Dayton Nation celebrates title
Whenever a small community’s high school wins a state title, it’s always special. When a small community can celebrate its high school’s first ever state title, there’s nothing more special.
While a movie like “Hoosiers” may never be made about the Dayton High volleyball team’s run to the NIAA 3A state title, the Americana that’s small town high school sports depicted in that film has been realized by the Dayton Nation. The celebration that began immediately after Dayton beat Incline on Saturday at Galena for the title hasn’t stopped.
All of Dayton’s fans followed their team back to the community on Saturday night and they received a Lyon County Sheriff’s escort as they returned to town. The scene was similar to the actual events that surrounded Milan High in 1954, but weren’t depicted in the fictional account of the team’s story in “Hoosiers.”
After Milan, a school with an enrollment of about 160 students, beat Muncie Central, a school 10 times bigger, for the Indiana state boys basketball title, fans also followed their team back from Indianapolis with a police escort to their small community where 40,000 people converged on the town of 1,150.
While the magnitude of Dayton’s celebration may not be as great, the outpouring of community support hasn’t been any less significant.
The celebration continued on Friday when members of Dayton’s volleyball team rode in a Lyon County Fire Department truck. Along the way they were greeted by Dayton High and Dayton Elementary and Intermediate School students and people from the community.
Melony Cox, a junior on the volleyball team, remembered the chance to ride in a fire truck when she was little. “I thought it was exciting but I think it was more exciting this time,” she said.
“I think it’s been unbelievable,” Cox also said about the community support. “To be honest at first I didn’t think it was going to be a big deal,” Cox added about the state title. “It didn’t hit me until a few days later.”
But it was beginning to sink in with Cox on the way back to Dayton on Saturday night. “The tears on the bus, it brought us all together even more then,” she said. “It was awesome.”
“There were tears, laughter,” said Amanda Sbragia, a senior member of the volleyball team, about Saturday night. “There were just so many emotions. It was a memorable experience.”
Now that Dayton has won the first state team title since the school opened at its current site in 1982, the Dust Devils will now have to deal with high expecations. Dayton loses only three seniors off of this year’s team – Sbragia, Nicole Greer and Macy Hamlin – so another state title run is a definite possibility. “It definitely inspires us,” Cox said. “Nothing’s impossible.”
Sbragia is already helping the players who will return to next year’s team to deal with the high expecations.
“I’m glad the underclassmen got a taste of it,” she said. “They have expectations. Those expectations are never going away. Just be prepared for that.”
But for now it’s time to celebrate this year’s title and Cox said she has never played for a team like this that bonded so well together.
“To tell you the truth I ‘d never been on a team where everyone gets along,” she said. “We all had the same thoughts.”
The players also credited the support of the Dayton Nation for their state title run. “I think it’s exciting because we’ve never won state before,” sophomore team member Sara Simmons said. “It’s just fun.
“It’s been amazing. They’ve been doing a lot of stuff for us. Without them we couldn’t have done it.”
It’s also been a week like none other for the team’s coach, Sondra McMullen. “It’s been a week of walking on clouds,” she said. “It’s just been an awesome week.
“Phone calls from people I don’t even know. It’s been a great step for Dayton, not just for Dayton High School but for the community.”
McMullen noted that five of her players – Greer, Michelle Bowman, Ming Hom, Shaelynn Morris and Rachel Studebaker – all made the all-state academic team with 4.0 grade point averages.
“It’s been a long time in coming,” said McMullen about the state title. “It’s well deserved. They’re just good people.”
McMullen was referring to her players and the community. “It’s just been an amazing amount of support,” she said. “The part that impresses me the most is the support from the community.”