High School Sports

Andover volleyball defies doubts and overcomes adversity to become a top 5A contender

After losing six seniors and gaining a new head coach, Andover volleyball was overlooked and underrated heading into the season.

Even after making it to state last year, the Trojans didn’t make the Kansas Volleyball Association’s preseason top-10 rankings.

The players knew that losing those key players from the previous season would set them back, but they were focused on making an early comeback.

“After losing six seniors, not many people expected us to bounce back, but we did real quick,” senior Brynn Wilson said. “We just played our game and stayed together like we know how.”

Wilson said the team was able to bounce back so quickly due to the team’s ability to lead as one, instead of having one leader.

“We knew that we would have to build some new leaders because we did lose six strong ones,” Wilson said. “We all filled the leadership spot together, not just one person.”

Andover (25-3) climbed into the top 10 for week four, coming in at No. 8 after not making the cut the week before.

Despite the ranking coach Holly Avalos still notices other teams and even some spectators overlooking and doubting the Trojans.

“They are kind of underdogs that no one expected, and still people doubt us,” Avalos said. “We constantly get kind of put down, but the team is doing a great job and we’re excited to be where we’re at.”

Avalos, who is in her first season of coaching at Andover, makes it a point to show her players that she never doubted them for a second.

“For me, it’s a mental thing with them. If I show them that I care and believe in them, then they’re also going to care,” Avalos said. “This my first year here, (but) they’ve really bought into how I believe and how I coach and came together and rallied around me and rallied around the team as a whole.”

From the very first time she walked into practice, Avalos said, she could tell these girls had potential.

“From the day I stepped into the gym the first day in the summer, I thought ‘we’re going to be awesome,” Avalos said. “I knew it from the start because it was easy to see these girls are smart, they’re determined, they want to win and work hard.

“And that’s what it takes.”

Andover took down No. 9 Maize South on Tuesday. Maize South is one of Andover’s biggest obstacles this season, especially after Andover won the first meeting between the two squads.

The Trojans dropped the first set, then rallied to secure back-to-back set wins for the match.

Junior Maggie Creitz said Andover’s ability to keep its composure and spirits high was key to that match, and the season in general.

“We stayed mentally tough and didn’t get down on the bad points. We just tried to play at our highest,” Creitz said. “We’re always lifting each other up. We’re not yelling at each other and getting mad if we mess up. We always look to the next point and encourage each other.”