Betsy Martling's point of emphasis as Maize volleyball's first-year coach was establishing team chemistry.
"When we had tryouts, we really stressed family from the beginning," Martling said."... That's so important to the foundation for your team. You don't have to be best friends, but you have to get along."
Chemistry has not been a problem for Maize (30-12), which opens play in the Class 6A tournament today in Topeka.
"The chemistry on our team is phenomenal," Maize junior hitter Lindsey Jones said. "We all get along with each other. All of us are important as the next one."
Martling added: "They are so quick to pick each other up. They are friends and family on and off the court, whether the hardship is with volleyball or with life."
Maize's transition to a new coach could have been a problem, especially because Martling replaced her former coach, longtime Eagles coach Teri Larson, who's now at Maize South.
But it was a smooth change, largely because of Martling's personality.
"She was very similar to Teri Larson, so we had a hint of what she'd be like," sophomore McKenzie Hartzog said. "Just in how loud she is and how energetic."
"We really do miss Larson, but having Betsy has been a real blessing," Jones said."... She has a ton of heart and she tries to pull the heart out of us."
Maize had some ups and downs this season, including losing Jones during the season's first tournament to an ankle injury.
"It was a difficult situation knowing that one of our players was out, but we had to get through it," Hartzog said. "It was a big relief when she came back."
Jones was back after two weeks, sooner than expected, and made an immediate impact.
"She has such energy and she's smart when she's hitting," Hartzog said. "She knows where to hit in every situation."
Hartzog, an outside hitter, and Jones, a middle, usually are at the net for one rotation.
"They've been the go-to people," Martling said. "In clutch situations, McKenzie's not afraid to keep swinging. She may get blocked or hit it out of bounds, but you know she'll come right back.
"... Lindsey, she also sees the court well and does a good job of mixing up her hard hits and seeing the holes. She can make a great hit out of a not-great set."
Maize also has junior Adrienn Amaro and freshman Mary Kangas, talented setters in the Eagles' 6-2 offense.
And there's the backcourt that includes libero Kirsten Chamberlin, a 2008 All-Ark Valley-Chisholm Trail League Division I selection, and Kelsey Tinkham.
"We're playing really good right now," Hartzog said. "The connection that we have as a family — it's why we play together and why we play as a family. It's that connection that helps us win games."