White River High School’s volleyball team has spirit from head to toe.
Throughout the season, the players have held what they call “inspiration nights” that include dinner and an activity. They have made bag tags, painted signs for their lockers and gone bowling — but one night stands out the most.
“Pedicures,” said senior outside hitter Kelsey Williams. “Everyone loved the pedicures.”
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The homecoming week outing was about far more than French tips and bright-red shellacs, though.
“It was just a time where we could talk and get to know each other,” said senior setter Mahealini Stone.
It’s all paid off so far. The team’s strong chemistry has translated into a dynamite season. White River clinched the 2A South Puget Sound League title by defeating second-place Franklin Pierce, 3-1, on Tuesday night.
White River’s prowess can largely be attributed to the five senior co-captains. Coach Lina Randall called them the “thermostat girls — they’re just even.”
“Any given night, any of the girls can just go off and play well,” Randall said. “It only takes a couple of them to (change the outcome).”
But the co-captains are in agreement that it takes the whole team to win.
“We push each other and stay positive,” Stone said. “When I’m down, they know how to pick me up and help me reset.”
Senior outside hitter Taylor Keating feels similarly. “We’re just very committed to each other, which makes it a lot easier to be successful,” she said.
Successful is a word the Hornets are hearing a lot these days.
White River finished fifth in the league standings three years ago. Then fourth, then third and now this year.
The Hornets reached the 2A state tournament last season, but lost their two matches. But the Hornets, the ninth-ranked team in the most recent 2A coaches poll, say they believe this year could be even more special.
“We’ve done a lot of awesome stuff so far,” Williams said, “but we have to continue to do everything we can.”
That may mean a trip back to the nail salon, or perhaps Menchie’s, where the players have paid for strangers’ frozen yogurt as a “pay it forward” gesture.
“We’re such a great family,” said senior right-side hitter Emily Kunst. “It’s fun to watch us compete on the court together and then bond outside of practice.”
The seniors aren’t paid members of the coaching staff, but Randall said they might as well be.
“They really live by the standards they have set for themselves and their teammates,” she said. “I joke all the time that they don’t need me; they could take care of business without me.”
Senior Shaylee Thompson, who plays middle blocker in her first year with White River after transferring from Sumner, said the Hornets benefit from having so many leaders on the court.
“We just need to stay committed to our values, no matter who we go against,” she said, “and know that we’re going 100 percent and giving our best.”
Williams agreed, adding that while the Hornets are known for their defensive skills, they are somewhat of an offensive underdog.
“Not everyone knows our strengths yet,” she said. “We have a lot of hidden weapons that we’re ready to put into play.”
So don’t let the pedicures fool you.