On this day in 1997, the state tournament was no more than a far-off dream for the Carson High School volleyball team.
The Senators - including the underclass quintet of Alyson Thurman, Kaitlin Leck, Carie Ostrander, Katie Marler and Davina Carter - had packed away their equipment for the season with four wins and no postseason appearance.
Those five underclassmen are still with the program, only this time they've packed their bags for Las Vegas to play in the NIAA/U.S. Bank 4A State Tournament, which begins today.
The Senators open this afternoon against Southern 4A Sunset Region champ Bishop Gorman at 1 p.m. at Chaparral High School. The state tournament appearance is Carson's first since 1994, when the Senators rallied from an 7-11 regular-season record to finish fourth at zone.
Today, the Senators enter state with a 16-5 record and as the No. 3 seed from the North, thanks largely to the leadership of their five veteran players - Thurman, Carter, Ostrander and Marler are now seniors and Leck is still a junior.
With no returning players coming into the 1997 season, coach Daryl James decided to build toward the future.
"Those young kids didn't know the game, but they were willing to listen and learn," James said. "They put in the time and they figured this thing out."
And these Senators are glad to be where they're at.
"This is the first time we've been to state; it's great," said Carter, a setter and one of the team's tri-captains along with Thurman and Leck. "We've worked hard for this the last three years."
Marler, a defensive specialist, echoed that.
"I've waited four years to get to the point where we're at. I'm overjoyed," she said.
Carson got their third seed after defeating Reno for third place at the Northern 4A zone tournament Saturday at Galena High School. The Senators lost in the semifinals to eventual champion Fallon on Friday.
"I wish we were going in there as a higher seed, but No. 3 is pretty good," Thurman said.
It's still a considerable improvement from her sophomore season.
"My sophomore year, I didn't know anything about volleyball, so No. 3 would have looked good," Thurman said with a laugh.
Did they think in terms of state tournament two years ago?
"We didn't pull together as a team. We didn't have the experience or the determination we have now. We've put a lot of heart into this and it has totally paid off," Marler said.
"I hoped so," said Carter, who has played for state-qualifying Carson basketball and softball teams and ranks among the top three academically in her senior class. "We had some really good athletes, so I knew if we started playing together as a team we could be pretty good."
Ostrander saw the potential as well.
"I kind of expected it because I knew we would all be playing together for three years," she said. "We came together more and more and we finally made to where we are now."
Interestingly enough, on the basketball court Carter is the Senator point guard who feeds passes to high-scoring forward Thurman, who is listed in the current Street & Smith Basketball edition as one the top 100 prep girls from the West. On the volleyball court, Carter's quick sets to Thurman for kills over the middle have been a major weapon for the Senators all season long.
"I think it's helped," Carter said of her two-sport connection with Thurman. "We're so used to each other now, we don't have to talk to each other that much anymore."
Thurman is a threat over the middle. So are Leck and Ostrander on the outside. Leck was selected to the all zone tournament team last weekend.
This team's success extends beyond the court.
"We get along very well. We're all friends," Leck said.
"Everyone supports each other so well. That makes it easy to play well when you know everyone is behind you every step of the way," Ostrander said. "I couldn't imagine us doing so well on the court if we didn't get along like we do off it."