For Veritas Christian’s volleyball team, this weekend will be about more than winning back-to-back state championships. The Eagles want to prove to themselves they have what it takes to beat an old rival, too.
When Veritas arrives Friday in Wichita for the two-day Kansas Christian Athletic Association state tournament, neither the coaches nor players expect to win the program’s third state title in four seasons without going through the Wichita Area Homeschool Athletic Association first. In the last six years, the two teams have met in the tournament’s title game three times.
Eagles co-coach Kyle Billings, who has been involved with the program in some capacity for 11 years, said this season’s WAHAA roster is the best he has seen.
“I’m excited for that,” said Billings, who coaches the team with Kim Swisher. “Because I would hate to not have that (level of) competition and maybe have it be a little bit cheapened if we did win.”
To a certain extent, this year’s Veritas team isn’t too different from the one that won the KCAA state title a year ago. The Eagles only have two starters — senior Teri Huslig and junior Lacey Billings — back, but coach Billings said the 2013 version, similar to the 2012 group, doesn’t intimidate its opponents just by walking onto the court for warm-ups.
“Last year’s team, they were senior-heavy and had been playing together since sixth grade,” the coach said. “What they maybe lacked in ability they made up for in how they jelled.”
Now the Eagles are young, with freshmen Brienne Billings, Tori Huslig and Alyssa Krestan, and sophomore Allie Swisher, all starting. And it is that assemblage of youth that throws off opponents, who don’t know how talented Veritas (27-6) actually is.
“Those freshmen,” Kyle Billings said, “have just stepped up big time.”
When senior Teri Huslig thinks about how the young team has made everything function so well, she credits the young players for their smarts and abilities.
“We’re a little bit more athletic (than last year),” she said.
Junior Lacey Billings said the transition for the youngest players came quickly because they showed willingness to work, learn and compete.
“They understand,” she said, “how important it is to us to win state.”
Veritas only faced WAHAA once this season and lost, 25-13, 11-25, 17-15, on Oct. 12, in Wichita. The Eagles’ veteran leader, Teri Huslig, said WAHAA had taller players than Veritas, and they took it to the Eagles early on. However, she said the loss has only fueled her team’s work since then.
“They’re not gonna be ready for us again,” the senior said. “That’s kind of our attitude toward it.”
Of course the Eagles want to repeat as champs, but if they had their choice, they would do so by beating WAHAA in the final.
“Physically, it shouldn’t be that difficult at all,” Teri Huslig said. “Mentally, that’s where we have to focus. We have the talent and the mental capablility to beat any team.”