Like most high schools, Central Valley hoists placards on a gymnasium wall recognizing each sports’ league, regional and state accomplishments. Conspicuously visible is the blank space beneath volleyball.
The Bears remedied that last weekend by qualifying for their first State 4A tournament thanks, in part, to three third-year varsity players.
“To go to state for the first time is a huge accomplishment for our school and our program,” team kills leader Mikayla Ness said. “I feel honored to be a part of it.”
Ness is one of the three seniors who has played for four years at CV.
They have every facet of the game covered. Ness is a dominant hitter up front. Setter Sam Block gets the hitters the ball. Libero Delaney Fisher’s job is to dig up an opposition’s serve in the back row and pass it to the setter.
Coupled with new coach Chris Kosty, a former professional volleyball player and college coach, they have erased years of futility. Kosty replaced Chad Coupland who, the girls said, was responsible for setting the program’s foundation.
The last time CV came close was to state was in the mid-1980s under Bernie Hite. The Bears finished second in the GSL in 1984 but missed by a game going to state.
Hite, who is still teaching at CV, is back assisting Kosty.
Kosty has brought enthusiasm and instilled belief that they could succeed, the girls said.
He moved players to positions that suited them best and worked them hard.
“We had really intense practices,” Ness said. “Double days definitely killed us all.”
From that pain came the pleasure of this weekend’s state trip.
“I always felt we had the talent to do really well,” Kosty said. “It was a matter of putting the pieces of the puzzle together and make all the pistons fire at the same time. I just want each player to bring something different to the team and bring out their inner ‘them.’ ”
Right-side hitter Ness’ hitting is lethal from anywhere on the court.
“She is the workhorse who gets things done, the person the team relies on when we’re in trouble,” Kosty said.
Block is the most consistent setter she’s played with, Ness said. They have been together since elementary school club ball.
“She knows how to get the ball to people at the right time,” Ness said.
Kosty calls her the rock – always steady and calm.
Block said that for two years she wasn’t a key player for the Bears.
“This year I’m leading the team more,” Block said.
Fisher gave up competitive ice skating for team sports after she joined a U16 volleyball club team that featured Ness and Block. Standing 5-foot-2, she said she’s glad there’s a back-row position for girls her size and enjoys digging a serve to keep it in play.
“It starts with the pass to be able to do all the stuff that comes afterward,” she said.
Kosty said that Fisher “grinds, works and gets things done when no one else will.”
Kosty played collegiately in Hawaii, professionally in Europe and on the AVP beach volley tour. After assisting at various colleges, former Eastern Washington coach Wade Benson hooked him up with North Idaho College. He was head coach for three years. After a year as assistant at Indiana University he decided that time spent recruiting would be better spent with his family and moved to Spokane.
“Chris brings a higher level of play,” Ness said. “I think he kind of changed our mindset and said, ‘We’re not that same CV. We’re going further this year, so don’t settle.’ ”
The message paid off with mental toughness during a tense, five-game state-qualifying win against Walla Walla last weekend in regional.
“We brought a lot more energy than we brought the entire season,” Ness said.
“It was our time to shine and didn’t let anything get to us,” Fisher said.
Central Valley volleyball players finally get their placard on the gym wall signifying their state accomplishment.
“It’s awesome,” Block said. “This is where it probably ends for me, but it’s been a great four years playing volleyball at CV.”
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