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Dead set on state: Auburn Mountainview volleyball looks for return to 3A tourney
Year in, year out the Auburn Mountainview volleyball team has been among the most successful 3A programs in the state.
Since the school opened in 2005, the Lions have qualified for the state 3A tournament every year.
This past year, the first under new coach Nicole Claudon, the Lions achieved their highest level of success, placing fifth at the state tournament and bringing home the program's first trophy.
"It felt so incredible just to make that happen as a team and not just as individuals," senior Maya Williamson said. "I still remember every minute of that day."
"It truly felt amazing," senior Molly Cichosz added. "We've gone to state year after year, but to be able to bring something home was great. Our school is really supportive of sports, and to be able to show them what we got was really exciting."
The Lions are on track for another return to the state tourney this season with a 5-0 league record, 8-2 overall through Oct. 16.
According to Claudon, a big part of the team's success this year rests squarely on the capable shoulders of Cichosz and Williamson, the team's offensive forces.
"Molly and Maya have been playing together for about seven years, in school and club (with Puget Sound Volleyball)," Claudon said. "They're pretty different off the court, but on the court they're definitely our two best players and will do anything to win. It's fun to watch them. It's a good life lesson for them. They both work well and have the same end goal in volleyball, even if they don't have the same friends and hobbies outside of vollyball. It's cool to see that."
On the court, Cichosz and senior Savanna Cappa provide leadership.
"Molly brings some awesome energy to the team," Claudon said. "She has a great sense of humor but also a lot of intensity. We have to tell her to back off some time, depending on the match. Every bone in her body is competitive and she brings that to the court. She's teaching the younger girls how to be aggressive, and she's got a great sense of urgency about wanting to win now and practicing hard to achieve that. She works hard no matter what, in all situations."
Although not as vocal as her teammate, Williamson also helps set the tone on the court for the Lions.
"Maya's a little more of a silent leader on the court," Claudon said. "She's what I call a really creative player: she's great at making plays and changing it up. Last year she was extremely successful at tipping during games, even though she's got a great arm and power. She's really aggressive, but also good at seeing the whole court and those open spots to chip and tip in."
Cichosz praised Williamson, too.
"She's a great player, and great players help any team. It's great having someone that you know is always going to be there," she said. "She puts up a great block, and she can hit the ball pretty hard. It's nice to be able to run a fast middle, especially in high school, you don't see that too much."
"We've been through thick and thin," Williamson said of Cichosz. "I love her to death, I cheer her on for everything. She's humble. When she gets down she knows how to shake it off, I appreciate that. We're like the dynamic duo on the court."
Although Williamson and Cichosz may be the engine driving the success of the team, Claudon said the Lions' quick start wouldn't have been possible without the rest of the squad's contributions.
"Savanna Cappa is our other captain," Claudon said. "She played libero last year and switched to setting this year. She's really stepped up in that role and been a great leader off and on the court for us."
"I think we were hoping for this but we weren't sure how that was going to pan out with a young team," Claudon added. "We're definitely glad that it's happening, though. They've put in lots of hard work. This team really should be able to make it as far as last year's team did," Claudon said. "The younger girls from last year, our returners, have really stepped up as leaders. We lost some great leadership, but I feel that Molly, Maya, Delaney Ralph and Savanna, the seniors, have stepped into that."