yes, them again). As we cried and embraced one another in the locker room, Luisa hopped up on the bench, raising the second plaque we’d won this season high over her head.

“We have got to be the happiest third place team ever!” she shouted, tears falling past her proud smile. I remember looking around at the faces of the girls that I’d played beside all season. The girls I’d lost with, won with, cried with, and laughed with. I knew Luisa was right, that we were the happiest third-place team we could possibly be. I was proud of what we had achieved, but I was mostly proud that we’d taken the journey together.

When I leave this place, I don’t know what I’ll take with me. June is a long ways away, and the future remains unknown. Something I do know is that no matter what, I will leave something behind. Not just as Bella Butler, part of the senior class of 2017, but as a member of the Lone Peak High School volleyball team that shattered expectations and found unity on the path to get there. I don’t think I could have planned a better legacy.

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