Last season, Olathe volleyball, through seven games, started 2-6. The tournament play wasn’t rolling into the Pirates’ favor, as they just won one set through eight games.
In 2021, through four games, the Pirates have adjusted their season narrative. With three wins and wins in 10 of 16 sets, Olathe is off to to its best start since 2015.
“That Vail Christian game was really hard,” Pirates coach Travis Eason said. “We did an awesome job in that first set and they came and got us in the next three. It was a great learning experience and I told them after that game, ‘nothing comes easy and you’re going to have to earn every set, play it to the 25th point of every set.”
The next few practices, the Pirates adopted that mindset, as Eason’s words “lit a fire” for the players. The work translated over the next few games, as Olathe defeated both Hayden and Vail Mountain in four sets. The win over Vail Mountain was especially impressive, Eason said.
“Vail Mountain was talented and they were good, but our kids didn’t back down,” Eason said. “They battled every chance and that was an awesome win for us and the program moving forward.”
Playing her best game of the season, Anastasia Bollinger, the Pirates’ libero, was seemingly in several spots at once, digging the ball left and right while keeping plays alive. She finished with a team-high 10 digs. “Without a lot of her digs, (the game) could have gone a different way for sure,” Eason said.
Others, too, have stepped up, including Daisey Ibarra, one of the team’s outside hitters whose presence on the outside has offered some steady offense. Ibarra leads the Pirates with 43 kills and is second in digs with 45. Ashlee Green is second in kills with 20, rounding out an offense that’s played with much more poise this go round, and she’s adding some defense too with 23 blocks, 21 of which are solo.
Junior and setter Makena Liles has been an instrumental reason why that offense is surging. She has a team-high 71 assists and 10 serving aces.
“She’s the glue that holds us together,” Eason said of Liles. “She’s an awesome leader and competitor.”
Though the past two games haven’t been simple sweeps, the Pirates have bounced back quickly after losing a pair of sets, one in each match. Their defense has seen improvement, with players swarming in their coverages, flying around and getting their hands on the ball.
“We’re getting tougher every match, finding ways to get the job done,” Eason said. “Volleyball is a tough sport, an emotional sport. There’s a lot of roller coaster rides up and down, but we’re shaking off negativity quicker.”
The Pirates are accepting the challenges offered by the coaching staff during practice, and meeting them, Eason said. It’s giving the players additional confidence, on display after they stormed back from a loss in the second set against Hayden with two straight set victories, both of which were dominant (25-11, 25-14).
Olathe grabbed a 2-0 lead against Vail Mountain before losing the third set. It wouldn’t matter, as the Pirates would win a tight fourth set 25-23.
The Pirates are averaging 7.0 kills per set, a noticeable improvement from their 5.3 mark a season ago.
Olathe will look to keep its season rolling Saturday against De Beque before a date with Caprock Academy on Tuesday.