Seniors sowing seeds of success at Mountainview

The game of volleyball might play out on the court, but Auburn Mountainview head coach Momi Bowles believes it’s really won in the hearts and minds of her players.

The game of volleyball might play out on the court, but Auburn Mountainview head coach Momi Bowles believes it’s really won in the hearts and minds of her players.

Sure, the on-court performance is a crucial part of the formula for success, as is just plain, raw, athletic talent. And the Lions certainly have both of those. But according to Bowles, what sets her fourth-year program apart is the focus on team unity and self.

“We focus on a lot of non-volleyball related things,” Bowles said. “And the expectations are very clear that you have to be good to yourself first. And second, you have to treat your teammates well. So many times you see in volleyball players, they just get cranky and catty with each other out there. And we don’t believe that’s in our best interest. By working on those two pieces alone, it’s helped us overachieve that last few years.”

It all started four years ago, when Bowles first stepped onto the floor of the new high school’s gym, getting her first glimpse of the athletes who would become the foundation of Auburn Mountainview volleyball.

“When we initially had tryouts, there were 65 girls there,” she said. “We had four teams, and there was just so much excitement and talent that I knew that we could put something together pretty quickly.”

Her instincts were good.

Initially the team began play in South Puget Sound League 4A. But after that first season, the team was reclassified to the new SPSL 3A.

“I think it helped us get a more solid foundation and kind of a tradition of winning and believing,” Bowles said. “It really gave them a lot of confidence.”

On the court that confidence has translated to trips to the state 3A tournament the past two years.

Last season the team took another step towards maturation by winning its first ever state match, beating Mount Vernon in the second round.

And with every new milestone comes the knowledge that this team is setting the traditions that future Lion volleyball teams will follow.

“We try to set the best example because it’s hard to break bad habits,” said co-captain Megan McBride, a 6-foot-1 left-handed senior setter. “We don’t want to start anything that we don’t want to carry on at the school or with the program. We want to set good traditions.”

Krystle Hansen, the team’s other captain and a 5-8 outside hitter, said the rest of the seniors also are aware of their impact.

“We talk about the foundation a lot,” she said.

According to Hansen, much of that talk centers around passing on the respect that Coach Bowles has instilled the players – respect for themselves, the sport and their opponents.

“Everyone is really nice in the program and we want to bring that down to all the other programs,” Hansen said.

And according to Bowles, the team’s success has been largely due to that team unity.

“We just have a really good time along the way, whether it’s on the court or off the court,” Bowles said. “And what’s nice is that because we believe that (team unity), I think that winning becomes a byproduct. It’s just something you get in addition to your journey. It’s never really been our focus here. It’s more about being good to each other and having a good time and being present in the moment.”

“I think the biggest thing is just staying ourselves,” added McBride, who will attend Oregon State University next year on a scholarship. “There is a lot of pressure because we’ve got the talent this year. There is always pressure from other teams, but you just have to play for number one. Coach always reminds us, because sometimes we forget, to just be who we are. And we’re all about team and staying together no matter what.”

Currently the team is in third place, at 6-2, behind Sumner and Bonney Lake, which are both 7-0 (the two teams played for the SPSL 3A title this past Monday with results unavailable at press time. Both of the Lions’ losses came at the hands of Sumner and Bonney Lake). But Bowles and the rest of the team know that no matter what the final standing say, it’s about more than what the records or the scoreboard say.

“We don’t compare ourselves to anyone,” Bowles said. “We just try and be the best that we can be. We’re just focusing on the journey and we’re really having a fun one.”