Each volleyball season, you can count on Northwest being one of the City League's top teams.
The Grizzlies have finished in the top three 18 times since the school opened in 1978, taking second five times, including last season.
But Northwest has never won a City League volleyball title. Never even tied for one.
Tonight, Northwest has a chance to make it happen.
The Grizzlies play at Southeast in a triangular with Bishop Carroll. Northwest is 14-0 in league play, Carroll 13-1 with its lone loss to Northwest. Two wins tonight give Northwest the league title. If Northwest beats Southeast but loses to Carroll, Northwest and Carroll would share the league title.
"They don't want to just win the first City League championship, they want to go undefeated," Northwest coach Dianne Popp said. "Not many teams have done that."
Getting past Carroll will be tough, even though Northwest made it look easy when it beat Carroll the first time. The Grizzlies won that best-of-5 match in three games. Carroll didn't play particularly well, especially with its serve-receive.
"I'll go back and watch film and justify this, but I don't think we played our best volleyball (against Carroll)," Popp said. "There's still room for improvement. But everybody wants their teams playing their top volleyball. This is all or nothing."
Northwest's win in three games over Kapaun Mount Carmel on Oct. 12 took most of the Grizzlies' pressure away because it gave them a clearer path to at least a share of the title.
"Right now, the mood is, 'This is sweet,' " Popp said. "What a great position to be in."
A tough ending — Circle is 34-2 and a possible contender in Class 4A. But the Thunderbirds have a rough road to the 4A tournament.
Circle finishes its regular season playing host to Maize South tonight. It's a tough match between two of the Ark Valley-Chisholm Trail Division IV's top teams. Circle has already clinched the league title.
"I can't think of a better way to go into the postseason than playing a top team in our division," Circle coach Shelly Nibarger said. "I think we'll have a good crowd."
Circle's sub-state at Hesston on Saturday is loaded, including Buhler and Maize South.
"But we're playing well," Nibarger said. "I feel that we're peaking at the right time. I don't feel that we've played our best volleyball yet. We still need to be a little more mentally tough or focused.
"I'm still cringing at those times where the ball drops between two people or they don't call a ball, or when the ball lands on the line and no one is there to call it. Teams that win championships don't do that."