The word chemistry usually drums up thoughts of science, but you hear the word more and more from athletic coaches at all levels.
When Dayton volleyball coach Monica Halverson was asked why her team was so successful this year, the “c” word was the first one she uttered.
“Chemistry,” she said of her 35-1 team. “I’ve said that all season long. It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen. They put each other first. They are an unselfish group. They are hard sometimes on each other, but nobody takes it personally. They know what they need to do to get the job done. A lot of them are good friends off the court.”
“We’re all really close,” said Madi Foley, who leads the team in kills and digs. “We’re all best friends, We’re all good players.”
Halverson and Foley hope that chemistry comes in handy when the Dust Devils open the state tournament at 2 p.m. today against Boulder City, 22-8, at Green Valley High School in Henderson. The other semifinal match-up pits Truckee against Faith Lutheran at 3:45. The winners collide Saturday at 11 a.m.
Dayton enters the tourney with a 23-match win streak, tops in the tournament. The Dust Devils’ only loss came at the hands of Yerington in the finals of the Lions’ tournament during the first week of September. To show you how dominant Dayton has been, the Dust Devils have been extended (in best-of-5 matches) past three games just four times this year, once by South Tahoe and three times by Truckee. The Wolverines had two four-set losses to Dayton during the regular season, and then extended Dayton to five sets in the 1A regional championship game last weekend.
“No I didn’t, actually,” Foley said when asked if she thought Dayton would chalk up 35 wins. “Halfway through the season I did (think we could). I didn’t have any idea when the season started. We’re all good players, and we play very well together. We’ve been solid all year.”
Another key to Dayton’s success is that the Dust Devils are a mature group. If a mistake is made or a point is surrendered, the Dust Devils focus on the play ahead, not the one in their rear-view mirror. That kind of attitude is essential in sports and life.
“Every game and every match is a new entity,” Halverson said. “We try not to get ahead of ourselves.”
Yet Halverson admits to talking a lot about making state, mostly because it’s always the team’s top goals. The last time Dayton won a state title was 2004, and that was the last time Dayton won a league title. Destined to win? Perhaps.
“We’ve practiced so hard; worked so hard,” outside hitter Ashley Vickers said. “We’re ready for it. I think we can do it.”
Many people believe this is a one-person team, but Dayton has plenty of weapons besides the UNR-bound Foley. Vickers, Cheyanne Strong, Kaylee Turner and Lettie Lynch are all very solid, complementary players. Vickers is the second-best hitter with 158 kills, while Strong (55), Turner (48) and Lynch (40) can make their presence felt at the net. Turner is the team’s leader in blocks (24), while Lynch is fifth in kills, third in blocks and fifth in digs. She plays a tremendous all-around game.
Halverson’s biggest concern entering state has been injuries and defense, and the two go hand-in-hand, The defense has been hindered by a recent thumb injury suffered by senior libero Taryn Schriner, who is still playing, and setter Peach Coons’ wrist injury. Schriner is playing, but there are some balls she has trouble handling.
“Truckee did target her a bit,” Halverson said. “The girls all worked hard to make up for some things that Taryn is unable to do. Taryn is still a phenomenal passer, and we need her out there.”
Dayton doesn’t put up a tremendous block, but does a great job of digging balls and extending points. Don’t ever count the Dust Devils out of a point, because they have the floor burns to prove it.
Coons took a spill and injured her wrist during the Truckee match, but appears ready to go.
“She is doing great,” Halverson said. “It still hurts, but she will play.”
Elva Diaz and Shalia Powell would be replacements if Schriner and Coons have issues today. Powell, a sophomore, had 30 assists last week against Truckee. Halverson said both are dependable players.
Halverson also said the team spent a lot of time serving this week. The Dust Devils gave away too many points against Truckee, and can ill afford to do that today against Boulder City.