It took a little time, but once the 17U Lake Tapps Volleyball Club started clicking, it couldn’t be stopped.
Last month in New Orleans, eight months of hard work, sweat and tears led to one crowing moment for the local girls volleyball team. After coming together, the Lake Tapps volleyball club went to the Big Easy and walked away champions at the 2015 USA Girls Volleyball National Championship.
“It was a great feeling to be able to win with my (club) team,” Emerald Ridge High senior Allie Bauer said. “Everyone worked together and communicated with each other.”
The Lake Tapps volleyball team faced many of the same obstacles talented club teams face: too much talent.
But instead of just plodding through and getting their collective feet stuck because of too much ego, Lake Tapps was able to overcome. Under the tutelage of 14-year volleyball coach Mandy Flores-Handley, egos are checked at the door.
“For me as a coach, I have to get them to play together as one family, one unit, one team,” said Flores-Handley, who’s in her sixth season coaching Lake Tapps. “We had 10 returning girls and only added one player (Lexi Brown), so everyone is comfortable with each other.”
“The communication was great,” Sumner High senior Heather Thompson said. “We were all working together at the end. We were one team, one unit on the court.”
That single mindset the team embraced began in late January after the girls were left with sour taste in their mouth after losing to 18U teams at the 2015 Oregon Volleyball MLK Team Classic in Eugene, Oregon.
“After the MLK tournament, they worked harder as a team,” Flores-Handley said.
A team comprised of girls from seven different area high schools can be hard on some athletes — mainly the getting past old grudges created during the fall months of the prep volleyball season.
No matter the sport, athletes want to beat their opponents time and again. But when a friend is on the other end of the court, it’s all-out war for bragging rights.
“It’s great to be able to play during the (high school) season and see you friends playing for the other team — it makes you want to beat them more,” Bauer said. “You’re friends before the game and after it, you just don’t view them the same way during a match.”
At Emerald Ridge, Bauer is usually the Jaguars libero, but for club she is the team’s setter, getting the ball toward teammates Thompson or Rogers High senior Lexi Brown at the net.
It’s a different mindset trying to help support rivals, is it not?
“I think she (Bauer) is really approachable … it’s my first year, and they made it comfortable for me,” Brown said. “(Everyone) worked hard to get, especially since February.”
From February to June, Lake Tapps volleyball clicked together and rolled through until the tournament in New Orleans.
Then something incredible happened as Lake Tapps found another way to take the game to the next level. Great teams make it to these tournaments, but it’s the ones that reach higher who come together and win it all.
“Everything just seemed to come together at the right time … everyone was on the same page throughout the tournament,” Thompson said.
“We’re happy they clicked and gelled at the tournament,” Flores-Handley said. “It was like watching them make music.”
And because of their performance in New Orleans, Lake Tapps can now sing a new tune — national champions.
“It’s been a month, and I’m still so happy we were able to win it,” Brown said. “It’s such a good feeling.”