Katie Wiele - "We want to go to state."
MacKenzie Irwin - "Going to state. Winning state."
Hope Joyner - "State."
Maria Chism - "State."
Bradyn Wall - "State."
When Sarah Wall took the job as head volleyball coach at Carl Junction in 2006, "state" wasn't on the tip of anyone's tongue. Two conference and two district championships were the lone titles the program laid claim to, and they came in the 90's. That didn't slow her from dreaming bigger...
Sarah Wall - "My vision was at least competing for a state championship in seven years."
...and implanting that intrepid vision on a group of 5th, 6th, and 7th graders.
Dee Adams - "She just point blanked asked them, have you ever seen a state championship ring...and they all just, their eyes got big and they shook their heads no. And she said well I have, and I want one, and you're the girls that are going to get it for me."
But of course, it's never as simple as inception when it comes to dreams of this scope. In changing the status quo, step one would be ensuring 7th or 8th grade was not an introduction to the sport.
Kristin Perry - "It just seemed like every year, the first several days of practice were just breaking down every single fundamental...and sometimes we felt like we weren't ready for the 1st game."
Sarah Wall - "For us to be successful kids have to do it before they just enter the junior high program..."
Commence CJ Smash; 5th, 6th and 7th grade travel teams coached by Wall and her assistants. Volleyball has since been added to Bulldog Youth Athletics for 3rd through 6th graders as well, and even 1st and 2nd graders are playing at the Carthage YMCA.
Sarah Wall - "It's just kind of trickled down, all the younger girls want to do what their older sisters are doing."
Commonplace in sports like football, soccer, baseball and baseketball, the expanded window for both growth and unity speaks for itself.
Bradyn Wall - "When we were in 5th grade...we were awful. We were so bad."
Sarah Wall - "MacKenzie as a 6th grader couldn't get a serve in. And now she's one of our leaders in service points as a sophomore."
MacKenzie Irwin - "We're a family. We're more of a family than a team and that's what makes us so close."
And they spend more time together than an average family. High school summers come complete with leagues, tournaments and a conditioning and weights program. In-season, Wall has even added a volleyball video analysis class, a 25 minute enrichment course attended four days a week at the end of the day.
Sarah Wall - "I'm not the easiest person to play under, I have high expectations of our kids and I'm a disciplinarian...there's a lot of responsibility that comes with being a bulldog volleyball player."
Make no mistake though - players and parents alike are fully ensconced in the ways of the force that has become Bulldog Volleyball. The phrase, 'second mother' comes up often when describing their coach.
Maria Chism - "She has passion for the game and she loves all of us. Volleyball is one of her loves, and we all love it too, so it just makes it 10 times more fun."
Dee Adams - "Dedicated, passionate about the sport, and very competitive, and you know there's nothing wrong with any of those things, it makes the program what it is."
The program, now, is this - unbeaten junior high teams to go with district champion high school teams in 2009, 10 and 11, plus the first sectional win in school history a year ago. As for those 5th, 6th and 7th graders told of a state championship ring years ago...now freshmen, sophomores and juniors. And there's only one senior on the roster.
Sarah Wall - "The players have put in so much time and effort to try to build a dynasty, so that's what we're hoping for for them."
Maria Chism - "It's always in my mind."
Katie Wiele - "We talk about it a lot."
Hope Joyner - "We have it written on the board downstairs..."
Bradyn Wall - "...In the locker rooms, on our binders, it's everywhere."
MacKenzie Irwin - "It's going to come true this year. We're going to do it."
As playoffs approach, the Lady Bulldogs are 17-4-3, with all four losses coming to teams in classes above them.
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