Northwest volleyball coach Dianne Popp has nine seniors on her 11-player team. What happens when they graduate?
It's a question Popp will worry about later. The senior class is too talented.
"If somebody was a sophomore or junior and they were better than a senior, (Popp) would have kept them," senior Stephanie Shartzer said."... She picked the best 11 girls out there, and nine happened to be seniors."
Keeping so many seniors wasn't a surprise. Since they were eighth graders, Popp had heard of the talent in this class.
"We always had been told that they were a very athletic class," she said. "They are, and that has continued. It's not very often that you see a group like this have so many finish all four years (of a sport).... In basketball, it's the same. They're still playing.
"They're that good. There's no other class that can compete with them to take their spot."
It's a special class of athletes.
"We have two valedictorians, two salutatorians on the team," Shartzer said.
Most of the seniors are Link Crew members, a group that works with incoming freshmen. Seven of the nine are multi-sport athletes.
"I'm fortunate to have them for my volleyball team," Popp said.
This class has been successful, as well. Northwest finished third in the City League in 2007 and '08 and was tied for second in the league last season when it advanced to the Class 6A tournament.
They have experience, too. Shartzer and Alaina Shine are four-year varsity players, while Aimee Wood and Nikki Daniels played varsity as sophomores.
"It helps when we get into tight situations, and you have do something about it," Shine said of the team's experience. "You've been there and done it, it's not new, so you just get it done."
Northwest's top hitters are Shine, a middle, and Shartzer, an outside, who will get the bulk of the sets from Taylor Elkinton and Kelsey Darnell out of the 6-2 offense.
Popp said Shine has expanded her repertoire and will run plays that take her out of the middle.
Kenzi Lewis plays outside, as well, while sophomore Shayla Cottman is at middle.
"This is probably my most offensively minded team, as far as running quicks and sets and plays," Popp said."... The last two or three years, it's every free ball has to be a quick."
Northwest's passing game is solid as Wood moves to libero.
Since there are few question marks for Northwest, the Grizzlies have increased their expectations.
The Grizzlies went to the 6A tournament last season but lost all three matches. They want that to change.
"We want to get to state and make some noise for teams around here," Shine said. "Normally, it's dominated by teams from the Kansas City area, but we want to show teams that we do have good volleyball around here."