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Trophy hunting: Seniors determined to bring home first gold ball

By Reece Waddell | Published Saturday, September 8, 2018
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Strong Foundation

STRONG FOUNDATION – From left to right, Brittney Stephens, Kendall Connolly, Christina Thomas, Kinly Walker, Abbey Bloomer and Maggie Wicks. The seniors helped start the Alvord volleyball program four years ago and are hoping to win their first playoff game this season. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Four years ago, Kinly Walker, Christina Thomas and other new members of the Alvord volleyball program looked around the dilapidated, old middle school gym that served as their practice facility.

It was hot in the summer and cold in the winter. During their first team practice, the Lady Bulldogs did not even have a net.

“We just kind of served in the air,” Walker recalled. “We were working our butts off every day in the gym, trying to get to our end goal of making the playoffs.”

Thomas has similar memories of the team’s first few days.

“Not a lot of us really knew much about [volleyball], so we had to work with that,” she said. “Sometimes we would ask ourselves ‘Why are we even doing this?’

“We had to work through the struggles – the highs and lows. We built this team together. This is our team.”

Walker, Thomas and four others are now part of Alvord’s first senior class to come through the program.

The team played junior varsity its first two seasons – Walker’s and Thomas’ eighth and ninth grade years. In 2016, the Lady Bulldogs competed at the varsity level for the first time in decades.

“I don’t think anyone was nervous [about moving up to varsity],” Walker said. “I think everyone was pumped to finally be out there against bigger, better teams.”

In their first varsity campaign, Alvord realized its goal of making the playoffs. They also realized how tough it was to win a postseason match.

After going 19-12, the Lady Bulldogs were eliminated by Valley View in the bi-district round in four tight sets. Alvord was bounced by Valley View again last season after posting a 16-17 regular season record.

“We’ve been knocked out of the playoffs two years in a row,” Walker said. “This group of seniors just wants one gold ball before we graduate.”

Before the 2018 season began, first-year head coach Brandy Mayfield had her team write down their goals on sheets of paper.

Mayfield said overwhelmingly, the common denominator among each of the girls’ goals was winning a gold ball – the prize for earning a playoff victory.

Even though she has only been with the team for a few months, Mayfield said she is solely focused on winning that elusive postseason match.

“It would be everything, especially since they have been the foundation of the program since it started,” Mayfield said. “That would be the best way to send them out.”

Alvord opened District 11-2A play Friday at Forestburg. Through the first month of the season, the Lady Bulldogs are 11-3.

A few weeks ago, Alvord won the Poolville Tournament, with Walker being named Tournament MVP. Thomas and fellow senior Abby Bloomer were all-tournament selections.

But they aren’t focused on regular season accolades.

Alvord’s group of tight-knit seniors has bigger, more historic goals in mind.

“We’re gold ball chasing,” Thomas said. “It would be the highlight of my high school career [to win a playoff game].

“A lot of the kids coming up are so excited. They say that they have learned so much from us. It’s kind of personal, because it’s our little town – and our little town is starting to grow from this.”

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